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-Report by Ishika Sehgal

A trial court found Kiran Kumar guilty in May 2022 after finding that he had subjected Vismaya to harassment and abuse connected to the dowry during the duration of their marriage. On Wednesday, the Kerala High Court issued a notice to the State government, the respondents in the appeal filed by Kiran Kumar challenging his conviction.

Last year, a 22-year-old Ayurveda medical student named Vismaya was found dead in her marital house under unexplained circumstances, apparently by suicide, after she had complained of dowry harassment. Her death shocked the entire state. Her spouse was therefore detained a day after the incident was made public because the death occurred less than a year after their wedding. Only a few days before she passed away, Vismaya shared images of bruises and wounds to her family members via WhatsApp, claiming that her husband was harassing her for dowry. After she was discovered dead, her family published screenshots of the WhatsApp conversation and voice messages she had sent. She had allegedly been physically abused by Kumar and his family since they weren’t happy with the “gifts” that had been presented to them for their wedding. Although the initial reports suggested suicide, it was eventually looked into as a possible homicide.

A trial court found Kiran Kumar guilty on all charges in May 2022, stating in its 441-page decision that he had harassed and abused Vismaya throughout the duration of their marriage in relation to the dowry. Sujith KN, an Additional District and Sessions Judge in Kollam, applied the following charges 304B, 306, and 498A of the Indian Penal Code,1860. And sections 2 and 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act,1961.

It was submitted that there is no proof that the appellant in any way demanded or accepted dowry. He claims that he received the car as a gift, not as a dowry. The conversations used by the prosecution to show that he claimed dowry are just “references to his ideas” of the presents. The appellant consequently claimed that the prosecution had not presented any proof of the illegal demand. He claimed that disputes of a different kind, regardless of how hasty or accidental they may be, are not covered by Section 498A. In order to establish a presumption under Section 113 of the Indian Evidence Act, the prosecution was required to demonstrate that the deceased had been exposed to cruelty or harassment for dowry not long before the incident which they have failed to do.  Inadmissible utterances were accepted as dying declarations, he continued, and the contents of recorded phone calls and chats were incorrectly considered acceptable and proof of facts. The appellant has claimed that, in addition to a biased inquiry, he was also the target of brutal vilification and a media trial that the investigation agency used against him in various ways. Additionally, it has been claimed that the punishment he received was harsh and that he was never given the benefit of the doubt or even the presumption of innocence.

Justice Kauser Edappagath admitted the appeal and issued notice via the public prosecutor. The subject will be discussed a month from now.

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