This is a landmark judgment from Supreme Court of India which clarified the legal position around sections 304B and 498A IPC.
From Para 6,
Now we shall consider the question as to whether the acquittal of the appellants of the offence punishable under Section 498-A makes any difference. The submission of the learned counsel is that the acquittal under Section 498-A IPC would lead to the effect that the cruelty on the part of the accused is not established. We see no force in this submission. The High Court only held that Section 304-B and Section 498-A IPC are mutually exclusive and that when once the cruelty envisaged in Section 498-A IPC culminates in dowry death of the victim, Section 304-B alone is attracted and in that view of the matter the appellants were acquitted under Section 498-A IPC. It can therefore be seen that the High Court did not hold that the prosecution has not established cruelty on the part of the appellants but on the other hand the High Court considered the entire evidence and held that the element of cruelty which is also an essential of Section 304-B IPC has been established. Therefore the mere acquittal of the appellants under Section 498-A IPC in these circumstances makes no difference for the purpose of this case. However, we want to point out that this view of the High Court is not correct and Sections 304-B and 498-A cannot be held to be mutually exclusive. These provisions deal with two distinct offences. It is true that “cruelty” is a common essential to both the sections and that has to be proved. The Explanation to Section 498-A gives the meaning of “cruelty”. In Section 304-B there is no such explanation about the meaning of “cruelty” but having regard to the common background to these offences we have to take that the meaning of “cruelty or harassment” will be the same as we find in the explanation to Section 498-A under which “cruelty” by itself amounts to an offence and is punishable. Under Section 304-B as already noted, it is the “dowry death” that is punishable and such death should have occurred within seven years of the marriage. No such period is mentioned in Section 498-A and the husband or his relative would be liable for subjecting the woman to “cruelty” any time after the marriage. Further it must also be borne in mind that a person charged and acquitted under Section 304-B can be convicted under Section 498-A without charge being there, if such a case is made out. But from the point of view of practice and procedure and to avoid technical defects it is necessary in such cases to frame charges under both the sections and if the case is established they can be convicted under both the sections but no separate sentence need be awarded under Section 498-A in view of the substantive sentence being awarded for the major offence under Section 304-B.
And the benevolence of the judges overflows for women like juices… yakkk thuuu
From Para 8,
Shanti And Anr Vs State of Haryana on 13 November, 1990
Further both the appellants are women. Under these circumstances, a minimum sentence of seven years’ rigorous imprisonment would serve the ends of justice. Accordingly the convictions are confirmed but the sentence of imprisonment for life under Section 304-B IPC of each of the accused appellant is set aside and instead each of them is sentenced to undergo seven years’ rigorous imprisonment.
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