Monday, February 4, 2008

SC slams Punjab HC for presumptuous conclusions in dowry case

New Delhi, Feb 1 (PTI) The Supreme Court today slammed the Punjab and Haryana High Court for making presumptuous conclusions in a dowry case that a complainant's in-laws could act cruelly against their daughter-in-law. A bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and P Sathasivam while quashing a dowry case registered against the complainant's in-laws found fault with the high court for such presumptuous conclusion without giving any valid explanation for the same. "Right to reason is an indispensable part of a sound judicial system, reasons at least sufficient to indicate an application of mind to the matter before court. Another rationale is that the affected party can know why the decision has gone against him," the apex court said.The bench said the high court ought to have set forth its reasons, howsoever brief, in its order indicative of an application of its mind. In this case Ran Singh, father-in-law of Saroj, had challenged a Punjab High Court order justifying registration of dowry cases against him and his wife Rajbala.The high court had held that the cases were maintainable despite the fact that the sessions court had ruled that no cases could be made out against the in-laws as according to it an effort was made to implicate all the family members by Saroj.The sessions court discharged the complainant's in-laws and brother-in-law Jai Singh and sister-in-law Suman, while retaining the charges only against Saroj's husband Jaswant.
Source:-Outlook India


Supreme court Judgement
Appeal (crl.) 222 of 2008PETITIONER:
Ran Singh and Anr.RESPONDENT:
State of Haryana and Anr.DATE OF JUDGMENT: 30/01/2008BENCH:
(Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No.3089 of 2006)Judis link:
1. Leave granted.

2. Challenge in this appeal is to the order passed by a
learned Single Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court
allowing the Revision Petition filed under Section 401 of the
Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (in short the 'Code') which
was filed before it by Kurra Ram since deceased and
represented by his daughter i.e. respondent No.2 in the
present appeal.3. Background facts in a nutshell are as follows: A complaint was filed by the aforesaid Kurra Ram
alleging commission of offences punishable under Sections
498-A, 406, 323, 506, 148 and 149 of the Indian Penal Code,
1860 (in short the 'IPC') by Jaswant-son in law and husband
of his daughter-Saroj, Ran Singh and Raj Bala, the present
appellants who were father and mother of Jaswant and two
others namely, Jai Singh and Suman, the brother and married
sister of Jaswant.

It was stated in the complaint that Saroj got married to
Jaswant on 14.4.1994 and that she was harassed for dowry by
the aforesaid accused persons. Learned Additional Chief
Judicial Magistrate, Hissar, after recording preliminary
evidence of the complainant, decided to proceed against all the
accused persons for the alleged offences. Separate Revision
Petitions were filed by Jai Singh, Ran Singh and Suman taking
the stand that there is no offence made out so far as they are
concerned. Learned Additional Sessions Judge found that no
case was made out against aforesaid accused persons and
directed that proceedings would continue only against
Jaswant. The order dated 4.11.2003 disposing of the revisions
in the aforesaid manner was challenged by Kurra Ram in the
Revision Petition before the High Court. It was held by High
Court that there is no ground to proceed against Jai Singh and
Suman who may just be living in the house, but may not be
interfering in matrimonial problems of Saroj and Jaswant.
Therefore, the order of the Additional Sessions Judge was
upheld to that extent. But so far as the present appellants are
concerned the High Court inter alia observed as follows:

"However, when articles of dowry are handed
over to elder members in the family that will
mean that those were handed over to Ran
Singh and Raj Bala i.e. father and mother of
the husband who could misappropriate. It is
they who can practice cruelty for less dowry or

(Underlined for emphasis)

The High Court noted that police had earlier registered a
case and had sent cancellation report and thereafter the
complaint was filed by Kurra Ram who appeared as PW-1, as
his son Rajesh appeared as PW-2 and Saroj as PW-3.

4. Learned counsel for the appellants submitted that the
High Court failed to notice that some customary articles were
given to relatives of the bridegroom. That cannot be covered by
the expression 'dowry'. High Court noticed the fact that the
complainant tried to rope even a married sister who was living
far away and the brother, which shows the tendency to falsely
implicate them. Reference is also made to the following
observations of the High Court:

"..They are close relatives but the fact remains
that an effort is made by the complainant to
implicate as many persons as possible, in such
5. Learned counsel for the respondent-State and the
complainant submitted that it is not a case where the
Additional Sessions Judge should have interfered and the High
Court has therefore rightly set aside the order dated 4.11.2003
which was impugned before it.

6. Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (in short
'Dowry Act') defines "dowry" as under:-

Section 2. Definition of 'dowry'  In this Act,
'dowry' means any property or valuable
security given or agreed to be given either
directly or indirectly 
(a) by one party to a marriage to the
other party to the marriage; or

(b) by the parents of either party to a
marriage or by any other person, to
either party to the marriage or to any
other person,

at or before or any time after the marriage in
connection with the marriage of the said
parties, but does not include dower or mehr
in the case of persons to whom the Muslim
personal law (Shariat) applies.

Explanation I- For the removal of doubts, it is
hereby declared that any presents made at
the time of a marriage to either party to the
marriage in the form of cash, ornaments,
clothes or other articles, shall not be deemed
to be dowry within the meaning of this
section, unless they are made as
consideration for the marriage of the said

Explanation II- The expression 'valuable
security' has the same meaning in Section 30
of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860)."
7. The word "dowry" is defined in Section 2 of the Dowry
Act. Thus, there are three occasions related to dowry. One is
before the marriage, second is at the time of marriage and the
third "at any time" after the marriage. The third occasion may
appear to be unending period. But the crucial words are "in
connection with the marriage of the said parties". Other
payments which are customary payments e.g. given at the
time of birth of a child or other ceremonies as are prevalent in
different societies are not covered by the expression "dowry".
(See Satvir Singh v. State of Punjab (2001 (8) SCC 633))

8. The High Court has fallen in grave error while observing
that present appellants "could misappropriate" and "who can
practice cruelty". The conclusions to say the least are
presumptuous. Learned Additional Sessions Judge by a well
reasoned order had held that there was no material to show
that demand for any dowry was made
and an attempt was
made to rope in many persons. When the High Court was
interfering with such conclusions arrived at on facts it ought
to have indicated the reasons necessitating such interference.
That has not been done and on the contrary on presumptuous
conclusions the order of learned Additional Sessions Judge
has been set aside.

9. Reasons introduce clarity in an order. On plainest
consideration of justice, the High Court ought to have set forth
its reasons, howsoever brief, in its order indicative of an
application of its mind. The absence of reasons has rendered
the High Court's judgment not sustainable.

10. Even in respect of administrative orders Lord Denning
M.R. in Breen v. Amalgamated Engineering Union (1971 (1) All
E.R. 1148) observed "The giving of reasons is one of the
fundamentals of good administration". In Alexander Machinery
(Dudley) Ltd. v. Crabtree (1974 LCR 120) it was observed:
"Failure to give reasons amounts to denial of justice". Reasons
are live links between the mind of the decision taker to the
controversy in question and the decision or conclusion arrived
at". Reasons substitute subjectivity by objectivity. The
emphasis on recording reasons is that if the decision reveals
the "inscrutable face of the sphinx", it can, by its silence,
render it virtually impossible for the Courts to perform their
appellate function or exercise the power of judicial review in
adjudging the validity of the decision. Right to reason is an
indispensable part of a sound judicial system, reasons at least
sufficient to indicate an application of mind to the matter
before Court. Another rationale is that the affected party can
know why the decision has gone against him. One of the
salutary requirements of natural justice is spelling out reasons
for the order made, in other words, a speaking out. The
"inscrutable face of a sphinx" is ordinarily incongruous with a
judicial or quasi-judicial performance.

11. It is to be noted that the High Court itself has held that
there was an attempt to rope in many persons and it did not
find any merit or challenge to the discharge of the married
sister and the brother.

12. Above being the position, the impugned order of the High
Court cannot be maintained and is set aside. We make it clear
that we have not expressed any opinion on merits so far as
husband Jaswant is concerned.

13. The appeal is allowed to the aforesaid extent.


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