The Madras High Court recently refused to suspend the jail term awarded to a couple in a dowry death case, rejecting contentions that there was no possibility of the couple having harassed their deceased daughter-in-law since they lived separately.
Justice P Velmurugan added that he had come across a number of cases where in-laws claim that there was no harassment on their part since they lived separately from their daughter-in-law, even though such harassment cannot be so ruled out.
“Since the in-laws are not residing with their son and the victim women, and on that ground, they are seeking suspension of sentence, and this Court has also considered several petitions, on such ground. Taking advantage of that, a wrong message has gone to the Society that the parents can easily escape from their liability and the alleged offence“, the order said.
Justice Velmurugan observed that suicides by women due to dowry harassment are rising day by day.
While so, it observed “the in-laws are escaping from their liability saying that they are not living with their son, even though they are living separately, but, they are inducing their son for getting dowry, by way of, money, jewels, two-wheeler, car etc.”
The Court went on to comment that it is not enough to give birth to a child, provide the child shelter and good education and encourage the child to get a job.
“The first and foremost responsibility of the parents is that they should groom their children as responsible citizens,” the Court said.
The observations were made in a case concerning the death of a woman by suicide in 2017, allegedly owing to her being beaten and harassed for dowry by her husband and parents-in-law. All three accused were found guilty of certain offences by the trial court.
The in-laws were found guilty of the offence under Section 498A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), although they were acquitted in so far as the charge under Section 304B (dowry death), IPC was concerned. Consequently, they were sentenced to simple imprisonment for a two-year term and Rs 5,000 fine.
The in-laws filed an appeal challenging the trial court verdict. A petition was also moved for the suspension of their jail sentence.
Among other contentions, it was submitted that the deceased woman and the first accused (her husband) had been living separately from the date of their marriage (in 2016) and that the in-laws had never lived under the same roof with the deceased woman. As such, there was no possibility of their having demanded dowry or causing cruelty, it was contended.
The Court, however, disagreed with this stance. The Court added that there are materials to show that the in-laws had been cruel to and demanded dowry from their daughter-in-law. It was observed that the Sessions Court had passed its judgment in the case after a proper appreciation of materials available on record.
In this backdrop, and given the nature and gravity of offence committed by the accused, the Court ultimately dismissed the plea by the accused in-laws to suspend their jail term.
The appeal filed by them was ordered to be listed for final hearing on April 28.