Dowry Death vis-à-vis Murder

In Rajbir v. State of Haryana, (2010) 15 SCC 116 the court had directed the addition of a charge under Section 302 IPC to every case in which the accused are charged with Section 304-B. That was not the true purport of the order passed by the court. The direction was not meant to be followed mechanically and without due regard to the nature of the evidence available in the case. All that the Court meant to say was that in a case where a charge alleging dowry death is framed, a charge under Section 302 can also be framed if the evidence otherwise permits. No other meaning could be deduced from the order of the Court.

                It is common ground that a charge under Section 304-B IPC is not a substitute for a charge of murder punishable under Section 302. As in the case of murder punishable under Section 304-B also there is a death involved. The question whether it is murder punishable under Section 302 IPC or a dowry death punishable under Section 304-B IPC depends upon the fact situation and the evidence in the case. If there is evidence whether direct or circumstantial to prima facie support a charge under Section 302 IPC the trial court can and indeed ought to frame a charge of murder punishable under Section 302 IPC, which would then be the main charge and not an alternative charge as is erroneously assumed in some quarters. If the main charge of murder is not proved against the accused at the trial, the court can look into the evidence to determine whether the alternative charge of dowry death punishable under section 304-B is established. The ingredients constituting the two offences are different, thereby demanding appreciation of evidence from the perspective relevant to such ingredients. Jasvinder Saini and others v. State, (2013) 7 SCC 256.

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Filed under Criminal Law, Dowry Death

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