The Delhi High Court has upheld the conviction of a man in a dowry death case. It maintained the conviction of seven years’ rigorous imprisonment under 304B (dowry death) and three years’ jail under 498A (subjecting a married woman to cruelty) of the Indian Penal Code against Ashok Kumar, the victim’s husband, solely on the basis of the dying declaration of his wife.

The couple had married in 1993 and was blessed with two daughters. However, their marital life got soured over the years when the woman failed to bring in money from her parents as constantly demanded by the convict.

The convict was alcoholic and addicted to buying lottery. He had sold off all the items given in dowry except the diwan. Both the families belong to economically poor background.

One day in 1997, the victim poured kerosene on herself in anger during a fight with her husband. Though there was no mention, neither in her dying declaration nor in the investigation report about who had set her on fire, she had received severe burn injuries.

She was admitted to RML Hospital by her mother as her in-laws instead of taking her to a hospital had dropped her at her parents’ house. Instead of preventing her from going ahead after pouring kerosene on herself, her husband taunted her to die.

The in-laws and her husband later went into hiding. After a few days of treatment, the woman succumbed to her injuries.

However, before her death, she had recorded her statement with the local SDM, giving all the details of torture and harassment at the hands of the in-laws and the husband for money.

The convict’s mother-in-law was also an accused in the case and held guilty and sentenced under 498A by the trial court. However, it had acquitted her of the charge of dowry death. But the police chose not to challenge her acquittal.

The convict had challenged his conviction arguing that the victim’s dying declaration was not reliable as she was not mentally fit to record it.

However, Justice S.P. Garg dismissed it saying that it had been recorded after the doctor had declared her in a proper frame of mind to talk to the SDM concerned.

“All the relevant contentions of the appellant have been dealt with in the impugned judgement, which is based upon fair appraisal of the evidence and requires no interference. The appeal is unmerited and is dismissed. The conviction and sentence of the appellant are maintained,’’ Justice Garg said.

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