J. Venkatesan

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has set aside a Madras High Court order quashing charges of ‘cruelty and dowry death’ against P.T. Manokaran, former Vice-Chancellor of the Madras University, his wife and daughter under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Dowry Prohibition Act.

A Bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Mukundakam Sharma in a recent judgment set aside the High Court order dated August 22, 2008 quashing charges under Sections 498-A, 306 and 304 B/34 of the IPC and Sections 3 and 4 of the DP Act framed by the trial court against the three accused. According to the prosecution, a case was registered against Naveen Kumar, Dr. Manokaran, his wife Kanagavalli and sister, Uma Selvakumar under the provisions of the IPC and the DP Act. Mr. Naveen was married to Madhu Devi. It was alleged that Madhu Devi committed suicide unable to bear the harassment suffered at the hands of the accused. The case was registered on a complaint from the victim’s brother D.K. Ganesh Babu. While the trial court framed the charges, the High Court quashed these charges.

The present SLP by Mr. Babu was directed against this order.

Setting aside the High Court order, the Supreme Court Bench said “we are unable to agree with the view taken by the High Court that there was no prima facie material before the trial court to frame charges against the three respondents and to put them up for trial. Madhu Devi died within seven years of her marriage. She died by committing suicide. Hence, the death certainly cannot be said to have occurred under normal circumstances.”

The Bench said “We have been taken through the suicide note, the First Information Report and the contents of the charge sheet. We do not wish to make any comments on the veracity of the allegations made therein but we must say that all the three documents undeniably contain allegations of demand of dowry and Madhu Devi being subjected to harassment and torture in connection with those demands. Whether or not the prosecution would be eventually able to substantiate its allegations against the three respondents by leading cogent and reliable evidence before the trial court and how the prosecution case would stand in the light of any evidence that might be led on behalf of the defence is yet to be seen.”

The Bench held that it was not a case which could be quashed by the High Court even at the stage of framing of charge by the trial court and the respondents must be made to face the trial.

The Bench allowed the appeal and directed the trial court to proceed with the trial in accordance with law.