The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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HC cracks whip on dowry proof fraud

Mumbai, Nov. 10 (PTI): Mumbai High Court has quashed a trial court verdict in an alleged dowry-death case and sentenced the accused to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment, taking serious note of the lower court’s order acquitting five members of a family.

Allowing an appeal filed against the trial court’s order, the high court has also issued notices to police, prosecutor, defence lawyer and others asking them to show cause why they should not be summarily tried for giving fabricated evidence.

The notices were issued by Justices D.G. Deshpande and A.S. Aguair on October 31 to defence lawyer B.J. Abhyankar, prosecutor B.A. Pawar, a doctor of the Nasik Civil Hospital, Narayan Pawar, and special judicial magistrate P.S. Baviskar.

The notices have been made returnable on December 12 and the accused were directed to surrender before the trial court by the end of November to undergo sentence.

They were found guilty of offences under Sections 498 A and 306 of the IPC and sentenced to imprisonment for three years and 10 years, respectively. Both the sentences would run concurrently.

Earlier, the accused were acquitted by the trial court on the basis of a dying declaration by Mina Bavsar, who stated that she accidentally fell on a lantern, which broke, causing kerosene to spread on her sari as a result of which she caught fire.

“There is sufficient material to hold that the dying declaration was forged and fabricated,” the high court held.

Mina married Kamlakar on April 27, 1982. She was allegedly ill-treated because her family had not paid dowry and also because she was dark complexioned. Mina was allegedly beaten and driven out of the house.

She subsequently went to stay with her parents and applied for maintenance under Section 125 of Cr.P.C.

Her plea was decided in 1985 but it was not paid to her. Kamlakar, however, persuaded her to return to her matrimonial home. In February 1986, she returned to her husband and two months later, she received burn injuries.

Government lawyer Pravin Singal argued in the high court that the trial court’s order was “perverse” and this was a case where the judge, prosecution, investigating officer, doctor of civil hospital and defence lawyer had conspired to bring on record a forged dying declaration of the victim on the basis of which the accused had been acquitted.

While the dying declaration mentioned that Mina had caught fire after accidentally falling on a lantern, the panchnama did not talk about the lantern either intact or in broken condition.

On the contrary, the panchnama indicated that the accused had indulged in abetting Mina’s suicide, Singal contended.

A request for the dying declaration was filed on November 26, 1986, but the court did not pass any order asking prosecution to produce the document.

The prosecutor also did not seek time to produce it. The roznama of that day did not show who produced the document or at whose instance it was brought on record.

The special judicial magistrate who had recorded it was also not examined and the court accepted the dying declaration and delivered the judgement the next day.

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