New Delhi, May 19: Gifts for a newborn, demanded by a womans husband and his family, cannot be regarded as dowry, the Supreme Court has ruled.
The court acquitted Narayanamurthy from Karnataka whose wife committed suicide over alleged demands for such gifts.
The woman, Jagadeshwari, set herself ablaze in her husbands house on November 11, 1990, after alleged harassment by him and her in-laws for failing to get enough dowry.
After a daughter was born to Jagadeshwari, her in-laws had demanded a gold ring and silverware for the thread-changing ceremony that was to be held in the childs maternal home.
But Jagadeshwaris family could not gift the gold ring, following which Narayanamurthy refused to participate in the ceremony and went back to his house.
According to the prosecution, Jagadeshwari was being harassed from day one of her marriage in 1989 for bringing insufficient dowry. She had got Rs 4,000 in cash and five gold ornaments from her family.
Jagadeshwari stayed with her parents for five months during her pregnancy and gave birth to the girl there.
A few days after the thread-changing ceremony, Jagadeshwaris brother Ravichandra took her and the child back to Narayanamurthys house and assured her in-laws that their demands would be met in a short time. They, however, continued to harass Jagadeshwari, the prosecution said.
About a week before killing herself, Jagadeshwari went back to her parents house and told them she had been assaulted. But her parents persuaded her to go back to Narayanamurthy.
Jagadeshwaris in-laws — Kannappa and Shivabhushanamma — and Narayanamurthy were tried under sections 498A (cruelty) and 304B (dowry death within seven years of marriage) of the IPC and sections 3, 4 and 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. Father-in-law Kannappa died while trial was on.
The trial court acquitted Narayanamurthy and his mother in April 2000 for lack of evidence.
On appeal by the state, Karnataka High Court convicted the husband under Sections 498A and 304B of the IPC and sentenced him to seven years rigorous imprisonment.
He was also sentenced to another two years rigorous imprisonment under Section 498A of the IPC and fined Rs 5,000.
The high court, however, acquitted him of offences under Sections 3, 4 and 6 of the dowry prohibition act. It also upheld Shivabhushanammas acquittal.
The apex court, which acquitted Narayanamurthy, too, said though it had been proven that Jagadeshwaris father had gifted the silverware to Narayanamurthy at the ceremony, such gifts are not enveloped within the ambit of dowry.
We agree with the high court that the evidence against the mother is insufficient and inconsistent to convict her, it said.
The court said, even otherwise, mere evidence of cruelty and harassment does not make a case under Section 304B of the IPC (dowry death within seven years of marriage).