Wednesday, June 5, 2013

husband acquitted EVEN if wife dead, circumstantial evidence & hearsay NOT sufficient, 2 decade fight for justice




Notes
*********************
  • Marriage on 12th October, 1988
  • On 28.1.1996 Wife attempts suicide
  • On 29.1.1996, she succumbs to injuries
  • Father in law changes marriage date to 12th Oct 1989 to bring it within seven years of marriage !!
  • As usual husband and family stand accused
  • Wife and family arrested and jailed for approx 6 months
  • Trial court convicts them
  • they go on appeal
  • Delhi HC acquits them


Excerpts ".....difficult to sustain conviction on circumstantial evidence and hearsay evidence of witnesses PW -1 and PW -2. Circumstances are not conclusive and do not exclude possibility of the innocence of accused. The chain of evidence is not so complete as not to leave any reasonable doubt regarding the guilt of the accused. The demand of dowry ...not been established beyond doubt. Cruelty or torture of Renu Sharma ..also not been established beyond doubt. ..."




CRL. A 142/2000

* IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI

Reserved on : 6th May, 2013 %

Date of Decision : 23 rd May, 2013

+ CRL. A. 142/2000

ATUL SHARMA & ANR..... Appellant s
Through: Mr.K.B. An dley, Sr.Advocate with Mr. M. Shamikh, Advocate

versus

STATE..... Respondent
Through: Ms.Jasbir Kaur, APP

CORAM: MR. JUSTICE R.V. EASWAR

JUDGMENT

R.V. EASWAR, J.:

1. This is an appeal filed by Atul Sharma and Shashi Sharma against the judgment dated 26.02.2000 convicting the appellants for the offences pun ishable under Section 498A and 306 of the Indian Penal Code as well as against the order dated 9.3.2000 sentencing both of them to RI for 6 years plus fine of ` 2,000/-and in defau lt for a further period of RI for 8 months each under Section 306 and RI for 2 years plus a fine of ` 1,000/-in default to undergo RI for further period of 4 months under Section 498A.

2. The appeal arises in the following circumstances. One Renu Sharmag ot married to Atul Sharma, one of the appellants herein, on 12th October, 1988. After her marriage she came to the matrimonial home at house No.F32, Turkman R oad, Kamla Market, Delhi. It appears that at some later point of time they shifted their re siden ce to Flat No.1/F, Pocket A -1, Mayur Vihar, Phase -III, Delhi. On 28.1.1996 it is alleged that she doused herself with kerosene and set fire to herself. She was rushed to Noida Medicare Centre for Treatment, by Atul Kumar Sharma, her husband. There were 98% burns on her body. On 29.1.1996, at around 10:10 p.m., she succumbed to the burn injuries.

3. The case of the prosecution is that Renu Sharma committed suicide being unable to bear the dowry demands of her husband and mother -in -law, the appellants he rein, who are guilty of the offence under Section 306(abetment of suicide) and Section 498A (cruelty by husband or relative).

4. The complaint was filed by the brother of Renu Sharma whose name was Raj Gopal Sharma. He is PW -2 in this case. The trial cou rt has relied upon two witnesses, namely, PW -2 and the evidence of Veena Shamra, PW -1, who is the sister of the deceased. The trial court noted that the evidence of Veena Sharma and Raj Gopal Sharma established the fact that there were dowry demands and t orture of Renu Sharma which ultimately led her to commit suicide. The trial court conceded that the prosecution case was based only on circumstantial evidence of dowry demand and torture and that no evidence was adduced by the prosecution to the effect th at it was the accused persons who abetted the suicide. However, the trial court observed that in such cases, direct evidence of abetment of suicide would hardly be available and that it is only the circumstantial evidence and the conduct of the accused pe rsons which are to be taken into consideration for adjudicating upon the truthfulness or otherwise of the prosecution case.

5. The trial court first dealt with a preliminary point that the evidence of Raj Gopal Sharma was unreliable because he deliberately gave the date of marriage between the deceased and Atul Kumar Sharma as 12.10.1989 in order to bring the case within the period of seven years mentioned in Section 304B of the IPC, whereas the actual date of marriage was 12.10.1988. Ac cording to the tria l court this was not done deliberately by Raj Gopal Sharma which was an inadvertent error or due to the tendency of the family of the deceased in such cases to be motivated by a sense of revenge against the accused. According to the trial court the eviden ce of Raj Gopal Sharma cannot be discarded merely on the ground that a wrong date of marriage was given by him.

6. The trial court first dealt with the evidence of Veena Sharma. According to the trial court, Veena Sharma had deposed that the deceased used to tell her that Atul Sharma used to beat her after consuming liquor. He would also make demands o f dowry from the deceased in the form of scooter, dining table and VCR. Veena Sharma also stated, according to the trial court, that when she visited the m atrimonial home of the deceased on 27.01.1996 she found both the appellants there. Shashi Sharma, the mother-in -law of the deceased, complained to Veena Sharma that her brothers (which also mean s the brothers of the deceased) did not respect her. Atul Sharma also asked her to prevail upon her brothers to fulfil the demand of VCR. The defence tried to point out that Atul Sharma already had a dining table and he had even purchased a scooter with monies provided by his mother in August, 1990. The trial court, however, did not pay much credence to the plea of the defence. Certain photographs were sought to be produced before the trial court by the accused to show that Atul Sharma already had a dining table but the trial court dismissed them by observing th at they are not suggestive of the fact that the dining table was with him since the date of his marriage. The defence had also attempted to show that the deceased had illicit relationship with a person by name Rajbir Rana and that this was known to Veena Sharma and it was because of the sense of shame and guilt that Renu Sharma had committed suicide. But this attempt of the defence was also brushed aside by the trial court by saying that Rajbir Rana was an imaginary person and it cannot appeal to common s ense that Atul Kumar Sharma would accept the fact that his wife continue d to have an illicit relationship with Rajbir Rana CRL. A 142/2000 even while continuing to reside with him (Atul Sharma) as his wife. In this view of the matter, the trial court dismissed the theory of Rajbir Rana and his influence over Renu Sharma driv i n g her to commit suicide.

7. According to the trial court the version of Veena Sharma was corroborated in material particulars by the evidence of Raj Gopal Sharma. Both of them stated that their sist er Renu Sharma was harassed and ill -treated for dowry by her in -laws. The trial court observed that except the events which happened on 27.1.1996 in the house of Atul Sharma there was nothing to show how the days passed. It surmised that something unexpe cted had taken place in the house which had made Renu Sharma to take the extreme s tep to end her life. According to the trial court, based on the evidence of Veena Sharma and Raj Gopal Sharma, Renu Sharma was tortured and ill treated by the accused person s which ultimately led her to commit suicide. According to the trial court, Renu Sharma was forced to think that the continued hostile behaviour of the accused persons would not come to an end and that the only way out for her was to embra ce death by comm itting suicide.

8. For the aforesaid reasons, the trial court held that the circumstantial evidence in this case established that the accused persons had abetted the suicide by Renu Sharma. The accused were thus convicted for the offences punishable under section 498A and Section 306 of the IPC.

9. The argument before me on behalf of the appellants was primarily that there was no evidence to show that the appellants had made any dowry demands on specific days from the deceased or that they had indulged in physical or mental torture in order to justify the conviction. It was pointed out that the dining table was already there with Atul Sharma and he had purchased a scooter in August, 1990 with the help of his mother and evidence in the form of the bank acco unt of Shashi Sharma and the cheque leaves were submitted before the trial court. It is contended that there is no direct evidence of any beating or physical torture by the appellants and whatever has been stated by Veena Sharma or Raj Gop al Sha r ma was me rely he a rsay. It is contended that even the circumstantial evidence on which reliance was placed by the trial court was unreliable and flimsy and no conviction can be based on the same.

10. It was alternatively contended that even if the appellants are fo und guilty, their sentence should be reduced to the period of six months already undergone by them.

11. On the other hand, the learned APP contended that the evidence of PW -1 and PW -2 corroborates each other in material particulars on the basis of which th e conviction under both the Sections of IPC should be maintained. She took me through the important findings of the trial courts at pages 5, 11, 13, 14 etc. and submitted that these findings, though based on circumstantial evidence, have stood the test of cross -examination and also represent a fair inference which can be drawn from the circumstantial evidence. There is, according to the learned APP, enough evidence to show that there was a demand of dowry in the form of dining table, scooter and VCR and t here was also evidence to show cruelty, physical violence inflicted upon the deceased Renu Sharma.

12. On the question of sentence, the learned APP submitted that the appellants deserve no reduction thereof.

13. I have carefully consider ed the judgment of the trial court and also examined the evidence in this case. I am unable to uphold the conviction of the appellants under Section 498A and 306 of the IPC. I give my reasons below.

14. The main evidence in this case has been described by the trial court a s " circumstantial ". Even though conviction under Section 498A and 306 IPC can be founded on circumstantial evidence in appropriate cases, I am of the view that the circumstant ial evidence should be reliable, cogent, not imaginary and consistent only with the guilt of the accused. With this observation, I proceed to examine the evidence of three main witnesses in the case, namely, Veena Sharma (sister of the deceased), Raj Gopal Sharma (brother of the deceased) and Bhim Singh, sub -inspector of police (PW -13), who was the Investigating Officer (IO).

15. I will first take up the evidence of Veena Sharma, PW -1. A s to the existence of the dining table in the house of Atul Sharma which is one of the demands stated to have been made by him, Veena Sharma is not c ategorical. At one part of her deposition on 24.05.1999 she has stated that it was incorrect that there was a dining table in the house of the accused persons even prior to the marriage of Atul Sharma. It is not known as to how she can be so categorical about the existence or otherwise of the dining table in the house of Atul Sharma even before the marriage of Atul Sharma with her sister. Be that as it may, in her deposition earlier on 16.04.1999 she stated that she was not aware that there was a dining table in the house of the accused, since the date of his marriage. These are statements which are either irrelevant to the issue or were not categorical or firm. This is in contrast with the evidence of Bhim Singh, the IO (PW -13) who stated in his deposi tion on 16.09.1999 that when he visited the flat of Atul Sharma, he saw the dining table set in the room but he was unable to tell the exact location of the same in the room. The existence of the dining table in the flat of Atul Sharma was also attempted to be proved by showing photographs before the trial court which the trial court brushed aside. After taking note of the ambivalent deposition of Veena Sharma on this point and also taking note of the categorical and firm statement of PW -1 3, I am of the v iew that there was a dining table in the flat of Atul Sharma, which in turn means that Atul Sharma could not have made it an issue.

16. Coming to the question whether Atul Sharma was possessed of a scooter, it was the deposition of both Veena Sharma and Ra j Gopal Sharma that Atul Sharma was demanding a scooter right from the date of his marriage. Veena Sharma admitted in the course of her deposition on 16.04.1999 that she cannot give the date of demand or the period that elapsed after the marriage when the demand for scooter was raised. She, however, stated that Atul Sharma raised the demand for scooter from her brother Raj Gopal Sharma in her presence. She also admitted that no relative was called to raise a protest against this demand nor did they lodge any complaint with the police in connection with the demand. When she was confronted with the fact that the accused had acquired a scooter on 20.08.1990, she pleaded ignorance of the fact. She further state d that the sum of ` 20,000/-stated to have been paid to Atul Sharma was not given to him in her presence. In contrast, Atul Sharma in his statement dated 04.01.2000 under section 313 of the Cr.P.C categorically stated that he never raised any demand for dowry in the shape of scooter, VCR, dining table, etc. nor was any cash of any sort given to him by the brother of Renu (apparently in a refer e nce to Raj Gopal Sharma). H e confirmed that he was already having a dining table in his house and an old scooter at the time of the marriage and that the scoote r was replaced by a new scooter acquired on 20.08.1990 with the help of his mother's savings kept in her savings bank account; the documents for the purchase of the scooter and the registration certificate, invoice, etc. were marked documents before the tr ial court. In the light of the evidence adduced by the accused, I am unable to accept the statement made by Veena Sharma that the accused made a demand for scooter as dowry and kept on making the demands from time to time after the marriage. It is also noteworthy that the demand for scooter, according to the deposition of Veena Sharma, was made by the accused from her brother (apparently referring to Raj Gopal Sharma) and in her presence. The only witnesses to the demand, who are family members of the de ceased Renu Sharma, are PW -1 and PW -2 i.e. Veena Sharma and Raj Gopal Sharma. It is very convenient for Veena Sharma to allege that the accused Atul Sharma made a demand for scooter from PW -2 (Raj Gopal Sharma, her brother) and in her presence. It is s tr ange that no complaint was registered with the police in connection with the demand nor was any relative called to raise a protest against the demand. This appears to me to be very strange since the deceased Renu Sharma had other brothers and sisters apart from PW -1 and PW -2 and in fact three brothers were even residing together, as per the statement of Raj Gopal Sharma on 20.05.1998. The other brothers and sisters of Renu Sharma are Krishan Gopal, Girdhar Gopal, Ravi Gopal, Brij Gopal, Shakuntala Devi (eldest sister), Kusumlata and Madhu Sharma. It not only appears to me to be strange but it also appears quite unusual and opposed to the ordinary course of human conduct and probabilities that if Renu Sharma was in fact being tortured and ill -treated in he r matrimonial home and dowry demands were being made by the appellants, she did not report it to the other members of the family and had taken only Veena Sharma and Raj Gopal Sharma into confidence. This is particularly so when three of the brothers were stated to be residing together. The normal human tendenc y is to confide in all the members of the family, particularly when both the parents of the deceased were no more – the mother died in the year 1982 and the father died in the year 1989 immediately a fter the marriage of Renu.

17. A nother surprising feature in this case is that the police have not thought it fit to examine any other family member as witness. The story that Renu Sharma was ill -treated and tortured in her matrimonial home and that dowry demands were being made by Atul Sharma and Shashi Sharma is only that of Veena Sharma and Raj Gopal Sharma. The police ought to have examined the other members of the family such as Krishan Gopal, Girdhar Gopal, Ravi Gopal, Brij Gopal (brothers) and Shak untala Devi, Kusumlata and Madhu Sharma (sisters) ; the failure to examine them as prosecution witnesses is a serious lapse and weakens the case of the prosecution considerably.

18. The depositions of Raj Gopal Sharma, the brother of the deceased are reveal ing. On 11.11.1997 he stated that the accused Shashi Sharma (mother-in -law of the deceased) came to the house of Renu Sharma (deceased) three days before the incident took place and she had brought kerosene oil. A question was posed to him as to how he k new that the kerosene oil was brought by the mother -in -law of the deceased. His answer was that he was told about this fact by her elder sister Veena Sharma when she returned home after visiting Renu Sharma's house on 27.01.1996. It is a classic case of hearsay evidence which the trial court failed to note. The allegation is quite serious and is made against one of the accused, b ut it has been made in a clever manner. Raj Gopal Sharma says that he came to know that Shashi Sharma brought kerosene oil to th e house o f Renu Sharma three days before the incident, from his elder sister Veena Sharma who is none else than PW -1. This statement cannot be verified from Renu Sharma since she is no longer alive. She was the only person who could have told this to V eena Sharma. Veena Sharma tells Raj Gopal Sharma that she was made aware of this fact by the deceased Renu Sharma. A serious allegation is made against Shashi Sharma in this manner. The evidence is hearsay. Both Raj Gopal Sharma and Veena Sharma are th e only two family members of Renu Sharma who have deposed in this case. Their evidence is unreliable.

19. It is further interesting to note the deposition of Raj Gopal Sharma on 20.05.1998. He stated that in the hospital where Renu Sharma was admitted af ter the burns, about 10 persons from her mohalla were standing near her. He confessed that he did not know the names of any of them, but also stated that one of these persons was a resident of the flat below that of Atul Sharma and another person was a sh opkeeper who had a shop below the flat of the accused. He further stated in the deposition that he inquired from the person who was residing just below the flat of the accused and that the said person told him that he did not hear about the burning, but t old him that the accused have been quarrelling with Renu Sharma.

That person further told Raj Gopal Sharma – and this is quite serious – that

| " while accused was taking my sister to the hospital in the taxi he
| expressed the fear that as she was still breat hing, she may cause
| trouble to him ".

This is pure hearsay and it appears to have been made only with the intention of implicating the accused. The witness did not know the name of the person who told him this fact. The witness also did not think it fit, strangely, to ask the name of the person so that such a serious fact which can implicate the accused Atul Sharma can be further investigated by the police, but Raj Gopal Sharma did no such thing.

The sentences which follow the aforequoted statement are m ore interesting: -

| " Police did not ask me this question and, therefore, I did not tell
| to the police. Police was not present in the hospital, when I reached
| there. Police had reached there after about half an hour from P.S.
| Kalyanpuri. We remained in th e hospital so long my sister survived. "

The quoted sentence s are shocking, to say the least. If according to Raj Gopal Sharma, Atul Sharma had expressed the fear that since Renu Sharma was alive at that point of time, her survival could cause trouble to him, that would be a damning evidence (for Atul Sharma). D espite this, Raj Gopal Sharma somehow did not think it fit to inform the police about it so that they can make further investigation into the matter. He says that he did not inform the police beca use the police did not ask him this question. I do not think it was normal conduct for Raj Gopal Sharma not to inform the police about the fear allegedly expressed by Atul Sharma, even though the police did not ask any question on this issue. The police may not have been present in the hospital when he was informed about this fact by the resident of the flat below the floor of Atul Sharma, but even according to the statement of Raj Gopal Sharma the police reached the hospital after about half an hour. It is unusual that Raj Gopal Sharma, even after the police arrived in the hospital, did not think it fit to inform the police about what the person residing be low the flat of Atul Sharma told him. The only inference is that this is a concocted story which cannot be believed and was made only with a view to falsely implicate Atul Sharma.

20. It is again surprising that the police did not examine any of the neighbours of Atul Sharma/Shashi Sharma in an attempt to elicit the truth about the allegation that the y were demanding dowry from Renu Sharma and also torturing and ill -treating her. It would have been in my opinion most natural to examine the neighbours of Atul Sharma, particularly when Atul Sharma was residing in a flat which was surrounded by other res idential flats, as per the deposition of Veena Sharma on 24.05.1999. The police did not, for some reason, think it fit to examine the neighbours of Atul Sharma/ Shashi Sharma nor did they consider it fit to inquire or investigate the truth of the allegati os from the brothers and sisters of Renu Sharma other than Veena Sharma and Raj Gopal Sharma. The s e are serious gaps in the chain of events alleged to constitute circumstantial evidence.

21. So far as the point regarding the bringing of kerosene oil to th e house by the mother -in -law Sha shi Sharma is concerned, in his statement on 20.05.1998 Raj Gopal Sharma says that this fact was mentioned by him to the SDM who conducted the inquest, but it was not something which was in his direct knowledge ; this had all egedly been told to him by his sister Veena Sharma who is said to have heard it from Renu Sharma (deceased), I have already adverted to this aspect. Raj Gopal Sharma also stated in his deposition that though Atul Sharma had issued threats to him, he did n ot tell anyone regarding those threats. There is no explanation as to why he did not complaint to the police about the threats or did not even mention it to his other brothers and sisters.

22. I will now turn to the evidence of PW -13, Bhim Singh, I O. He deposed that Raj Gopal Sharma met him in the hospital and told him that the marriage of Renu Sharma had taken place on 10.12.1989. Reckoning from that date, the incident would have been within a period of seven years from the date of the marriage and sect ion 304B would have been attracted. However, this date was wrong as it turned out later, and it was found that the marriage had taken place on 12.10.1988. It is true that Raj Gopal Sharma had given a wrong date, but I am unable to disagree with the trial court that this could have been a genuine mistake, given the circumstances. In his deposition on 16.09.1999, PW -13 stated that he had enquired about the accused persons and the deceased Renu Sharma and could not find anything adverse or in favour of any of the three persons concerned. He deposed that he did not interrogate the neighbours about Sashi Sharma residing separately. He, however, stated that none of the neighbours had informed him about any quarrel or difference between Atul Sharma and Renu Sh arma. If Atul Sharma had expressed the apprehension that while taking Renu Sharma to the hospital she was still breathing and she could therefore cause trouble for him if she survive d, to the knowledge of the resident of the flat below Atul Sharma, and if that resident had really mentioned this fact to Raj Gopal Sharma in the hospital, I do not see any reason why that resident would not have informed the police also about the fact. It is significant that PW -13 also deposed that there was no complaint agai nst Atul Sharma or Shashi Sharma prior to this incident either in his P.S. or in any other P.S. of Delhi, that no complaint had ever been made from the side of Renu Sharma or her parental side relatives during the investigation and that no information or s tatement had ever been made during the investigation that there was any threat to Renu Sharma. He also deposed that no complaint was ever made to his P.S. and to his knowledge about the taking of liquor by Atul Sharma.

23. In my opinion, the evidence of P W -1 and PW -2 i.e. Veena Sharma and Raj Gopal Sharma, the sister and brother respectively of the deceased, does not inspire any confidence. It reveals an anxiety on their part to implicate the appellants on the basis of hearsay evidence. There are no publ ic witnesses who testified about the existence of any quarrel regarding dowry between Atul Sharma and Shashi Sharma on the one hand and Renu Sharma on the other. None of the neighbours was examined; none came forward with any evidence against the appellan ts. The brothers and sisters of Renu Sharma other than Veena Sharma and Raj Gopal Sharma were not examined nor did they come forward, which would have been the natural thing for them to do, with any evidence of any dowry demands by Atul Sharma/ Shashi Sha rma or ill -treatment of Renu Sharma by them. No specific dates or occasions at which the dowry demands for dining table, scooter or VCR were made were mentioned. All that we know is that Atul Sharma made a demand of scooter from Raj Gopal Sharma in the p resence of Veena Sharma. This evidence is, however, belied by the fact that Atul Sharma did lead evidence to show that he acquired the scooter in August, 1990 with the help of his mother's funds. In fact, he replaced his old scooter by the new scooter. Moreover, Shashi Sharma was residing separately from Atul Sharma and Renu Sharma from May, 1995 to January, 1996 in Minto Road, New Delhi. This has been stated by Veena Sharma herself. The only allegation against Shashi Sharma was that she complained tha t the brothers of Renu Sharma were not showing any respect to her. Moreover, it was Atul Sharma who called the PCR at No.100 and it was he who had taken Renu Sharma in a taxi to Noida Medical Hospital for treatment. He had paid the hospital bills.

24. T he trial court has based the conviction on circumstantial evidence. It is permissible to convict a person on the basis of circumstantial evidence but it has to be done with great caution.

In one of the earliest judgments of the Supreme Court in Hanumant Govin d Nargundkar & Anr v. State of Madhya Pradesh (AIR 1952 SC 343), it was observed as under: -

| "It is well to remember that in cases where the evidence is of a
| circumstantial nature, the circumstances from which the conclusion of
| guilt is to be drawn sho uld be in the first instance be fully
| established and all the facts so established should be consistent
| only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused. Again the
| circumstances should be of a conclusive nature and tendency and they
| should be such as to exclude every hypothesis but the one proposed to
| be proved. In other words, there must be a chain of reasonable ground
| for a conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused and it
| must be such as to show that within all human probability the ac t
| must have been done by the accused."

In Sharad Birdhichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra (AIR 1984 SC 1622), while dealing with circumstantial evidence, the Supreme Court laid down the following conditions precedent: -

| " (1) the circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is to be
| drawn should be fully established. The circumstances concerned must
| or should and not may be established;
|
| (2) the facts so established should be consistent only with the
| hypothesis of the guilt of the accused, that is to say, they should
| not be explainable on any other hypothesis except that the accused is
| guilty;
|
| (3) the circumstances should be of a conclusive nature and tendency;
|
| (4) they should exclude every possible hypothesis except the one to
| be proved; and
|
| (5) there must be a chain of evidence so complete as not to leave
| any reasonable ground for the conclusion consistent with the
| innocence of the accused and must show that in all human probability
| the act must have been done by the accused."

So far as hearsay evidence is concerned, I may refer to the judgment of the Supreme Court in Kalyan Kumar Gogoi v. Ashutosh Agnihotri & Anr.(AIR 2011 SC 706) where the Supreme Court cautioned against basing a conviction on hearsay evidence.

The Court noted that the reasons why hearsay evidence is excluded are: -

| (a) its tendency to protract investigations to an embarrassing and
| dangerous length;
|
| (b) its intrinsic weakness and incompetency to satisfy the judge
| about the existence of a fact;
|
| (c) the fraud which may be practiced with impunity, under its cover;
|
| (d) the total lack of any sense of responsibility on the part of the
| person giving hearsay evidence; and
|
| (e) the absolute dilution and diminishment of the truth with every
| repetition of the hearsay evidence.

25. In the present c ase, I find it difficult to sustain the conviction on the basis of the circumstantial evidence and the hearsay evidence of witnesses PW -1 and PW -2. The circumstances are not conclusive and do not exclude the possibility of the innocence of the accused. The chain of evidence is not so complete as not to leave any reasonable doubt regarding the guilt of the accused. The demand of dowry in the shape of dining table, scooter and the VCR has not been established beyond doubt. Cruelty or torture of Renu Sharm a has also not been established beyond doubt. The police have not thought it fit to examine the neighbours of the accused in an attempt to know the truth about the relationship between Atul Sharma and his mother Shashi Sharma on the one hand and the decea sed Renu Sharma on the other. There is no evidence to show that Renu Sharma complained about the dowry demands and ill treatment allegedly meted out to her by Atul Sharma and Shashi Sharma to her brothers and sisters other than Veena Sharma and Rajgopal S harma, which seems unusual and contrary to human conduct and probability. The other brothers and sisters of Renu Sharma have neither been examined nor have they come forward to depose against the accused. There are instances of hearsay evidence in the de position of Veena Sharma and Rajgopal Sharma, PW -1 and PW -2 respectively. Thus the conviction in this case appears to me to be the result of a lethal combination of circumstantial evidence and hearsay evidence. 26. For the above -said reasons, I hold that the appellants were wrongly convicted for the offences punishable under section 498A and 306 of the IPC. I set -aside the conviction and the sentence and allow the appeal. The bonds executed by the appellants and the sureties stand discharged.

(R.V. EASWAR ) JUDGE

MAY 23 2013

bisht/hs