Demand made for starting business amounts to dowry: SC

New Delhi, Feb 16 (PTI) Demand for property or valuableswhich has a connection with marriage constitutes "dowry" evenif it is made by the husband or in-laws for starting a newbusiness, the Supreme Court has ruled.

"If a demand for property or valuable security, directlyor indirectly, has a nexus with marriage, in our opinion, suchdemand would constitute ''demand for dowry''; the cause orreason for such demand being immaterial," the apex court saidin a judgement.

A bench of justices Aftab Alam and R M Lodha passed thejudgement while dismissing the appeal filed by Bachini Deviand her son challenging the seven years'' rigorous imprisonmentawarded to them in a dowry death case.

The bench rejected the argument of the convicts whociting an apex court 2007 judgement in the Appasaheb vsMaharashtra case claimed that if a demand is made by thehusband or in-laws for starting a business, the same would notconstitute "dowry".

"There is no merit in the contention of the counsel forthe appellants that the demand of motorcycle does not qualifyas a ''demand for dowry''. All the essential ingredients tobring home the guilt under Section 304B IPC are establishedagainst the appellants by the prosecution evidence.

"As a matter of law, the presumption under Section 113Bof the Evidence Act, 1872 is fully attracted in the facts andcircumstances of the present case. The appellants have failedto rebut the presumption under Section 113B," Justice Lodha,writing the judgement, said.

It was the case of the prosecution that the victim Kantahanged herself at her in-laws'' house in Kurukshetra on August11, 1990, within three months of marriage, after she waspestered for bringing home a motorcycle to enable the husbandcarry out his milk vending business.

The deceased''s father Pale Ram, a rickshaw-puller, couldnot afford to fulfil the demand.

The Additional Sessions Judge(I), Kurukshetra, sentencedthem to seven years of RI. The Punjab and Haryana High Courtaffirmed the sentence, following which the duo appealed in theapex court.

The convicts took the plea that there was no evidence ofa demand for motorcycle. It was further argued that in anycase the demand of motorcycle for the purposes of the businessdoes not qualify as a "demand for dowry" and, therefore, nooffence under Section 304-B IPC can be said to have been madeout against them.

Rejecting the argument, the apex court said, "The meredemand for dowry before marriage, at the time of marriage orany time after the marriage is an offence.

"Appasaheb cannot be read to be laying down an absoluteproposition that a demand for money or some property orvaluable security on account of some business or financialrequirement could not be termed as ''demand for dowry''.

"It was in the facts of the case that it was held so,"the bench said.

Hence, it dismissed the appeal, while directing BachiniDevi, who is on bail, to surrender within two months and servethe sentence.

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