Meera v. State By the Inspector of Police Thiruvotriyur Police Station Chennai, SC 2022
FACTS – A complaint was lodged by Ramathilagam, mother of the victim therein alleging that all the accused – her son-in-law, his mother, her daughter and father-in-law were harassing the deceased and she was subjected to torture/cruelty for want of jewels. It was alleged that due to which her daughter had immolated herself.
All the accused were charged for the offences under Sections 498A and 306 IPC. After investigation, the Investigating Officer filed the charge sheet against accused Nos. 1 to 4 for the offences under Sections 498A and 306 of IPC.
The case was committed to the Court of Sessions,the Trial Court on appreciation of evidence acquitted accused No. 4, however, it convicted accused Nos. 1 to 3 for the offences punishable under Sections 498A and 306 IPC.
Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the judgment and order of conviction and sentence imposed by the Trial Court, accused No. 1, husband of the deceased, accused No. 2, mother-in-law of the victim and accused No. 3, sister-in-law of the victim preferred the appeal before the High Court. The High Court has partly allowed the said appeal and has acquitted all the accused for the offence under Section 306 IPC. By the impugned judgment and order, the High Court also set aside the conviction in respect of accused Nos. 1 and 3 for the offence under Section 498A IPC. However, the High Court maintained the conviction and sentence in respect of accused No. 2 for the offence under Section 498A IPC.
CAUSE – Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court, dismissing the appeal of accused No.2 and confirming the judgment and order passed by the Trial Court convicting her for the offence under Section 498A IPC, the original accused No.2, mother-in-law of the victim preferred the appeal before the Supreme Court.
ARGUMENTS – Shri Nagamuthu, learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of the appellant vehemently submitted that the Trial Court as well as the High Court have erred in holding the appellant guilty for the offence under Section 498A of the IPC. It was submitted that considering the fact that the injuries sustained by the deceased were deep and to the extent of 96%, she would not have been in a position to make any statement. It was submitted that in fact the deceased did not want her husband -A1 to go back to Saudi Arabia and for that she quarreled with her husband and other family members, which was the root cause of dispute/quarrel, which led to her committing suicide and it would not amount to harassment in terms of Section 498A IPC.
In the alternative, it was prayed by Shri Nagamuthu, learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of the appellant – mother-in-law of the victim that the appellant is an old lady, who was then 80 years old and, therefore, if the Court was not inclined to interfere with the conviction, in that case, a lenient view may be taken while imposing the sentence.
Though served, nobody has appeared on behalf of the respondent State.
ISSUE – Whether the Supreme Court should take a lenient view looking to the age of the appellant mother in law who was convicted under section 498A.
DECISION – The Supreme Court was of the opinion that it was established and proved that the deceased was subjected to torture/cruelty by the appellant – mother-in-law with regard to jewels. PW-1 – mother of the victim in her evidence had clearly stated that her daughter was frequently subjected to harassment by her mother-in-law for not adorning jewels. The findings recorded by both the Courts below were on appreciation of evidence, therefore, SC was of the opinion that the appellant has been rightly held guilty for the offence under Section 498A IPC.
So far as the alternative submission made on behalf of the accused to take a lenient view looking to the age of the appellant was concerned, it was required to be noted that as such the Trial Court had imposed the sentence of one year R.I. for the offence under Section 498A. However, the punishment could have been upto three years R.I. At the time when the incident occurred, the appellant was approximately between 60-65 years. The incident is of the year 2006. Therefore, merely because long time has passed in concluding the trial and/or deciding the appeal by the High Court, was no ground not to impose the punishment and/or to impose the sentence already undergone. The court noted that the appellant – mother-in-law was held to be guilty for the offence under Section 498A of IPC.
Being a lady, the appellant, who was the mother-in-law, ought to have been more sensitive vis-à-vis her daughter-in-law.Therefore, it was the duty of the appellant, being the mother-in-law and her family to take care of her daughter-in-law, rather than harassing and/or torturing and/or meting out cruelty to her daughter-in-law regarding jewels or on other issues.
Therefore, as such, no leniency was required to be shown to the appellant in the case. However, considering the fact that the incident is of the year 2006 and at present the appellant is reported to be approximately 80 years old, in the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, as a mitigating circumstance, the Court proposed to reduce the sentence from one year R.I. to three months R.I. with fine imposed by the Trial Court to be maintained.