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Kerala HC reopens dowry death case which was closed by police as suicide

- August 7, 2022

Thiruvananthapuram, August 6( BPNS)

The Kerala High Court on the other day initiated the reopening of a dowry death case, which was closed by the police as suicide out of depression. It was Justice Kausar Edappagath who directed the reopening of the case.

The case pertains to the death of Rajalakshmi, who was found dead by hanging at her husband’s house on December 16, 2021. Following this, a case of unnatural death was registered by Kattakkada Police based on the statement given by the sister of the deceased, Reshma BR.

But according to the petitioner, Baby S, the mother of Rajalakshmi, the sub-inspector of Kattakkada Police Station didn’t conduct a fair probe as the officer closed the case as suicide due to some depression and that too with nobody responsible for the same. According to the mother, it was a clear case of dowry death.

The court upon hearing the arguments observed that the investigation officer failed to take note of the relevant provisions of the statute under the Indian Evidence Act (section 113 B, which deals with presumption as to dowry death), section 304B of IPC (dowry death) and the statements of deceased’s sister and her parents.

According to the court, though section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act clearly states that when the question is whether a person has committed the dowry death of a woman and it is shown that soon before her death such woman had been subjected by such person to cruelty or harassment for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, the court shall presume that such person had caused the dowry death, the police had failed to take note of the same.

Countering the police’s statement that the close relatives of the deceased were the only witnesses among the witnesses questioned who stated that the cause of death was because of the harassment for dowry by her husband, the court observed that when harassment takes place in connection with dowry demand inside the matrimonial home, one cannot expect independent witnesses.

“The question is whether the statement given by the close relatives is believable or not. That apart, the inquest report also shows injuries on various parts of the deceased other than the ligature mark on the neck,” reads an excerpt of the judgment.

The court then stated that considering these aspects, the report of the SI, that Rajalakshmi committed suicide out of depression, is being dropped and ordered reinvestigation.

Directing Kattakada DySP to reopen the case and supervise it, the court said that the DySP should hand over the investigation to another officer in the rank of circle inspector of police.

According to advocate Akash S, who represented the petitioner, the husband of the deceased harassed her both physically and mentally demanding more dowry and it was on account of the said persistent harassment, that the deceased committed suicide.

“The materials collected during the investigation would clearly show that the husband of the deceased had subjected her to cruelty and harassment soon before her death demanding more dowry and it was on account of the same that Rajalakshmi committed suicide. This is a fit case where offense under section 304 B of IPC should have been charged against the husband. But the police instead helped him,” said Akash.