In the Supreme Court of India Criminal Appellate Jurisdiction Case No. Criminal Appeal No. 775 of 2017 (Arising out of S.L.P. (CRL) NO. 8998 OF 2016) Appellants Pawan Kumar Respondent State of Himachal Pradesh Bench Dipak Misra, A.M. Khanwilkar, Mohan M. Shantanagoudar
The landmark case of Pawan Kumar v State of Himachal Pradesh, has perfectly displayed the plight of women in India. It correctly depicts how the rights, individuality and the issues related to women are turned a blind eye. There comes a time in every girl’s life living in this country, when she is made to feel and believe that her life is not worth living. The circumstances sometimes become so unbearable that it compels the girl involved to risk and take her life, by committing suicide. The constant eve-teasing by the accused pushed the victim to take such a drastic step.
1. The case is the painful story of a young girl named Shalu, who unfortunately fell in love with the accused. Blinded by love, she decided to elope with the accused.
2. The accused was booked under sections 363(2), 366(3) and 376(4) of the Indian Penal Code and was acquitted for the same.
3. By this the accused felt betrayed and thus started threatening the girl. The accused indulged in eve teasing by showing obscene gestures to the girl on a routine basis, blaming the victim for his prosecution. The accused created a situation that was unbearable and insufferable for the victim. This situation ultimately compelled the victim to commit suicide by pouring kerosene on her body and setting herself ablaze. The victim succumbed to her injuries after her dying declaration was recorded during the course of investigation.
4. The appellant accused was subsequently charged under Section 306 of the IPC for Abetment of Suicide of the deceased. The Trial Court acquitted the accused and did not consider the statements given by the witnesses and the parents of the deceased and the dying declaration given by the deceased was ruled out as invalid. The reason given by the trial Judge was that the deceased was not in a position to speak and there was no medical certificate appended as regards her fitness.
5. In contradiction, the High Court considered the testimony given by the witnesses and also gave due credence to the dying declaration by not giving too much importance to the medical condition prior to the victim’s death.
6. The Appellate Court was of the opinion that the High Court was correct in reversing the findings of the Trial Court and admitted the dying declaration of the deceased. The Appellate Court stated that there was indeed an aspect of abetment of suicide in this present case. The reason for the same being the cruelty imposed on the deceased by the accused.
7. The Court ruled that threatening and harassing by way of eve teasing amounts to abetment of suicide. Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India was also discussed in this case by the Appellant Court. The Court stated that a woman has her own space as a man does and that a civilized society has no room for male chauvinism.
8. The High Court in this case has rightly exercised its jurisdiction and the Appellate Court abided by the same. Consequently, the appeal was dismissed and the appellate accused was convicted for abetment of suicide under Section 306 of the IPC.
The issues raised in this case were:-
- The nature of the jurisdiction of the High Court while exercising its power as an appellate court on reversing the judgment of acquittal to that of conviction.
- Whether dying declaration to be treated as a reliable source of evidence or not?
- The ambit and scope of Section 306 of the Indian penal Code.
Mr. Sanchar Anand, was the learned counsel for the appellant and Mr. D.K. Thakur, was the learned Additional Advocate General for the respondent- State.
- It was submitted by Mr. Anand, learned counsel for the appellant that the judgment rendered by the learned trial Judge was absolutely flawless since he had analysed the evidence in great detail and appreciated them in correct perspective.
- It was his further submission that the trial court scrutinizing the medical evidence and the burn injuries sustained by the victim had appositely discarded the dying declaration.
- It was further put forth that when cogent reasons have been ascribed by the trial court for not placing reliance upon the dying declaration and the testimony of the prosecution witnesses, the High Court, in such a fact situation, should have been well advised not to interfere with the judgment of acquittal. It was also canvassed by him that when the appreciation of evidence by the trial court was not perverse and the view expressed by it was a plausible one, the High Court should not have interfered with the judgment of acquittal.
- On the other hand, Mr. D.K. Thakur, learned Additional Advocate General appearing for the respondent-State, in support of the impugned judgment, contended that the High Court has reappreciated the evidence and on such reappraisal found the conclusion pertaining to medical condition of the victim was wholly incorrect and accordingly opined that the acquittal recorded by the learned trial Judge was unsupportable and, therefore, the hon’ble Court should give the stamp of approval to the same.
Significance of the Verdict
The Supreme Court, has taken a firm stand regarding the rights of the women. The fact that the deceased had 80% burns, or the Medico-Legal Certificate questioning the ability of the deceased to provide dying declaration, did not hamper the process of delivery of justice. The Court has established the fact that justice cannot be evaded by taking the benefit of the loopholes of law.
This shows that the judicial system of our country has come to a way wherein each and every element of the case is analysed in its entirety.
Critical Analysis of the Judgement:-
This decision can be observed as an impeccable one, especially in line with rights of woman of this country. Years of patriarchy, gender indifferences and other factors, have contributed to woman always being oppressed and considered beneath to that of men. Violence against women in simple terms means any act of gender-based violence. This leads to physical, mental and psychological agony or harm to women and is inclusive of a whole range of acts that deprives a woman of her liberty, dignity and the right to a peaceful life. Essentially gender based violence is a manifestation of gender inequity and inequality and a supposed subordinate social status assigned to women in society. Consequences of these acts are devastating and horrid and can have short term and long-term effects on a woman’s physical health and mental well-being.
Therefore this kind of judgment brings a ray of fresh hope to the women who have been suffering from time immemorial. It is step forward towards protecting the dignity of the women. One aspect the decision focuses on is woman’s right to her personal space and that she enjoys the same as that a man would as under Article 14, which provides for right to equality and Article 15, which prohibits discrimination on grounds of sex. This also relates to the fundamental concept of gender sensitivity and equal rights and that justice is to be equally possessed by both men and women. Act of eve teasing does deprive a woman of having equal rights as that of her male counterpart as he has no freedom, dignity and peace taken away as what a woman gets taken away from her life. Article 21 of the Constitution of India provides us with a right to life with human dignity. This right also includes the right to proper and comfortable livelihood. When a woman is eve teased or forced to be in love or a relationship she doesn’t want to be in it can in various ways deprive her of both physical as well as mental health. It stripes her from the opportunity to a trouble fee and peaceful life. It also heavily concentrates on her right to choose which should be legally and socially considered and respected. Her choice to reject love or advances from a man is her undeniable right as it affects her right to life and no one, including her relatives or friends, can compel or force her to do anything she does not want to do and this is what the court also tries to put pressure on. Therefore the court has held “male chauvinism”, “egoism” and so-called “masculinity” as a threat to the rights and dignity of women.