Presumption under Section 113-B of Evidence Act cannot be raised in absence of ‘live and proximate link’

Delhi High Court: A Bench of R.K. Gauba, J. acquitted the appellants of offence under Sections 304-B and 120-B IPC while convicting them under Sections 498-A read with Section 34 IPC.

The appellants were alleged to be guilty of causing death Sudha (deceased). Sudha was living in her matrimonial home with the appellants. On 08-12-1999, she suffered burn injuries in an accident. She ultimately succumbed to the injuries. It was alleged that the appellants had assaulted Sudha and set her ablaze after pouring kerosene oil on her. The appellants were tried and convicted by the trial court under Sections 304-B, 120-B and 498-A read with 34 IPC. The appellants who were represented by M.L. Yadav, Advocate, filed the present appeal against the order of the trial court.

The High Court perused the entire record. After observing severe lacunae in prosecution evidence, it noted that the critical issue was whether there was sufficient material to raise presumption under Section 113-B of Evidence Act to hold appellants guilty under Section 304-B. The Court found that the evidence indicated Sudha suffered injuries by accidental burning. Reference was made to Pushpender Singh v. State, 2015 SCC OnLine Del 12748 which discussed broad principles regarding Section 113-B (presumption as to dowry death). The Court observed the present case was missing live and proximate link necessary to give rise to a presumption under Section 113-B. Also, the charge under Section 120-B IPC were held not proved. Accordingly, an appeal was partly allowed and the appellants were acquitted of the charges under Sections 304-B and 120-B. Further, the conviction under Sections 498-A read with 120-B was modified to conviction under Sections 498-A read with 34 IPC. [Shiv Ram v. State(NCT of Delhi), 2018 SCC OnLine Del 13127, dated 07-12-2018]

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