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Supreme Court takes note of “casual” approach by trial courts in dowry death cases

The Supreme Court took issue of trial courts’ “casual” conduct to recording statements of accused in instances involving dowry killings, and issued additional instructions to provide full meaning to accused and prosecution rights during conviction.

The Court has raised concern over how trial courts handle dowry death cases in a casual and superficial manner, without asking the accused about his response under Section 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). 

The Bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justice Aniruddha Bose said that several times such statements are recorded without accurately interrogating the defendant as to his defense while witnessing the appeal filed by the plaintiff who was convicted under Section 304B (punishment for dowry death) of the Indian Penal Code. 

The court instructed the trial judges to provide incriminating evidence against the accused and hear their defense at the commencement of the trial when ruling on such matters. An order of acquittal can be delivered at this stage if the trial court believes the charge is not made out. The bench also highlighted the terms “soon before” in Section 304B of the IPC and cautioned trial courts against using a rigorous interpretation of the wording since what is required is a “proximate and living relationship” between the cruelty and the victim’s death.

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