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Husband, in-laws acquitted in 14-year-old dowry death case

New Delh: A man, along with his four family members, has been acquitted by a Delhi court of the charges of cruelly treating his wife for dowry which led to her death.

Additional Sessions Judge Pulastya Pramachala absolved east Delhi residents Dinesh Kumar Gautam, an Air force employee, his mother Vimlesh and three other family members.

They were charged for the offences of woman subjected to cruelty by husband and his family members (section 498A) and dowry death (section 304B) of the IPC.

"I find the allegations of demand and consequential cruelty and harassment are not based on any concrete facts and they have remained like general and vague allegations without having any corroboration," the judge said, while freeing the in-laws of victim Savita, who was found hanging in her matrimonial house in 2000.

The court relied on the testimony of Savita's daughter, who was present in the house, that neither there was any dowry demand nor any such dispute between her mother and her grandmother had taken place.

"A tussle between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, on grounds other than those related to dowry or other unlawful demands, is not a very uncommon feature of Indian households."

"However, all such tussles cannot be given colour of an act of cruelty, so as to drive the victim to commit suicide, nor such tussle can be treated to be cruelty or harassment related with any unlawful demand," the court observed.

The court observed that the suicide note of the woman did not allege any cruelty or dowry demand by her in-laws. "From the suicide note, I find that there is no whisper of any kind of demand being made by the accused persons from the deceased (woman)... It is apparent that she was not happy for some reasons, but these reasons are not well explained and established by this note," the judge said.

According to the prosecution, on November 4, 2000, the woman was found hanging at her matrimonial house and her mother-in-law and other family members informed her parents who then lodged a complaint with the police.

The woman's father told police that Savita was harassed by her in-laws previously also on account of dowry demands. Savita died after being fed up with the torture of her in-laws, he told the police. The mother and neighbours of the woman also deposed on the same lines, police said.

She had died within seven years of her marriage with Dinesh. Dinesh, his mother, brother, sister-in-law and a cousin, who was made accused, pleaded innocence and claimed that they were falsely implicated in the case.

They submitted that Savita and Dinesh were not residing with them as he used to keep getting posted in various regions due to the nature of his job and hence the question of harassment did not arise.

The judge observed that if the woman's father, who was a businessman, knew that she was being beaten or harassed by her in-laws, why didn't he take any action. "I am unable to comprehend that how could prosecution witness 2 (father) remain action-less despite being told about such serious allegations by his daughter," the judge said.

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