Her husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law (the appellants before us) were convicted by the Sessions Court under Section 116 read with Section 306 IPC, besides Section 498A. On the first count they were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for two and a half years and a fine of Rs.10,000/- each, and on the second count they were sentenced to imprisonment for two years and a fine of Rs.5,000/- each. When the appellants filed an appeal before the High Court in challenge of the said conviction and sentence the victim also made a motion before the same High Court as she felt that condign punishment has not been meted out to the guilty persons. Both were disposed of by the impugned judgment delivered by a single Judge of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana. The findings made by the Sessions Court were concurred with by the High Court. However, an alteration was made by substituting Section 306 IPC with Section 304B IPC to be read with Section 116 IPC. Commensurate alteration was made in the quantum of sentence by escalating it to RI for five years each.
Learned Sessions Judge went wrong in convicting the appellants under section 116 linked with Section 306 IPC. The former is abetment of offence punishable with imprisonment - if offence be not committed. But the crux of the offence under Section 306 itself is abetment. In other words, if there is no abetment there is no question of the offence under Section 306 coming into play. It is inconceivable to have abetment of an abetment. Hence there cannot be an offence under Section 116 read with Section 306 IPC. Therefore, the High Court was correct in altering the conviction from the penalising provisions fastened with the appellants by Sessions Court.
At the first blush we thought that there was force in the said contention but on a deeper analysis we found that the contention is unacceptable. Section 306 IPC when read with Section 113A of the Evidence Act has only enabled the court to punish a husband or his relative who subjected a woman to cruelty (as envisaged in Section 498A IPC) if such woman committed suicide within 7 years of her marriage. It is immaterial for Section 306 IPC whether the cruelty or harassment was caused soon before her death or earlier. If it was caused soon before her death the special provision in Section 304B IPC would be invokable, otherwise resort can be made to Section 306 IPC.
No doubt Section 306 IPC read with Section 113A of the Evidence Act is wide enough to take care of an offence under Section 304B also. But the latter is made a more serious offence by providing a much higher sentence and also by imposing a minimum period of imprisonment as the sentence. In other words, if death occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within 7 years of the marriage as a sequel to the cruelty or harassment inflicted on a woman with demand of dowry, soon before her death, Parliament intended such a case to be treated as a very serious offence punishable even upto imprisonment for life in appropriate cases. It is for the said purpose that such cases are separated from the general category provided under Section 306 IPC (read with Section 113A of the Evidence Act) and made a separate offence.