The Black Lives Matter
protest which began in 2013 with the use of the
hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media after the acquittal of George
Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin in
February 2012, once again gained momentum following Floyd's death by police
officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, Minnesota which resulted in brands across
the world, including India, either stopping sale of skin whitening products or
rebranding their products so as to not belittle dark skin. Amidst this, the
Calcutta High Court on 25th June 2020, in the case of Mazidul Miah @ Mia &
Ors vs. State Of West Bengal
 held that cruelty to wife for dark
complexion attracts section 498 A of IPC.
Facts of the Case:
The victim was given in marriage to accused no.1 Mazidul Miah on 16.10.1997,
according to mohammedan rites and customs satisfying the demand of accused
persons, like by paying cash of Rs.11,000/- (Rupees Eleven Thousand), silver
ornaments of three descriptions along with one Hero cycle and other valuables.
However, at her in-law's house the victim was put to suffer cruelty, oppression
and ill-treatment by her in-law's members, including her accused husband for her
black complexion. She was not loved by family members of in-law's house, and
frequently abused her with a threat that accused husband would be given marriage
shortly after repealing her marriage and driving her out of the matrimonial
home. The accused expressed dissatisfaction towards her black complexion and
forced the victim to stay in a cow shed.
The victim had reported the ill-treatment she suffered at her in-law's house to
her parents however due to their weak financial condition, the victim's father
persuaded her to withstand the torture and ill-treatment inflicted on her for
her future benefit. However, after a few days they received the news that their
daughter had been put to suffer death with the use of rope.
Police investigation was conducted and the autopsy report of the deceased victim
suggested that the death was ante-mortem and homicidal in nature. On completion
of investigation, the police submitted charge against the accused persons. The
Trial was conducted framing charge against five accused persons under Section
498A/302/34 I.P.C., and collecting evidence of as many as eleven (11) witnesses.
The Trial Court convicted 3 accused persons under Section 498A/302/34 I.P.C.,
and sentenced them thereunder to suffer rigorous imprisonment for three (3)
years with fine of Rs. 5,000/-(Rupees Five Thousand) each, with default
stipulation to undergo rigorous imprisonment for six (6) months each under
Section 498A I.P.C., and to suffer imprisonment for life with fine of Rs.5,000/-
(Rupees Five Thousand) each, and in default to pay fine further rigorous
imprisonment for six (6) months each under Section 302/34 I.P.C. Out of five (5)
persons put up for trial, two (2) accused persons were favoured with acquittal
for want of evidence by the Trial Court.
Aggrieved by the decision of the Trial Court, the convicts appealed in the
Calcutta High Court against the conviction and sentence by the Trial Court.
- Contentions by the Appellants (accused
- There was no supportive evidence to make out a clear case of
strangulation as opposed to suicidal death except the Autopsy Surgeon's
- The Trial Judge did not take into account the testimony of PW-5 who was
a neighbour of the accused and when he heard the cries of the mother-in-law of the
deceased he came to the house of the accused persons and saw the deceased victim
hanging by a rope which would suggest that the death was suicidal.
- The reaction of mother-in-law as specified in the testimony of PW-5
suggested that the death was suicidal and not homicidal.
- The marriage between the accused husband and deceased victim was mutual
and negotiated so the accusation that the cruelty and ill-treatment to the
victim was due to her dark complexion is not a believable version.
- The deceased victim had a love affair prior to her marriage but ignoring
that affair she was given in marriage to the accused so the deceased victim
voluntarily committed suicide in her in-law's house.
- There were discrepancies in evidence which raised a reasonable doubt
over the death of the deceased victim and so the benefit of doubt should be
given to the accused.
- Delay of 2 days in lodging FIR.
- Contentions by Respondent (State):
- The report of the Autopsy Surgeon which suggested homicidal death of the
deceased victim remains unshaken to doubt.
- The prosecution case simpliciter is that deceased victim was put to suffer
death by hanging in her matrimonial home, the reason being the dissatisfaction
of the accused persons for the dark complexion of deceased victim.
- Issues before the Court:
- Evidence of cruelty upon victim in her marital home by appellants for
their dissatisfaction over the black complexion of victim:
- The evidence adduced by Prosecution Witness-1 (father of the deceased
victim) revealed that 4 days after marriage the victim visited her paternal
home and told her parents about the ill-treatment done to her by her in-laws
due to her dark complexion and many times later whenever she visited her
paternal house she complained about the cruelty and ill-treatment suffered
by her at her in-law's house due to her dark complexion to her father but
each time her father (PW-1) persuaded her to o withstand the torture and
ill-treatment inflicted on her for her future benefit.
- It was also given to understand that victim received threat from
in-law's members for her husband's second marriage after driving her out
from matrimonial home.
- About 4 days prior to the incident when the mother of the deceased
victim visited the victim's in-law's house, the victim was put to suffer
cruelty even in front of her mother.
- PW-2 being the eldest son-in-law of PW-1 corroborated the testimony of
PW-1, as regards the cruelty perpetrated upon the victim, and the cause of
cruelty inflicted upon the victim. PW-2 supporting the prosecution story
gave out that he had the occasion to know about torture and cruelty
inflicted upon victim whenever she visited his house.
- PW-3 and PW-4 are the relatives and neighbouring people of PW-1. Both PW-3
and PW-4 supported prosecution case offering corroboration to the testimony of
PW-1 that the accused persons put the victim to cruelty in several ways,
expressing their dissatisfaction for her black complexion. They knew about the
torture either from deceased victim, whenever she visited her father's house, or
from victim's father.
- Whether the victim suffered homicidal or suicidal death:
- The report of the Autopsy Surgeon stated that the death of the deceased
victim was caused by strangulation and not by suicide.
- The established fact is that there was an unnatural death of deceased
held within seven months of her marriage. Such unnatural death was
admittedly held in the in-law's house of deceased victim. There was
sufficient evidence to show that the victim received oppression, ill-
treatment, torture, cruelty in her in-law's house by her in-law's members
for her black complexion. Victim was further threatened to be driven out
from her matrimonial home for giving second marriage of her husband.
Prosecution is thus in an extremely difficult situation to adduce
foundational evidence in respect of facts, which are known exclusively to
the knowledge of the in-law's members, as to how the deceased victim
suffered her death in her in-law's house.
- The Court applied section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act which states
that when any fact is specially within the knowledge of any person, the
burden of proving that fact is upon him. When the victim suffered death by
hanging in a room commonly shared by the deceased herself and her husband
after marriage, the accused husband having failed to offer any explanation
for the injuries caused to his wife, the failure would lead to the
conclusion that the death of the deceased had occurred in the custody of
- Whether non-production of offending weapon in court would weaken the
True it is that there was no explanation for the non-production of offending
weapon in court, and there was no explanation offered to that effect by the
prosecuting agency, but at any rate the offending weapon cannot be said to have
been lost for want of explanation being offered. Non-production of offending
weapon in the absence of any explanation may be an error or latches on the part
of prosecuting agency, but such error or omission would not itself discard the
testimony of Autopsy Surgeon.
When the homicidal death of the deceased held in
her matrimonial home caused with use of chord, as already seized and produced
before the Autopsy Surgeon at the time of post-mortem examination, remained
unchallenged in the cross-examination of witnesses, particularly, the Autopsy
Surgeon, mere non production of offending weapon in the court, and mere
non-showing of the same to Autopsy Surgeon at the time of his deposition in
court would be inconsequential , and in no manner it would weaken the
- Observations by the Court:
- The facts and circumstances would thus unerringly point to the guilt of
accused husband/appellant for causing homicidal death to deceased/wife by
strangulation for his non-satisfaction over the black complexion of his
wife, which led to give birth to his motive to cause death of his wife.
- The father-in-law of deceased (Hasaruddin Miah @ Mia @ Hachheruddin Mia)
having already suffered death during the pendency of this case, the instant
appeal be taken to have dropped against him.
- The post conduct of the mother-in-law revealed from the testimony of
PW-5 and 6, who found mother-in-law crying taking the dead body of deceased
victim, according to appellant, would not necessarily leave materials
against her for commission of a homicidal death, though it might be
suggestive of suicidal death.
The cause of death of the deceased victim
being pre-eminently and exceptionally within the knowledge of her accused
husband, which remained unexplained by accused husband himself, recording an
order of conviction under Section 302/34 I.P.C. as against appellant mother- in-law even after taking note
of such facts, referred above, would be without any reasons and not justified
accordingly. The commission of cruelty upon the deceased is proved against the
mother-in-law under Section 498A read with Section 34 I.P.C.
- Decision by Court:
- Causing cruelty to deceased victim for her black complexion even after
her marriage by the in-law's members would definitely attract Section
against the in-law's members, including accused husband.
- The conviction reached by the Trial Court under Section 498A/34 I.P.C., as
against the accused appellant husband and mother-in-law appellant would remain
- The appeal by the appellant husband is dismissed maintaining his
conviction and sentence under Section 498A/302/34 I.P.C.
- he appeal by the appellant mother-in-law is partly allowed and she is
acquitted for offence under Section 302/34 I.P.C. However the conviction and
sentence of the appellant mother-in-law under Section 498A/34 I.P.C is upheld.
This decision by the Calcutta High Court is praiseworthy looking at the current
scenario and is a step towards changing the mind-set of the people who show
preference towards light skin and it protects the interest of those wives who
suffer cruelty by their husband and in-laws due to their dark complexion.
- CRA No. 247 of 2006