The Supreme Court has ruled that the presumption of guilt of the accused in the case of a dowry-related death will be “activated” only if there is substantiating evidence to prove that the victim was subjected to cruelty over dowry demands, PTI reported on Sunday. The apex court’s ruling was based on the provisions of the Evidence Act, 1872.

A bench of the court comprising justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy said the presumed prima facie guilt of the accused would not hold if the prosecution failed to submit evidence. The provision to secure convictions in dowry death cases was inserted in the Evidence Act, which says that the accused in such cases will be presumed guilty if a woman dies within seven years of marriage and there is proof of cruelty.

The bench said, “The presumption [under Section 113B of the Evidence Act] as to dowry death thus would get activated only upon the proof of the fact that the deceased lady had been subjected to cruelty or harassment for or in connection with any demand for dowry by the accused, and that too in the reasonable contiguity of death.”

The court made the observation during a hearing in the case of a woman who was found hanging in her in-laws’ home in 1996. The bench acquitted the in-laws of the charges on the grounds that the prosecution had failed to provide “cogent evidence”.