DOWRY DEATH UNDER SECTION 304-B OF IPC AND SECTION 113B OF INDIAN EVIDENCE ACT

INTRODUCTION

“Any young man, who makes dowry a condition to marriage, discredits his education and his country and dishonors womanhood.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

India is a deep-rooted social, cultural, and religious country. One such cultural and religious duty is marriage. Marriage is a social institution, it is a sacred knot that ties man and woman where they promise each other to maintain a strong bond and sustain marital obligations. However, there has been much malice that takes place in solemnizing marriage. From the time immemorial there have been many ill beliefs related to women that surround our society. There have been many crimes that take place against women like Sati, domestic violence, marital rape, etc. One such crime we talk about is dowry.

Have you ever thought of why it is always the woman who has to suffer? From the beginning where there is a demand for a dowry to the end when the woman has to perform sati on the death of her husband. It is the woman who takes care of the family, carries a child in her womb for 9 months, bears pain, leaves her parents after marriage still is the one to pay a dowry to the groom’s family. Even after doing so many sacrifices isn’t she enough as a dowry.

Although there have been many laws for the protection of women despite that this custom is still present in India.

 

MEANING AND ORIGIN OF DOWRY-

In ancient times bride’s parent used to give her gifts so that she is independent even after her marriage that is called as dowry. These gifts were according to the capacity of the bride’s father. These gifts usually are in the form of movable and immovable properties like cash, crockery, clothes, etc. It is a transfer of parental property, gifts, or money to her daughter during her marriage. But with the changing time, the term ‘dowry’ had undergone a drastic change. Now dowry is something that bridegroom’s parents or relative’s demand from the girl’s side. This is no longer a voluntary gift by the father to her daughter. But now it has become a mandatory custom to provide dowry according to the needs of the bridegroom’s family or else marriage will not take place.

In the British time, the Britishers had made law regarding dowry that the bride’s father must give dowry to legalize the marriage of her daughter.

 

DOWRY DEATH-

This term first started to use in 1977-78 where it was revealed that the deaths of the married women were not suiciding or accidents but murders or abetted suicide preceded by cruelty, harassment, domestic violence, or torture by the husband himself or his in-laws or both.

Dowry deaths are violence by the husband and his family with a motive of extortion of gifts and others demanded from time to time against a woman.[1]

It has been a belief that marriages are made by god himself but due to lust, greediness for dowry many wedlocks came to an end. With the advent of the increase in the trend of taking dowry, there were many instances where the girl was tortured by the groom’s family or groom himself for not giving sufficient dowry. Due to this, she doesn’t have any other option but to hang herself or to consume poison or to put kerosene and set ablaze herself. This is called as dowry death.

There were many movements of the post-independent period to prohibit dowry. Even though they were successful in making the law regarding prohibition of dowry but still India manages to be reporting so many cases every year regarding dowry death. In 2016, the total no. of cases reported in India amounted to more than 7600.[2]

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VARIOUS CAUSES TO DEMAND OF DOWRY-

  1. Traditionone of the main causes to demand dowry is tradition. In the name of tradition, many families demand dowry. From the centuries there is a practice where the bride’s father provides her dowry so she can manage herself, but now it has become a tradition and mandatory to provide a dowry.
  2. Bridegroom’s Family Greedinesswhere there has been demand from the boy’s family to give dowry. Due to their greediness, they demand so much dowry from the girl’s side.
  3. Bride’s father wants to give- there are some cases where due to the high reputation of the girl’s father he wants to provide a dowry to her daughter so that the society cannot blame him for not giving anything.
  4. Economic Factors- many economic factors lead to the demand of dowry. Where the boy’s family is not so rich so they demand dowry in the name of tradition so that they can live lavishly.
  5. Illiteracy- Due to illiteracy many backward regions today also are not aware of the laws made against the practice of dowry. Many villages still practice dowry system.
  6. Ignorance of law- Even though many are aware of the laws still they practice dowry. As they know laws are not that stringent and they are free from the clutches of the law

EFFECT OF DOWRY –

  1. Domestic violence- If the dowry is not according to the groom’s family expectations then there have been many cases reported of domestic violence in the form of mental, physical, coercion, isolation, etc. Although there has been law regarding the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 which helps women against domestic
  2. Cruelty– It is in the form of torture and harassment of women to fulfill the demand of dowry. Although cruelty is also punishable under section 498A of the Indian penal code,1860.
  3. Dowry murder- where the bridegroom’s family murder their daughter-in-law or she commits suicide as she is not able to cope up with the mental or physical torture.
  4. End of marriage- there have been many cases where due to all this demand either the couple takes divorce or due to so much violence the girl ends her life.
  5. LAWS RELATED TO DOWRY-

 

In relation to Section 304-B of Indian Penal Code, 1860-

Section 304B[3] Dowry Death—

(1) Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or har­assment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, such death shall be called “dowry death”, and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death. Explanation —For the purpose of this sub-section, “dowry” shall have the same meaning as in section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of 1961).

(2) Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprison­ment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.

According to this section, any death within seven years of marriage by burns or bodily injury is termed as dowry death and the accused shall be punished accordingly.

Essentials of this section-

  • There must be the death of the bride within seven years of marriage.
  • The death must be caused by burns or bodily injury or by any other circumstances.
  • It must be found that soon after her marriage she was exposed to cruelty or harassment.
  • The death must be in connection with a dowry.

 

In relation to Section 113 B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872-

Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act,1872 and the Section 304B, Indian Penal Code has been added by the Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act No.43 of 1986 which was with effect from 19th November 1986. This was added to solve the murder mysteries of a woman soon after their deaths.

Section 113B[4]- Indian Evidence Act,1872 deals with dowry death. Section 113B states that: “Presumption as to dowry death -When the question is whether a person has committed the dowry death of a woman and it is shown that soon before her death such woman has been subjected by such person to cruelty or harassment for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry; the court shall presume that such person had caused the dowry death”.

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Explanation- For the purposes of this Section ‘dowry death’ shall have the same meaning as in Section 304-B, Indian Penal Code,1860.

This means that the presumption is mandatory under this section. The word ‘shall’ and not ‘may’ used which means it is a presumption of law. If before the death of the girl she is exposed to any bodily injury or harassment or cruelty, then the presumption has to be raised under this section. This means that if all the essentials ingredients of section 304-B of IPC has been fulfilled then a presumption can be raised of dowry death under section 113B of Indian Evidence Act,1872 that the accused has caused the dowry death. But if the essentials are not proved that no presumption can be drawn under Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act. This means that section 304-B of IPC is an integral part of section 113b of the Indian Evidence Act.

 

Cases of Dowry Death under Section 304-B of Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Section 113-B of Indian Evidence Act, 1872-

Baijnath & Others v. State of Madhya Pradesh[5]

Supreme Court held that-

“One of the essential ingredients of dowry death under Section 304B of the Penal Code is that the accused must have subjected the woman to cruelty in connection with demand for dowry soon before her death and that this ingredient has to be proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt and only then the court will presume that the accused has committed the offence of dowry death under Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act.”[6]

Province of Bihar v. Bhagwat Prasad[7]-

Held-

An attempt to commit an offense is, as I understand it, an act, or series of acts, which leads inevitably to the commission of the offense unless something which the doer of the act or acts neither foresaw nor intended, happens to prevent this. An act done towards the commission of an offense, which does not lead inevitably to the commission of the offense unless it is followed or, perhaps, preceded by other acts, is merely an act of preparation.[8]

Satvir Singh v. State of Punjab[9]-

Held- That the cruelty or harassment subjected to a woman should not be sometime at the time of demanding of dowry but it should be soon before the death.

Rameshwar Das v. State of Punjab[10]-

In this case, Supreme Court held- that pregnant women, the woman would not commit suicide unless the relationship with her husband comes to such a passed that she would be compelled to do so, accused is liable to be convicted on the failure to prove his defense.[11]

State of Punjab v. Iqbal Singh[12]-

In this court explained the reason behind the period of seven years as it is sufficient time for a couple to settle down with each other in their life.

Raja Lal Singh v. State of Jharkhand[13]-

It was said by the apex court that the term “soon before her death” that is given in Section 304–B of the I.P.C. is a very flexible expression, it can be interpreted as instantly before her death or within a reasonable time before her death. The thing that is significant over here is that there should be an appreciable connection between the death of the woman and the harassment she faced related to dowry demand.

Sham Lal v. State of Haryana[14]-

There was a dispute between the husband and the wife after which the wife went away to her father’s house. She returned after the panchayats resolved the dispute. The death of the lady occurred 10-15 days after the dispute was resolved and there was no evidence she was treated with cruelty or harassment soon before the death. the court held that in this case the presumption of dowry death could not be taken.[15]

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Mangal Ram & Anor v. State of Madhya Pradesh[16]

In this case, the wife committed suicide by jumping in the well after going to her in-laws within one month. She was married for five years in which she stayed 2-3 years in her parents’ house. There was no proof of harassment or cruelty in her matrimonial home so the presumption cannot be raised against the husband.

Pawan Kumar v. State of Harayana [17]

The deceased and the appellant were married in 1985. After a few days of the marriage, there was a demand for scooter and fridge. On account of not satisfying the demand, she was repeatedly taunted, maltreated, and mentally tortured. In April 1987 when the deceased’s maternal uncle died, she along with her husband visited Delhi to offer condolences. And by evening on the same day instead of returning to her husband’s place came to her sister’s house. She remained there for a few days. When her husband came to take her back she was reluctant but her sister brought her down and sent her with her husband. She went with the husband but with the last painful words that’ it would be difficult now to see her face in the future’. On the very next day, she committed suicide.[18]

While examining the constituents of dowry death the court held that:

(a) when the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury; or

(b) occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances;

(c) and the aforesaid two facts spring within seven years of girl’s marriage;

(d) and soon before her death, she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or his relative.

Harjit Singh v. State of Punjab[19]

The court held that there was no evidence showing that the poison consumed by the wife was the result of some cruelty or harassment by the husband, so the husband was acquitted under section 304–B of the I.P.C. and the provisions of section 113– B of the I.E.A. could not be inflicted against him.

 

CONCLUSION-

“As long as she is wise and good, a girl has sufficient dowry.” –Plautus

Dowry death is a social curse that haunts our Indian society. It is both boon and a bane. Boon for the relatives of the groom’s side and bane for the girl’s family who gave up everything to fulfill dowry demands. Dowry is a social stigma that is still prevalent in India. To curb dowry, it is better to make more stringent laws, to give harsher punishments, and to educate people through campaigns, in schools, in villages, etc. Education is the key that can help to curb the menace of dowry death. Families should educate their daughters so that they should stand against such violence. It is time to not only just give equal rights but also equal respect to a woman as they are the unsung heroes who manage the family, children, and run the household.

End Notes:

[1] Gazala Parveen, Dowry Deaths In India: A  Legal Study, Ipleaders (August 16, 2019), https://blog.ipleaders.in/dowry-deaths-india-legal-study/.

[2] Madhumitha Jaganmohan, Reported dowry death cases in India 2005-2016, Statista (September 23, 2019)

https://www.statista.com/statistics/632553/reported-dowry-death-cases-india/.

[3] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/653797/.

[4] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1906/.

[5] (2017) 1 SCC 101

[6] Divyansh Hanu, Presumption as to Dowry Death, Available at https://www.latestlaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Presumption-as-to-Dowry-Death-By-Divyansh-Hanu.pdf.

[7] 1949 CriLJ 682.

[8] Ibid.

[9] (2001) 8 SCC 633

[10] (2019) 5 SCC 204

[11] Monika Soni, Dowry and Dowry Death, Available at http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-1245-dowry-and-dowry-death.html

[12] (1991) 3 SCC 1

[13] AIR 2007 SC 2154

[14] AIR 1997 SC 1873

[15] Arita Sarkar, Presumption as to Dowry Death, January 27, 2020, https://www.legalbites.in/presumption-as-to-dowry-death/.

[16] 1999 CriLJ 4342

[17] 1996 SCC (4) 17

[18] Supra note 6.

[19] AIR 2006 SC 680

Author: Riddhi daga,
Hidayatullah National Law University, 3rd year student

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