“Any young man, who makes dowry a condition to marriage, discredits his education and his country and dishonors womanhood.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Marriages are indeed made up in heaven, but nowadays the lust of dowry has become so grave that they are breaking the pious wedlock. Dowry death, murder-suicide, bride burning are all the symptoms of a social disorder that has been attached to the development of our society.
In the last few decades, India has been witnessing the dark evils of dowry-related deaths in almost every part of the country, and one thing that devastates the conscious of the society is that this practice is being practiced in every section, irrespective of the caste, creed or religion.
In recent times, all this has become a matter of day to day occurrence, married women are ill-treated, harassed, humiliated, forced to commit suicide, and even burnt to death and all this is just done to satisfy the hunger for money.
WHAT IS DOWRY?
The meaning of Dowry has been defined under section 2(1) of The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
Section 2 Dowry-
‘Dowry’ means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly-
(a) by one party to a marriage another party to the marriage; or
(b) by the parent of either party to a marriage or by any other person, to either party to the marriage or to any other person
at or before or any time after the marriage in connection with the marriage of the said parties. But this does not include dower or mahr.
DOWRY RELATED CRIMES
Women are often subject to dowry abuse, be it mental or physical. In some scenarios, it is used as a threat to extract more assets or money from the bride, leaving the bride in a vulnerable situation. Dowry crimes include physical torment to emotional torment to the point of murder and sexual assault.
CRUELTY– Torture or harassment of women to compel them to respond to a dowry request in the form of property or cash or any other material property in the form of a dowry offense. It can be verbal or physical, even hitting her or even leading her to give up on her life.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE– It includes a wide range of harassment, such as physical, verbal, abusive, or even sexual violence, along with coercion, intimidation, or isolation.
ABETMENT TO SUICIDE– When abuse becomes unbearable for women due to dowry requirements, it can lead to suicide, which often leads to suicide being the extension along with the dowry crime. The impact of dowry can lead to emotional trauma for women as well as abuse.
DOWRY MURDER- It only means the death of the bride, either by suicide or at the hands of her husband or family, after marriage, because she is not satisfied with the dowry. Dowry’s death, other than poisoning or suicide, included burning the bride and was considered the most common form of dowry death.
LEGISLATIVE MEASURES AGAINST DOWRY
The lawmakers took the gravity and the seriousness of the offense into consideration and made various legislative measures in order to draft a legal framework against the culprits.
THE DOWRY PROHIBITION ACT 1961
The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 was enacted and the main reason for this act was to prohibit the evil practice of taking and giving dowry. The act lays down a certain number of preventive and punitive provisions but, as could be anticipated, the objectives have not been achieved.
After this The Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 1984 was introduced and the offense was made cognizable that is the police can arrest the accused without a warrant and even initiate the investigation against the accused.
INDIAN PENAL CODE
In 1986, a new offense was inserted in The Indian penal code known as ‘Dowry Death’ under section 304B as per The Dowry Prohibition Amendment act, 1986.
Section 304B 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, search 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
(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.
The offense has been made more stringent by deeming it as cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and triable by the court of session.
Supreme Court in the case of the state of Punjab v. Iqbal Singh explained the period of seven years as it is considered to be a turbulent one after which the legislature assumed that the couple would have settled down in life.
ESSENTIALS OF DOWRY DEATH
(a) death of women should be caused by birds or bodily injury or otherwise than under normal circumstances
(b) death should have occurred within seven years of marriage
(c) the woman must have been subjected to cruelty or harassment by husband or relatives of her husband
(d) cruelty of harassment should be for or in connection with the demand of dowry
(e) cruelty or harassment should have been done to the women soon after death
The meaning of the expression ‘soon before her death’ means the interval (time gap) between cruelty and death of the deceased, the difference between the two should not be much; that is there must be the existence of proximity and live links between the effect of cruelty based on dowry death and the death of the concerned.
If the alleged incident of cruelty is remote in time and has become state enough not to disturb the mental equilibrium of the women concerned, then it would not have any consequence.
In the case of Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana, the Apex Court held that the prosecution is able to establish the ingredients of section 304-B, IPC the burden of proof of innocence shifts on defense.
INDIAN EVIDENCE ACT
Section 113B Presumption as to dowry death –
‘when the question is whether a person has committed a dowry death of a women and it is shown that soon before her death such women have 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’.
Explanation – for the purpose of this, section, “dowry death” shall have the same meaning as in section 304B of The Indian penal code,1860.
In the case of Mustafa Shahadal Shaikh v. State of Maharashtra states that the language used under section 304-B “Soon before death” means no definite period has been mentioned under the Penal Code as well as under section 113-B of Indian Evidence Act. However, it would imply that interval should not be much between the cruelty or harassment concerned and death in question. Also, the time gap can not be limited by fixing a time limit, it is left to be determined by the courts, depending upon the facts and the circumstances of the case.
CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, 1974
Section 174 and 176 deal with the investigation and inquiries related to the causes of unnatural deaths by police and magistrate respectively. The amendment act of 1983 makes mandatory for police to send the body for post-mortem examination if the death of women occurred within seven years of marriage in a matter of suicide or any dubious matter. It also empowers the executive magistrate to inquiry into the death of a woman in similar circumstances.
Dowry’s death is a social curse that haunts our Indian society. It is both a blessing and a nightmare. A blessing for the groom’s relatives and a fall for the girl’s family who gave up everything to meet the dowry requirements. The dowry is a social stigma that still prevails in India. To limit the dowry, it is better to make stricter laws, impose more severe punishments, and educate people through campaigns, schools, cities, etc.
Education is the key that can help reduce the threat of dowry death. Families should educate their daughters to oppose such violence. It is time to give not only the same rights but also the same respect for a woman because it is the unrecognized heroes who run the family, the children, and run the house.
Author: Nishtha .,
Trinity institute of professional studies