Dowry Death in India
Marriage is a integral part of our society which creates a sacramental bond between the partners. Dowry is considered as the one of the traditional custom of the marriage. And the evil associated with the marriage is dowry system. It is a system where bride’s father or people in connection with bride gives gifts in the form of money, vehicle, land etc to the bride groom along with the bride at the time of the marriage which is burdensome to bride’s family. From time to time it has become a serious issue as it leading to the violence. The bride groom’s family continues asking the dowry if they are not satisfied with the amount given previously and starts torturing the bride after marriage and it leading to killing or sometimes the bride who can not bare the torture by in-laws may commit suicide.
In ancient times there were no property inheritance rights given to women. So the father with love on his daughter used to give the dowry to bride groom and it become a traditional custom and still continuing though the women have got the property inheritance rights in this modern era.
The main reason behind the continuation of this dowry system is the greediness of a man for money. To remove this dowry system people should be educated morally and for that government should conduct various programs. And the judiciary should act quickly and make sure the judgement delivered is fair.
According to Hindu tradition, marriage is a sacramental bond.., but not a civil contract. Having said that, the practice of dowry is appearing as contrary to the above. Despite the existence of laws prohibiting dowry, dowry is almost mandatory for a marriage. Unfortunately, some of the marriages are only happening for the sake of dowry.
The ‘thirst for money’ is motivating the families to torture the bride after marriage for dowry. Some of the people are thinking like as the dowry will increase their status in the society. Dowry is the major cause for violence against married women and violence even leading to death. This in turn destroying the sanctity of the marriage system.
Key words :-
Dowry death, The Dowry prohibition Act 19611, Women, Marriage, Violence, Society, Death.
Research Methodology :-
This research paper is done keeping in mind about the layman to have a clear knowledge about the duties and reliefs relating to dowry system in India. The descriptive and secondary quantitative data based analysis is conducted to understand legal provisions regarding dowry death in India. The data collected is mostly from sources of books interviews, news reports, articles which are published by government and non governmental organisations.
Review of Literature :
According to section 2 of The Dowry prohibition act 1961 the word ‘dowry’ is defined as any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly:
- by one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage; or
by the parents 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 said parties but does not include dowr or mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies.2
In ancient times women had given property inheritance rights if she was the only child in the family. Some of the scholars by interpreting verses of ancient sanskrit fiction and smritis from India and said that dowry was paid even in Brahma and daiva types of marriage, and some are told dowry was paid only in asura type of marriages.
Currently dowry is practicing in many countries in the whole world and specially in south Asia and middle east and north Africa countries. Dowry plays a main role in the countries in which the legislations are male biased and where women are expected to live along with husband’s family. In whole part of south Asia we can find Bhutan where the dowry system does not exist and the laws in Bhutan are differ from other parts of South Asia. In Bhutan women are given inheritance rights and she will not get her father’s name by birth and will not get her husband’s name from marriage. Both polygyny and polyandry are accepted in the society and women own business and also a man helps in the household work of woman’s family to get a right to marry her.
Sometimes disputes related to dowry is leading to violence against women and killing of women and acid attacks. In India we have several legislations relating to dowry death through which we can approach The court for justice. The following are the laws available in India:
The Dowry Prohibition act 1961 –
The act came into force on 24th may 1961. It extends to whole of India accept the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Section 3 of the act explains about penalty for giving or taking of dowry. Section 4 of the act explains about penalty for demanding dowry and section 4A of the act explains about ban on advertisement. Section 5 of the act tells that agreement for giving or taking dowry to be avoid. Section 6 of the act tells that dowry to be for the benefit of the wife or the heirs. Section 7 of the act explains about offences cognisance of offences. Section 8 of the act explains about the offences to be cognizable for certain purposes and to be bailable and non compoundable. Section 8A of the act tells about the burden of proof in certain cases. Section 8B explains about the Dowry prohibition officers. Section 9 of the act explains about the power to make rules. And section 10 of the act explains about the power of state government to make rules.3
Section 304B & 498A of Indian Penal Code 1860 –
Section 304B of IPC is Dowry death-
- 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.
- 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.4
Section 498A of IPC is Of Cruelty by Husband or Relatives of husband-
Whoever, being the husband or the relatives of the husband of a woman subjects such woman to cruelty, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine. Cruelty means-
- any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or
- harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property related to her to meet such demand.5
Section 302 & 306 of Indian Penal Code 1860 –
Section 302 of IPC is Punishment for murder – whoever commits murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.6
Section 306 of IPC is Abetment of suicide – if any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.7
Section 174 & 176 of Criminal Procedure Code 1973 –
Section 174 of CrPC is Police to enquire and report on suicide, etc –
- When the officer in charge of a police station or some other police officers specially empowered by the state government in that behalf receives information that a person has committed suicide, or has been killed by another or by an animal or by machinery or by an accident or has died under circumstances raising a reasonable suspicion that some other person has committed an offence, he shall immediately give intimation thereof to the nearest executive magistrate Empowered to hold inquests, and, , unless otherwise directed by any rule prescribed by the State Government, or by any general or special order of the District or Sub-divisional Magistrate, shall proceed to the place where the body of such deceased person is, and there, in the presence of two or more respectable inhabitants of the neighbourhood, shall make an investigation, and draw up a report of the apparent cause of death, describing such wounds, fractures, bruises, and other marks of injury as may be found on the body, and stating in what manner, or by what weapon or instrument (if any); such marks appear to have been inflicted.
- The report shall be signed by such police officer and other persons, or by so many of them as concur therein, and shall be forthwith forwarded to the District Magistrate or the sub divisional Magistrate.
- When –
(i) the case involves suicide by a woman within seven years of her marriage; or
(ii) the case relates to the death of a woman within seven years of her marriage in any circumstances raising a reasonable suspicion that some other person committed an offence in relation to such woman; or
(iii) the case relates to the death of a woman within seven years of her marriage and any relative of the woman has made a request in this behalf; or
(iv) there is any doubt regarding the cause of death; or
(v) the police officer for any other reason considers it expedient so to do,
he shall, subject to such rules as the State Government may prescribe in this behalf, forward the body, with a view to its being examined, to the nearest Civil Surgeon, or other qualified medical man appointed in this behalf by the State Government, if the state of the weather and the distance admit of its being so forwarded without risk of such putrefaction on the road as would render such examination useless.
- The following Magistrates are empowered to hold inquests, namely, any District Magistrate or Sub-divisional Magistrate and any other Executive Magistrate specially empowered in this behalf by the State Government or the District Magistrate.8
Section 176 of CrPC is Inquiry by magistrate into cause of death –
1.When the case is of the nature referred to in clause (i) or clause (ii) of sub-section (3) of section 174, the nearest Magistrate empowered to hold inquests shall, and in any other case mentioned in sub-section (1) of section 174, any Magistrate so empowered may hold an inquiry into the cause of death either instead of, or in addition to, the investigation held by the police officer; and if he does so, he shall have all the powers in conducting it which he would have in holding an inquiry into an offence.
(a) any person dies or disappears, or
(b) rape is alleged to have been committed on any woman,
while such person or woman is in the custody of the police or in any other custody authorised by the Magistrate or the Court, under this Code in addition to the inquiry or investigation held by the police, an inquiry shall be held by the Judicial Magistrate or the Metropolitan Magistrate, as the case may be, within whose local jurisdiction the offence has been committed.
- The Magistrate holding such an inquiry shall record the evidence taken by him in connection therewith in any manner hereinafter prescribed according to the circumstances of the case.
- Whenever such Magistrate considers it expedient to make an examination of the dead body of any person who has been already interred, in order to discover the cause of his death, the Magistrate may cause the body to be disinterred and examined.
- Where an inquiry is to be held under this section, the Magistrate shall, wherever practicable, inform the relatives of the deceased whose names and addresses are known, and shall allow them to remain present at the inquiry.
- The Judicial Magistrate or the Metropolitan Magistrate or Executive Magistrate or police officer holding an inquiry or investigation, as the case may be, under sub-section (1A) shall, within twenty-four hours of the death of a person, forward the body with a view to its being examined to the nearest Civil Surgeon or other qualified medical person appointed in this behalf by the State Government, unless it is not possible to do so for reasons to be recorded in writing.9
Section 113B of Indian Evidence act 1872 –
Section 113B of Indian Evidence act is Presumption of 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 had 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.10
Though there are many laws made relating to dowry death the count of deaths is not decreasing so these legislations were largely criticised. And many amendments took place from decades and still continuing. There were many cases filed regarding dowry death from ages and recently in 2021 in Kerala vismaya case was filed under dowry death her husband was still in police custody bail was rejected.
Conclusion and recommendations :-
By this we can conclude that, dowry deaths are inevitable results of dowry system which is destroying the sanctity of marriage. Although there are laws against dowry, we still could not put check on dowry deaths. Hence, the strict implementation of anti-dowry laws is the need of the hour to save women from post-marriage violence and torture in the name of dowry.
For complete eradication of dowry death public cooperation is very important thing. Like the neighbors of accused should support to the police in investigation process and the parents by thinking about social status should not force the woman to stay with her husband’s family when she tells about violence she is facing in her in-laws house. The mind sets of people should be changed.
Both government and society should actively strive to curb the evil of dowry deaths. Law enforcement agencies like police have to react swiftly while dealing the cases of violence against women. Judiciary must make sure to deal the cases without delay to deliver prompt justice to the women.
- “The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961”, No: 28, Acts of parliament, 1961, (India)
- “Section 2 of The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961”, No: 28, Acts of Parliament, 1961, (India).
- “The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961”, No: 28, Acts of parliament, 1961, (India).
- “ Section 304- B of Indian Penal Code, 1860”, No: 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860, (India).
- “ Section 498- A of Indian Penal Code, 1860”, Acts of Parliament, 1860, (India).
- “ Section 302 of Indian Penal Code, 1860”, No:45, Acts of Parliament, 1860, (India).
- “ Section 306 of Indian Penal Code, 1860”, No:45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India).
- “ Section 174 of Criminal Procedure Code,1973”, No:02, Acts of Parliament,1973, (India).
- “ Section 176 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973”, No: 02, Acts of Parliament, 1973, (India).
- “ Section 113- B of Indian Evidence Act, 1872”, No:01, Acts of Parliament, 1973, (India).
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar law college AU