LEGISLATIONS RELATED TO DOWRY DEATH IN INDIA

INTRODUCTION

Dowry Death and other such issues are the worse form of exploitation which a woman suffer in her life. The unnatural death of newly married female because of dowry has always been the headline of newspapers since years. It is the duty of the government to protect its citizens against any kind of harassment and cruelty. The practice of dowry is a custom in which many women have victimized in many ways and such customs jeopardize women’s life in the society. Women of India must get protection against the cruelty of dowry demand and it’s consequences in their law’s house. Dowry death is defined in Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Section 113-B of the Indian Evidence Act,1872 states the presumption as to dowry death.

MEANING OF DOWRY

Dowry is considered as a sacramental and indispensable custom of marriage especially in Hindu religion which turned into an illegal practices of the society due to its inhuman nature.

According to Manu Shastra, women were regarded as lower class of people which denotes that they were undeclared slaves of such patriarchal society and such society never let women for observance of equality in marital relationship. In addition to that women’s dignity is oppressed and questioned by such draconian practices like dowry. Shortcut of dowry indicating low status for women.
This inhuman act was rooted in every section of the Indian society and such practice were continued and still has the significance even in a modern era also. But the undisputed fact is that the prevalence of dowry never related to education, class and caste differences because recent trend indicates that the education was considered as a tool to increase their bargaining power in dowry negotiations and In Hindu marriage it was considered as a factor which determines their status and never did any compromises in giving and receiving dowry.

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ENACTMENT OF LEGISLATION RELATED TO DOWRY

In view of the increasing number of dowry deaths, guidelines have been laid down by the Government of India for examination of such cases, and the law in respect thereof has been suitably amended. The Indian Penal Code (I.P.C.), Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) and Indian Evidence Act (I.E.A.) are amended as per the criminal law (Second Amendment) Act, 1983 and was approved by President of India to deal successfully with dowry death cases.

INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860

Failure of Dowry prohibition act and increase in rate of dowry death give rise to the Criminal amendment in the year 1983 and 1986 by adjoining section 304-B and 498-A IPC In brief, we can say that there are four situations where married woman is subjected to cruelty and harassment leading to the commission of an offence.

SECTION 304-B IPC: DOWRY DEATH – 

Under Section 304-B, “Dowry Death” is defined as the death caused to any woman by burns or bodily injury, or because of any other unnatural circumstances within seven years of her marriage, where it appears that such woman was harassed or put to cruelty by husband or his relatives in relation of dowry the same is punishable with a term of seven years which may extend to life imprisonment.

In State of Punjab v. Iqbal Singh (1991) 3 SCC 16, Supreme Court explained the period of seven years as it is considered to be turbulent one after which the legislature assumed that the couple would have settled down in life.
The term dowry has not been defined in the Indian Penal Code, whereas section 304-B explanation affirmed that dowry shall have the same meaning as defined in Section 2(1) of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

ESSENTIALS OF DOWRY DEATH UNDER SECTION 304-B IPC

  • Death must be caused by burns or bodily injury or otherwise than under normal circumstances.
  • Death must have take place within seven years of her marriage.
  • It must be shown that soon before her death the woman was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or his relatives.
  • Cruelty or harassment must be in connection with demand of dowry.
  • Here the dowry shall have the meaning as assigned to it under Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
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Meaning of ‘Dowry Demand’

In Bachni Devi v. State of Haryana (2011) II Cri. L.J. 1634 (SC), the Supreme Court held that demand for any property or valuable security having nexus with marriage constitutes dowry demand. Cause or reason for such demand is immaterial.

Meaning of ‘Soon Before Death’:

In case of Mustafa Shahadal Shaikh v. State of Maharashtra (2013)1 SCC (Cri) 664, 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.

Construction of cruelty or harassment soon before death –

In Rajinder Singh v. State of Punjab 2015 Cr. LJ 3984 (SC) Court construed the term ‘soon before death’, it held that “days or months are not what is to be seen. What must be remain in mind is that the word “soon” does not mean “immediate”. A fair and realistic construction keeping in mind the great social evil that has led to the enactment of Section 304-B would make it clear that the expression is a relative expression. Time lags may differ from case to case. All that is necessary that the demand for dowry should not be stale but should be the continuing cause for the death of the married woman under Section 304-B.”

SECTION 498A, IPC: CRUELTY ON WOMEN BY HUSBAND OR HIS RELATIVES –

When the husband or husband’s family member subjects the woman to cruelty or harassment, then such act has been made punishable with imprisonment up to three years and fine u/s 498-A.
The word cruelty in Section 498A means both mental and physical torture. It consists of any willful conduct likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause danger to her life, limb or health, mental or physical or harassment to coerce her or any other person by making an unlawful demand for dowries such as property or any goods.

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ESSENTIALS OF SECTION 498A IPC:

  • Any willful conduct on a woman to cause her injury or to instigate her to commit suicide.
  • Harassing a woman or any of her relative in order to make them fulfil their unlawful demands.

Section 302 IPC: Intentional Death Of Women- 

If any person intentionally causes the death of woman then its punishable under Section 302 IPC.

Section 306 IPC: Abetment of Suicide of Woman- 

If husband and his relatives create a situation which led to the suicide of woman within seven years of marriage fall within the ambit of Section 306.

CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, 1973

Section 174 and 176 deals with the investigation and enquiries related to the causes of unnatural deaths by police and magistrate respectively.

INDIAN EVIDENCE ACT, 1872

Presumption as to Dowry Death

Section 113-B of Indian Evidence Act has been created regarding the burden of proof in dowry death. Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 states about the Presumption as to Dowry Death. If a woman dies in relation with any demand for dowry and it was shown that soon before her death she was subjected to harassment or cruelty by any person. Then the court will assume such a person responsible for ION­

Dowry death is a social malediction and menace in Indian society. It should be accepted that wanted result can’t be gained by enactment of law alone against dowry. A rational and practical approach must be adopted by police, women welfare organizations, reputed public servants, and judiciary and by awarding deterrent punishment to all offenders.

Author: Shaijal Shekhar,
Faculty of Law, A.M.U (2nd Year)

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