Dowry deaths are violence by the husband and his family with a motive of extortion of gifts and other demanded from time to time against a woman. The unnatural death of recently married woman vital to women’s moment in the Indian society through the meaning of dowry has changed over time but harassment and cruelty have remained the same to some extent. We all must have heard many cases related to the death caused to a woman for the demand for dowry. It’s very disgraceful for a society where a woman dies for not being able to give dowry and also very shameful where dowry is still being practiced.
To deal with this brutal kind of social evil section 304 B Dowry death, Section 498A (Cruelty by Husband or in-laws i.e. domestic violence) 113 B (Presumption as to dowry death) was incorporated in Indian penal laws around 1986 to eradicate the nuisance of dowry death.
Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code states that if a woman dies within seven years of marriage by any burns or bodily injury or it was revealed that before her marriage she was exposed to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any other relative of the husband in connection to demand dowry then the death of the woman will be considered as a dowry death.
Punishment for dowry death is a minimum sentence of imprisonment for seven years or a maximum sentence of imprisonment for life.
Essentials of Dowry deaths under section 304-B
- Death was caused by burns or bodily injury or otherwise than under normal circumstances.
- Death should have occurred within seven years of her marriage.
- Woman must have subjected to cruelty or harassment by husband or his relatives.
- Cruelty or harassment should be in connection with demand of dowry and soon before death.
In case of Sanjay Kumar Jain v. State of Delhi it was said that “The dowry system is a big slur and curse on our society, democracy and the country. It is incomprehensible how such unfortunate and condemnable instances of dowry deaths are frequently occurring in our society. All efforts must be made to combat and curb the increasing menace of dowry death. The legislature was seriously concerned about this unfortunate reality of our society and to curb combat the increasing menace of dowry deaths with a firm hand the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 was enacted.
In 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. Accordingly, term “Soon before death” determined by Courts depending upon the facts & circumstances of case. However it would imply that interval should not be much between the cruelty or harassment concerned and death in question. If the alleged incident of cruelty is remote in time and has become stale enough not to disturb the mental equilibrium of the woman concerned, it would be of no consequence. To curb the practice of dowry death there is an urgent need to take punitive and preventive measures with iron hands. At the same time law must be made more effective and police should be more watchful with respect to these offences.
Supreme Court always try to take a note of dowry abuse which results in dowry death. So, in the case of Rajbir v. State of Haryana apex court directed to registrar generals of all high courts to circulate to all trial courts add section 302, IPC to charge of section 304B IPC so that death sentences could be imposed on heinous and barbaric crimes and stated that dowry death cases to be charged both under section 302 and 304B of IPC. After the Apex Court decision, a person convicted of dowry death would be charged under section 302 as well as section 304-B of IPC.
Cruelty on woman by Husband or Relatives
Section 498A, IPC: – When her husband or his family member subjects the woman to cruelty or harassment. Cruelty by his husband or relatives has been made punishable with imprisonment up to three years and fine u/s 498-A. The word cruelty 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.
In the case of Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar the petitioner approached the Supreme Court by way of special leave petition for grant of anticipatory bail in which he was unsuccessful earlier. Section 498A of IPC was enacted with avowed object to combat the menace of harassment to a woman by husband and his near relatives. Supreme Court said that it is a fact that section 498A is a cognizable and non-bailable offence has lent it a dubious place of pride amongst the provision that is used as a weapon rather than shields by disgruntled wives, the simple way to harass is to get the husband and his relatives arrested under this provision. In a quiet number of cases old and bed-ridden fathers and mothers of husband, their sister living abroad who never meet with each other will also get arrested so the Apex Court gave following directions before arresting under section 498A of IPC:-
- State government to instruct Police not to arrest without a warrant unless feels necessity and fulfilments of all parameters laid under section 41 of Cr.PC
- All Police officer shall provide with a check list containing specified sub-clauses under section 41(1)(b)(ii) and must be filed and furnish the reason and material which necessitated the arrest.
- The magistrate while authorising the detention of the accused shall peruse the report furnished by the police and after recording its satisfaction may authorize detention.
- The decision not to arrest was forwarded to magistrate within two weeks from the date of institution of the case with a copy that arrests not made under offence referred.
- When, such person, at any time, fails to comply with terms of notice or unwilling to identify himself then the police may arrest for offence mentioned in the notice.
Is Dowry death a bailable and a cognizable offence?
Bailable Offences– Offences in which the permission from the court to release the arrested person is not required. The arrested person by fulfilling the necessary requirements can be released and the police cannot refuse the person.
Cognizable Offences- Offence in which the police have the authority to arrest any person without any warrant and also has the authority to start an investigation with or without any permission of the magistrate by filing FIR.
Dowry death is a non-bailable and cognizable offence.
Some stringent penal provisions have been enacted or amended from time to time to stop from taking and demanding dowry. Under section 3 of the act giving and taking of dowry is punishable with a minimum term of 5 years and a fine of Rs 15,000 or value of dowry whichever more. Similarly demanding of dowry is also punishable under section 4 for the term of six months to five years and fine up to Rs 15,000. After a couple of amendment the act tries to curb this social menace. Section 7 provides persons and agencies who may initiate the proceedings (a) police (b) aggrieved person (c) parents and relatives (d) any recognised welfare institution or organisation Section 8 tries to make act harsher by adding offences under the purview of non-bailable and cognizable. Further section 8-A states that burden of proof lies on person who denies offence.
“Dowry” as a practice is deeply rooted in Indian society, and cannot be completely abolished. The main reason that this practice cannot be abolished is the thought and mindset of Indians. In India, a boy is made highly educated so that parents can demand a big dowry for him in marriage. The more educated a man is, and the more stable his financial position is, the more dowry he takes.
Dowry laws have come under criticism as they have been misused by women and their families. Going through such a situation is not an easy task however, if you want to file a case against your husband and your in-laws, the process can be made easy with the guidance of our expert Dowry Cases Lawyer in Delhi who are experts in handling any kind of dowry cases. Legalmax law firm has Expert Lawyers for Dowry Case in Delhi who can fight for Your Right.
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