dowry system in india


In India, the marital custom of dowry is widely spread. Dowry is the transfer of wealth has from the bride’s side to the groom’s side. It includes clothes, appliances, automobiles, property, jewellery, money, furniture etc. Traditionally, there have been many reasons for the establishment of this technique. It was a sort of inheritance for the bride, since all the family property was inherited by men. It was supposed to be the security for the bride in case any misfortune befell her husband’s house.

It was also a system of honouring the groom for his willingness to accept the bride as his wife in marriage, and the gifts given could range from anything significant to even a small token of good wishes. However, the greed for dowry has affected most ordinary families in India. This menace is the root cause of almost all violence against a married woman. In most cases after marriage the problem of dowry will arise. If the wife isn’t ready to provide all, which her husband and in laws demand, her life within the groom’s house become miserable. She will be treated cruelly and in some cases she may lose her life.

There is the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 which is enacted, and in addition the laws have been made more stringent namely, Section 304 B (dowry death) and Section 498 A (cruelty by husband or his relatives) have been integrated into the Indian Penal Code (I.P.C.) and also Section 113 B (presumption as to dowry death) have been made part of the Indian Evidence Act (I.E.A.) so as to eradicate or at-least lower down this heinous act of dowry system and related deaths.

The scope of the study is to justify the cruelty amongst women in regards to dowry. The study shows the evolvement of laws and regulations for the protection of women. The study was conducted on the basis of secondary data of the dowry system. So, there is a lacking to presenting the originality of incident.

The problem which Indian society still suffers is cruelty against women is based on dowry; domestic violence against women in India has its root at the demand of dowry. Dowry may happen in any families there’s no difference between rich, bourgeoisie, poor, educated or uneducated. When a marriage is fixed no one is worry as to how clever, intellectual, and homely the girl is, but all that matters is, how much money and luxuries will she get to husband’s home. With the passage of time dowry became a customary part in Indian society and became demanding dowry as their right in order to marry a woman, and gradually the dowry became violence to women when the groom’s family didn’t get enough dowry, leading to harassment or cruelty of brides and also dowry deaths, especially in certain parts of India. Dowry demands affect the lives of females socially, economically and culturally.

According to the definition of dowry under section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, it is clear that dowry is a property which woman brings to her husband at marriage and includes the land, all sorts of properties, valuable securities given or agreed to be given directly or indirectly at the time of marriage. The term dowry does not include repayment of marriage expenses.

The term dowry does not include Mahr.

The social and cultural effects of the dowry system are devastating to the society as a whole. The system reduced women to a commodity and a source of wealth.  Even if the dowry is paid, in most cases, the bride is tortured by her in-laws, mentally and physically as their demand for more dowry becomes endless (Chirmade 1992). This torture generally results in suicide or murder of the bride.

The reason why dowry is still persistent in India is not only because it is difficult to enforce the law against it or because the groom’s family is very demanding, but also because the bride’s family continues to bear with it. Despite the widespread awareness of the negative consequences of dowry and the problems cause by it, it is still seen as a way of buying happiness for the bride (Stone and James, 1995). Many families believe that giving an outsized dowry would end in better treatment of the daughter by the groom’s family. This has only aggravated the problem as the standard for dowry became high and marriage was made dependent on whether the bride’s family could meet that standard of dowry or not.

Dowry Death Related Laws
The Indian Penal Code (I.P.C.), Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) and Indian Evidence Act (I.E.A.) under the criminal law (Second Amendment) Act, 1983 and by President of India to deal with dowry death cases and of cruelty caused to married women.

IPC Section 304-B
At the point when the passing of a wedded lady is caused by any consumes or substantial damage or happens under irregular or suspicious conditions inside seven years of her marriage span and it is obviously appeared that soon before her demise she was subjected to cold-bloodedness or badgering or torment by her better half or any relative of her spouse or in laws for, or in association with, any interest for settlement, such passing should be called as “settlement passing”, and such spouse or relative or in laws esteemed to have caused her demise. Whoever confers endowment passing might be rebuffed with detainment for a term least of seven years which may reach out to detainment forever.

Ingredients of Section 304 – B of I.P.C. are as follows:

  1. When the death of the woman is caused under abnormal and suspicious circumstances caused by burns or any other bodily injuries
  2. Within 7 years of the marriage.
  3. The death is caused in relation to demand for dowry.
  4. The expression of Soon before her Death.

It is a Cognizable, Non – Bailable, Non – Compoundable offence.
In the case of Satvir Singh and others v. State of Punjab and another  apex court held that the harassment or cruelty to which the woman is subjected should not be at some time with the demand to dowry rather it should be soon before her death.

Further, in the case of Raja Lal Singh v. State of Jharkhand  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.

If the wife dies within 7 years of the marriage and if there is no demand for dowry and there was no ill-treatment as well from the side of husband and his family, then the husband and his family cannot be held liable and charged under section 304 – B of the I.P.C., held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Meka Ramaswamy v. Dasari Mohan and others .

However, it was held in the case of Bhagwan Das v. Kartar Singh and others that if the woman is killed or commits suicide in relation to demand of dowry and it happens soon before her death then Section 304 – B of the I.P.C. may be invoked.

In Prahallad Budek v. State of Orissa  it was held that there should be a live link between the death of the woman and the harassment and cruelty faced by her in relation to demand of dowry, and if there is no such link then the offence of Section 304 – B of I.P.C. cannot be established against the husband or husband’s relatives. Also, it was the same that was stated in the case of Baldev Singh v. State of Punjab [9] plus it was also said that the time gap should not be much between the cruelty and harassment and the death of the woman.

State of Rajasthan v. Jaggu
Ram held that, as there is no specification of time period for the expression soon before her death in any of the statutes or acts, so it is directed that as the facts and circumstances of each case may differ so on the basis of that it is required by the court to decide that if the time period between the death of the woman and the cruelty, she suffered is immediate or not.

IPC Section 498-A
This section speaks about cruelty caused to women by husband or relative of the husband. Whoever being the spouse or the relative of the spouse or in law of a lady, subjects such lady to cold-bloodedness or provocation or torment might be rebuffed with detainment for a term International Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics Special Issue 1685 which may reach out up to three years and to pay fine. The mercilessness can be either mental or then again physical torment which drives the ladies to confer suicide or to cause genuine damage, or on the other hand threat to life or wellbeing.

Ingredients of Section 498 – A of I.P.C. are as follows:

  1. The woman should be a married woman.
  2. The married woman should be the subject of the cruelty or harassment.
  3. The harassment or cruelty should be done by the husband or by husband’s relatives
  4. There should be a Mens Rea on the part of husband or husband’s relatives.[12]

It is a Cognizable, Non – Bailable, Non – Compoundable offence.
In the case of Balwant Singh and others v. State of Himachal Pradesh  the 2 judges bench said that the person who is acquitted under section 304 – B of the I.P.C. can also be convicted under section 498 – A of the I.P.C. as both the sections of the I.P.C. cannot be held as mutually inclusive.

Further to give justice to the deceased and to strengthen the belief of the society in the legal system of the country the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Pawan Kumar and others v. State of Haryana held that the wife who died within 7 years of the marriage, which is the result of a dowry death by committing suicide, then along with section 304 – B of the I.P.C and section 498 – A of the I.P.C. the accused can also be held liable under section 306 of the I.P.C. (which says Abetment of attempt to commit suicide) as the treatment of the accused forced the wife to do so.

IEA Section 113-AThis section deals with presumption of abetment of suicide of a married women.  At the point when the inquiry is whether the commission of suicide by lady had been abetted by her better half or any relative her better half and it is demonstrated that she had conferred suicide inside a time of seven a long time from the date of her oversee and her spouse or such relative of her better half had subjected to remorselessness, the court may assume, having respect to the various conditions of the case, that such suicide had been abetted by her better half or by such relative of her better half.

IEA Section 113-BThis section deals with presumption of dowry death. At the point when the inquiry is whether a man has conferred the share passing of a lady and it is demonstrated that soon before her demise, such lady had been subjected by such individual to remorselessness or provocation for, or in association with, any interest for endowment, the court might assume that such individual had caused the share passing.

The ingredient of this section is the fulfilment of the ingredients of section 304 – B of the I.P.C
In Kamesh Panjiyar alias Kamlesh Panjiyar v. State of Bihar the court said that if there is a conjoint reading of section 113 – B of the I.E.A. and section 304 – B of the I.P.C. then there have to be some evidences submitted before the court stating that there have been cruelty and harassment to the wife from the side of husband or husband’s relatives in order to punish the accused in the matter of dowry death.

However, in the case of Sham Lal v. State of Haryana  it was said that the husband cannot be convicted under section 304 – B of the I.P.C. and also section 113 – B of the I.E.A. cannot be raised if there is no evidence of the harassment and cruelty soon before her death.

Similarly, in Harjit Singh v. State of Punjab  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.

Dowry Prohibition Act,1961
The whole of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 is prepared, equipped and developed in order to provide relief to the victims of the dowry cases in the country. The entire act solely fulfils the purpose to protect woman’s sufferings from the dowry harassment and cruelty.

It contains a total of 10 sections of which following are the heading of each section:

  1. Section 1 – Short title, extent and commencement
  2. Section 2 – Definition of dowry
  3. Section 3 – Penalty for giving or taking dowry
  4. Section 4 – Penalty for demanding dowry
  5. Section 4A – Ban on advertisement
  6. Section 5 – Agreement for giving or taking dowry to be void
  7. Section 6 – Dowry to be for the benefit of the wife or her heirs
  8. Section 7 – Cognizance of offence
  9. Section 8 – Offences to be cognizable for certain purposes and to be non-bailable and non-compoundable
  10. Section 8A – Burden of proof in certain cases
  11. Section 8B – Dowry Prohibition Officers
  12. Section 9 – Power to make rules
  13. Section 10 – Power of State Government to make rules

As it can be seen that this Act is drafted, keeping in mind the interest of all areas of society and law in order to protect and enhance the status of dowry victims which may be leading them to death, suicide, harassment or cruelty.

It is understood that the word Dowry is a social evil, but as it can be seen in section 6 of the D.P. Act which says Dowry to be for the benefit of the wife or her heirs, here we should understand that Dowry is simply a sum of property (whether it is money or any other property) given by her parents or her parents’ family out of sheer love and affection to protect the social and financial interest of a woman and which is not social evil. In-fact the social evil is the demand of dowry by the husband or his family, faced by the wife and her family.

In the case of Sabitri Dei and others v. Sarat Chandra Rout and others  the apex court quashed the order given by the competent Sessions Court and convicted the husband and his relative under section 498–A/section 304–B of the I.P.C. and under section 4 of the D.P. Act. Similarly, in the case of Premananda Sahoo v. State of Orissa  the criminal appeal was directed against the judgement given by competent Sessions Court.

In the landmark judgement of Suresh Kumar Singh v. State of U.P. the apex court held that the proof of demand of dowry as shown by the prosecution should not be too old from the death of the woman. The propinquity of dowry demand and the death of the victim should be established to evoke the expression of soon before her death and charge the accused under the D.P. Act as well.

I have used the information from National Crime Records Bureau or NCRB (2001 to 2016) on dowry deaths of ladies across Indian states. Number of dowry deaths is normalised per 100,000 women in each state. To construct the panel of explanatory variables, we’ve got relied on various sources: the Indian Census 2001 and 2011; population projections by the Registrar General of India, and estimates of convictions against rapes from Ministry of Home Affairs, Federal Reserve Bank of India for estimates of state GDP (or SGDP) per capita. These are at 2013-14 constant prices. Political regime variables were constructed for each state and year from available sources. Various adjustments had to be made because of missing data, smallness of some states, and reorganisation of states over this period.

As the states of Assam, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Tripura and West Bengal have not released official 2016-17 SDP estimates, going by RBI released data as on Dec’ 2017, we extrapolate the same. We do this by computing the difference in the SDP in the preceding years of 2014-15 and 2015-16. We then add this difference (SDP 2016-15 minus SDP 2015-14) to the 2015-16 official SDP estimates, giving us the 2016-17 SDP estimates. The SDP figures for the state of West Bengal are not available in the RBI dataset after 2011. To ensure that the richness of our panel isn’t lost because of this shortcoming, we calculated the SGDP at constant 2014 prices from the current prices approximations released by National Institute for Transforming India (Niti Aayog) for West Bengal.

Population figures for various years that Census data don’t seem to be available are taken from the report of the technical group on population projections constituted by the National Commission on Population in May 2006. We do this to approximate the change in population after the 2001 and 2011 census. Using these projections, we calculate the new sex ratio and the age distribution structures across the Indian states from 2001 to 2016.

An issue is underreporting of dowry deaths for familiar reasons: fear of retaliation by the husband’s family, difficulty in marrying a second daughter and the requirement of prior harassment by the male spouse in registering a dowry death and resistance from local police in filing an FIR.

‘Number of dowry cases goes up’ (The Hindu, January 2008); ‘Dowry death after love marriage’ (The Times of India, April 2008); ‘Harassed for dowry, teacher ends life’ (The Indian Express, November 2007). These are just three headlines from three of India’s popular newspapers that show the persistence of the dowry system and its consequences in modern India. Dowry is still prevalent in modern India, in not only the illiterate section of the population, but also the educated elites in India’s major metropolitan cities.

Surprisingly in the past decade, the number of dowry related crime cases has actually gone up, despite dowry being banned since 1961 by Indian law. According to the statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 8391 dowry deaths were reported in 2010 itself, which means that a bride was killed every 90 minutes due to dowry related reasons. In 1988, this number was 2209; in 1990 it rose to 4835; in 2000 (a couple of decades earlier), this number was 6995, and in 2007 it climbed up to an astounding 8093.

According to other government records, Delhi itself records a few hundred dowry deaths every year, while women’s rights groups estimate this number to be at 900 per year. This is a phenomenal increase compared to the numbers for the 1990s, which were about 300 per year. It is important to note that these are just official records, and are thus immensely under-reported. 90% of the cases in which women are burnt are recorded as accidents, 5% as suicides, and only the remaining 5% of the cases are shown as murder. These shockingly high numbers clearly reflect the continuous increase in dowry related crimes and deaths in India.

With passing years cases related to dowry deaths in India are gradually increasing. Also, cases of cruelty towards the wife by a husband or his relatives are increasing which is prominently caused by the demand for dowry and wife’s inability to fulfil it. According to the statistics given in the NCRB Report, 2016 , total number of reported cases related to Dowry Deaths in the year 2016 were 7,621 and total number of reported cases related to cruelty by the husband or his relatives to the wife in the year 2016 were 1,10,378.

India holds the highest number of Dowry Death cases in the World. Another glaring issue that comes up with the laws laid down to protect women from this cruel act is that misuse of the very same laws by the wife or her family to harass and blackmail the husband or his family, which is also needed to be dealt with in a swift manner.

When a woman is accepted not from her virtues except for the cash she brings and when the dowry she brings is that the be all and end all of the transaction, the marriage looses all sanctity and sublimity. The sooner the dowry becomes the thing of the past, the higher for our society.

The problem of dowry demand is not merely one of the family demanding cash and goods, beyond the capacity and desire of another family to give but rather a question of the inter relatedness of psychological, social and financial factors. As one reads the shocking story of individual women and families, one notice that there’s little or no and sometimes no awareness among them of the roots of the problem or any motivations to curb the practice and bring about a much-needed social change.

This can be attributed to an internalization of prevailing particular values which view women as inferior and having only themselves responsible for his or her predicament. It seldom sees them as victims of a particular from of oppression or of socially prevalent sex biases. The burden of tradition, a prevailing ideology of male superiority, insensitive police force, and archaic judiciary and a society that condones violence creates a chamber of horror where even angels would fear to tread.

As it is said whenever there is light, there is shadow too, similarly, in order to provide justice to women and to protect them from dowry harassment in their best interest, there have been cases of misuse of the laws and provisions provided to help and protect them. These provisions and rights have been exploited in a wrong manner and that too it has happened for a reasonable period of time now. This is one of the loopholes that is needed to be corrected and rectified by the same nobel, scholered and intellectual law-makers who have laid down these provisions keeping in mind the protection of women from the heinous crime of dowry.

Aishwarya Says:

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