Dowry is a social evil in society that has caused excessive tortures and crimes towards women and polluted the Indian marital system. Dowry is payment made in cash or kind to a bride’s in-laws at the time of her marriage. Dowry is the process of transferring the father’s property to the daughter at the time of her marriage. The dowry system has been for a long time in India. Since ancient times the transfer of belongings has been taking place. The purpose of dowry is to help settle the newly wedded. This started as a gesture of love and care towards the daughter as she leaves her birth home.
But with time, it became nothing more than a process of transfer of wealth from the bride’s family to the groom’s. It is causing emotional and mental harassment to the bride’s family. The Dowry system has been in our country ever since, and even after legal intervention, it is getting harder to eradicate it for so long. The simple process of transfer of poverty has become a deep-rooted problem for our society. And many tough girls and their families have to go through hardship every time in our country. Thus, the system of dowry must be eradicated so as to bring the sense of justice and equality in our society.
MEANING OF DOWRY IN DOWRY PROHIBITION ACT
Dowry Prohibition Act, Indian law, enacted on May 1, 1961, intended to prevent the giving or receiving of a dowry. Under the Dowry Prohibition Act, dowry includes property, goods, or money given by either party to the marriage, by the parents of either party, or by anyone else in connection with the marriage.
Section 2 of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 provides Definition of ‘dowry’. —In this Act, “dowry” means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly—
(a) by one party to a marriage to the other 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
In India dowry is a punishable crime. Priority is usually given to reports against dowry and this to protect young girls from this injustice. Dowry crimes are never reported and thus domestic violence is constantly increasing at a high rate. The major reason for the increasing number of crimes is the lack of awareness and education. Many young girls are constantly punished because of this system that leads to them facing death in one way or another
Section 498A in The Indian Penal Code define dowry :
[498A. Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.—Whoever, being the husband or the relative 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. Explanation.—For the purpose of this section, “cruelty” means—
(a) 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
(b) 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 or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.]
CASE LAWS RELATED TO DOWRY
Several landmark cases related to dowry are as follows :
1. Kamesh Panjiyar ; Kamlesh Panjiyar vs. State of Bihar (2005)
In this case the Jaikali Devi (deceased) was married to the appellant. At the time of marriage the appellant demanded Rs, 40,000 as dowry and it was paid to him. After marriage the appellant’s demand for a buffalo and this demand of the appellant was not fulfilled by the deceased’s family. Due to the failure of fulfillment of his demand appellant and his family started torturing and beating the deceased. When the family of the deceased came to know about the situation, the brother of the deceased went to meet her but the appellant and his family insulted him. One day the brother of the deceased heard the rumor about the death of his sister. He went to the appellant’s place to meet his sister and found her dead. She had many injuries on her body. Appellant claimed that she had some rheumatic disease which led to her death.
Session court found appellant guilty and punished him with the imprisonment of 10 years. On appeal preferred by appellant before the High Court of Bihar, the court reduced it to 7 years.
SC upheld the decision of session court saying that under section 304 of IPC it was not necessary to give direct evidence of causing death. Cruelty before death is enough.
2. Raja Lal Singh vs. The State of Jharkhand (2007)
In this case a girl named Gaytri Devi (deceased) was married to appellant when she was of 19 years of age. In this marriage dowry was given by the parents of the deceased to the appellant and his family. After three months of marriage when Gaytri came to visit her father’s place she told her father that her husband, husband’s brother and brother’s wife harassed her for bed and almirah. Father promised her to fulfill the demands of appellants and his family. Many times whenever the deceased could meet her family she was told about the same demand of dowry by her husband and his family. After almost 6 months of marriage, one day the father of the deceased came to know that she had died. When the father reached his daughter’s place he saw that the dead body of the deceased was there and the appellant and his family were standing near the body of the deceased. On questioning appellant told that she had committed suicide by hanging herself on ceiling fan with the help of her saree. Case was filed against the appellant and his brother and brother’s wife.
Trial court convicted all of them under section 304 B read with section 34 of IPC and convicted with rigorous imprisonment of 10 years to all. Appeal was preferred in High Court of Jharkhand but it was decided against appellants. Hence all the persons appealed before the Supreme Court. Court gave the benefit of doubt to the appellant’s brother and his wife. No relief was given by the Court to the appellant and the appeal was dismissed.
3. Hiralal v. State (Government of NCT) Delhi ( 2003 )
The deceased in this case had committed suicide by consuming poison. The relatives of the deceased alleged her in laws to be responsible for this as he claimed that they put her into so much pressure to bring more and more of dowry that she could not bear it and decided to kill herself than to handle this torture every day.
The court while analyzing the facts of the case held that the demand for dowry should have been made soon before her death. The phrase soon before death was held to mean any time before her death which was sufficient to relate the cruelty caused to her as being the reason for her death. If there is a sufficient lapse of time between the act of cruelty and the death of the victim so that it can be reasonably inferred that the cruelty cannot be the reason for her death, in that case Section. 304B cannot be said to be applicable in that case.
The Dowry system is good unless and until it is considered as a gift given to the bride by her parents. If the groom’s parents are demanding money to get married as a “Dowry” then that is completely wrong and illegal. Educating children about the drawbacks of the dowry system, and making sure that they inculcate the spirit to boycott it, is the long-term solution to the issue. To eradicate this evil, we need to learn and educate others about the ill-effects of it and it can be achieved by providing equal rights to both genders. Thus, the government along with our society must take stern steps with regard to discouraging the heinous crime of dowry. Afterwards only we could proudly declare ourselves as a civilized society.
- Indian penal code, 1860
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