From the ages, We have seen various crimes against women but one of the most common crime which has been seen on the name of marriage is dowry death. We have seen people calling it has a tradition or a custom in which bride’s family gives valuable item to groom’s family. People also have a preconceived notion that giving dowry will help her daughter to give respect and love by groom’s family.
Dowry Prohibition Act,1961
Dowry has been defined in Section 2 of Dowry Prohibition Act,1961 which states that any property or any valuable item given directly or indirectly to women at the time or before the marriage(does not include mahr in the case of Muslim Personal Laws).
Indian Penal Code,1860
There is no defined definition of Dowry in Indian Penal Code. There are two main sections of dowry death section 304B and section 498A of Indian Penal Code.
Section 304B Dowry death-
Where the death of women is caused by any burns or any bodily injury within the seven years of marriage in connection with demand of dowry by her husband or his family , such death will be considered as “dowry death”.
According to section 304B any person who commits dowry death will be punished with imprisonment for the term of minimum seven years which may extend to imprisonment for life.
In Kamesh Panjiyar v State of Bihar, 2005, the supreme court has outlined the essentials ingredients of dowry death :
1.Death should be caused by burns or any bodily injury.
2.Death should occur within seven years of marriage.
3.Such burns or bodily injury must be caused by her husband or his family in connection for demand of dowry.
Section 498A Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty-
If husband or his family by any action or any wilful conduct drives a woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury whether mentally or physically or In harassment, coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand will be treated as cruelty under this section.
Such person will be punishable to imprisonment for term which may extend to three years and fine.
In Satbir Singh v State of Haryana : The court held that as the burden of proof of innocence shifts on defence when prosecution is able to establish the ingredients of section 304B,IPC. The provisions of section 304B,Indian Penal Code are more clear and stringent than that of section 498A of Indian penal code.
In Inder Raj Malik v Sunita Malik, the Delhi High Court held that if a person is convicted under section 4 of dowry prohibition Act and section 498A of Indian Penal Code does not fall under the scope of article 20(2) of Indian constitution which explains double jeopardy. Section 498A of Indian Penal Code and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act works on different elements as cruelty is not necessary under section 2 of Dowry Prohibition Act, but it is an important element under section 498A of Indian Penal Code.
Indian Evidence Act,1872
Section 113B Presumption as to dowry death
When the question arises that whether a person has committed the dowry death of a woman and it is to shown that soon before her death she was subjected to harassment and cruelty in connection with demand of dowry.
Section 113-B and 304B are read together as it has been stated in Report of the Law Commission (1983) on dowry Death and Law Reforms.
In Shyamlal v State of Haryana, court held that to invoke section 113-B of Indian Evidence Act prosecution needs to prove that victim was subjected to cruelty “soon before her death”.
In Mustafa Shahadal Shaikh v State of Maharashtra, court stated that the language which has been used to describe the term “soon before 2 death” is not define properly. The time gap between the cruelty and death should be soon as to show that death is connected with cruelty. The time “soon before death” will be decided by courts depending upon facts and circumstances of the case.
Dowry death is a social evil which has been given name of traditions and customs. Marriage is considered as a pure relationship in which women are not treated equally has they face cruelty by her husband and his family in the name of dowry. However, In this modern era people are getting aware and women themselves are taking a stand for their own rights. People needs to understand that marriage is considered as a unbreakable relationship which should be respected by both the partners equally without any unnecessary demand.
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