This article is written by Kashish Kundlani, a third-year student of (BBA.LL.B) Ramaiah Institute of Legal Studies, Bangalore. In this article, we’ll discuss the offences relating to dowry death and presumptions as to dowry death.
Table of Contents
Since time immemorial we have seen so many offences against women, where they are tortured and one such offence is dowry death. 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 practised.
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.
- Death should be caused by burns or bodily injury or by any other circumstances.
- Death must occur within the seven years of marriage.
- It must be revealed that soon before her marriage she was exposed to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any other relative.
- The cruelty or harassment on her should be in connection with the demand for dowry.
Demand for Dowry
As per Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act,1961 which says that dowry is any property or valuable security directly or indirectly agreed to be given by-
(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, at or before or any time after the marriage in connection with the marriage of the said parties.
Various Causes to demand dowry
From the ages, we have seen the demand for dowry but to stop dowry the demand for it should be understood properly by society so that it can prevent its practice.
The various causes are-
In the name of tradition
We must have seen people calling it a tradition or a custom to be followed in marriages taking place. In the name of tradition which has to be followed by the bride’s family give valuables to the groom’s family.
The groom’s family ask for dowry
The groom’s family voluntarily ask for dowry by giving reasons that their son is placed in a good job and they have a lot of reputation etc.
Thinking that it will build a reputation in society
Earlier people had a preconceived notion that giving dowry will build up a good reputation in the society. With time it became a show-off concept in society and people started comparing it with others.
In underdeveloped areas, the literacy rate is very less and people are unaware of the laws relating to dowry, which led to the increased demand for dowry by the others.
Though dowry is also practised by the literates in an underdeveloped area, it becomes a bit more difficult to make them understand the laws.
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.
As per Section 41 of The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 the police officer while arresting any person without a warrant, be satisfied with the complaint registered against a person and fulfil all the provision of Section 41 of CrPC.
In this case, the couple was married and after 5-6 months of their marriage husband, sister-in-law and mother-in-law started taunting the wife of the husband for bringing less dowry. They started demanding several things from her which was not fulfilled by her. The prosecutor filed a case for torturing the deceased and subjected her to cruelty in order to make her bring more dowry.
Gradually the torture on her increased so much that the mother-in-law hit her with a sharp blade on her forehead causing a deep cut over there.
She was unable to tolerate the ill-treatment by her husband and by her in-laws on her, as a result, she committed suicide by consuming naphthalene balls and died.
During the investigation, the sharp-edged blade was recovered and after the completion of the investigation husband, sister-in-law and mother-in-law were charged under the Section of 304-B, 306 and 498-A of the Indian Penal Code. And the case against them was registered.
The Court after examining all the evidences, it was held that persons who are charged under Section 304-B, 306 and 498-A will be free from these criminal charges as the prosecution failed to produce the evidence against them and only mother-in-law will be held guilty under Section 324 of the Indian Penal Code as voluntarily causing hurt to her daughter-in-law. And imposed a fine of Rs. 3,000, failing to pay the fine will attract simple imprisonment for 1 month.
Appellant No. 1 is the husband and his deceased wife Urmil. They after some time Shifted to Sonepat (Harayana).
Urmil returned back to her parent’s house within a few days of her marriage and complained about the demands of dowry for refrigerator, scooter etc. She did not fulfil the demands and was subjected to face torture and harassment by the appellants like commenting on her that she looks ugly etc. As a result of such comments and taunts by the appellants, she committed suicide and died due to the burn injuries.
The case was registered against the accused namely her husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law. In court, it was argued by the learned counsel of the appellant that there is no offence committed here as it does not fulfil the essential ingredients of Section 304B of Indian Penal Code and also no evidence was found out that soon before her death the deceased in any way was subjected to cruelty or harassment in connection with the demand for dowry.
Whether she was subjected to any cruelty or harassment soon before her death and the same was in connection with the demand for dowry.
Whether the demand asked for a refrigerator, scooter etc is a desire to acquire or a dowry demand.
The learned counsel of the appellant argued that the mere desire to acquire a refrigerator, scooter etc. should not come within the ambit of demanding dowry and cannot be held as an offence as this would not come under the definition of dowry under Section 2 of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 with Section 304B and Section 498A of Indian Penal Code.
It was held by the Court that Demand for dowry itself is an offence under Section 304B and to be an offence under this it does not requires that an agreement for it should be necessarily present.
The court also held him guilty under Section 498A subjecting her to cruelty or harassment by passing comments on her looks and also taunting her to bring more dowry.
Pawan Kumar appellant No.1 under Section 304B was sentenced to 7 years of rigorous imprisonment and liable to pay fine of Rs 500 and in default of paying fine 6 months will be added to his imprisonment.
And under 306 IPC was sentenced to 4 years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 200 and in default of the payment 3 months will be added to his imprisonment and also held him guilty under Section 498A sentenced him for 2 years rigorous imprisonment and Rs 200 fine in default more 3 months to his imprisonment will be added.
All the sentences should run simultaneously.
Appellant No.2 and appellant No. 3 the court here gave them the benefit of doubt and acquitted them.
Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code defines cruelty.
If a husband or any relative of him causes mental or physical harm to a woman then they will be held punishable under this section.
Punishment will be imprisonment for three years and also will be liable to pay fine.
- 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.
In this case, the term ‘relative’ was analysed.
The respondent Gurmit Singh was charged under Section 304B of IPC that he is the reason for the death caused to Gurujit Kaur wife of Paramjit Singh. The respondent argued that he could not be charged with the offence of Section 304B as he is not the relative of the deceased.
The respondent was the brother of Paramjit’s aunt and cannot be said that he is the relative of the deceased’s husband.
It was held by the court that he cannot be charged under Section 304B as he is not the relative either by blood, adoption or by marriage of the deceased’s husband. But the court said that he can be tried under other Section for the offence.
Section 498A in its definition talks about relative and by this case, it has analysed the word ‘relative’ and it means a person who is a relative by blood, adoption or by marriage others will not fall under the category of relatives and cannot be held guilty under Section 304B but can be held guilty under other section if they have committed any other offence.
Misuse of the provision and its Constitutionality
Many fake cases have been filed in misusing of the provision for its own motive or in order to give torture to the husband’s family. The women should not misuse the very own Section which is made to protect her. However, a mere possibility to misuse the provision should not invalidate the provision. Hence Section 498A is Constitutional.
In this case, the petitioner under Article 32 of the Constitution challenged the validity of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code to be Unconstitutional. The petitioner says that the offence is made to protect women against dowry and not for misusing it against the innocent family members as a weapon.
The issue, in this case, is what preventive measures should be taken if a woman misuses this provision. The petitioner says the investigating agencies and courts should analyse the case properly and should not start with a presumption that the accused persons are guilty. They should not use a restrictive approach in the matter relating to dowry.
He also says that the investigating agencies and courts should guard the laws made and should not allow an innocent person to suffer on baseless and evil allegations made by anyone. The court did not find any material in his appeal and dismissed the writ petition and said if he wants to prove his innocence for which he is accused of he may do it in a trial.
Presumption as to 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 her death.
Practising in the name of a so-called tradition that is dowry is seen existing in every place in India whether rural or urban. The menace of dowry custom has reached far down in society. Despite making so many provisions practising of demand for dowry still not stopped. No matter how many laws the government makes it still can’t eradicate it fully from the society. To fully eliminate it the people of the society has to understand that it is wrong.
By enacting strict laws in society it can be controlled but can’t put an end to it because of the unawareness of the laws in the society and also no support from the families. Even if the girl complains to her parents about the torture she faces by the husband’s family the parents of the girl opt to compromise instead of bringing it to the light. The laws and support from society together can solve the issue.
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