In this blog post, Sreeraj.K.V, Student, Government Law College, Kerala writes an analysis of Domestic violence and dowry death in India. This article covers areas like provisions under Section 498 A of IPC, various provisions of Dowry Prohibition Act as well as Protection of women from domestic violence Act along with various cases dealing with the same issue.
India is one of the countries which give much priority to marriage and family life. In India marrying a person and living a happy life is considered to be sacred in one’s life. But in fact, India is among those countries which have a large number of cases involving violence against married women as well as offences relating to dowry. Cases involving domestic violence and dowry are being registered at an increased pace when compared to the last decade. The main reason behind such a phenomenon is that there is no friendly atmosphere in many of the houses and the people are not in a good relationship . In many such situations, women will be the victim of various tortures and in humane activities against them. In India, we have Indian Penal Code as well as various other statutes such as Dowry Prohibition Act, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 etc. for protecting the rights of women especially married women as well as preventing them from various offences which affects them both physically and mentally.
Section 498 A: IPC
Indian Penal Code, 1860 is the first and foremost substantive criminal law to impose certain amendment in itself regarding cruelties against women mainly married women. Section 498 A deals with certain definitions to the term cruelty which read as:
- Any wilful conduct which is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health of the woman; or
- Harassment of the women with a view of coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or any valuable security or is on account of her failure by her or any person related to her to meet any demands.
The provision of the Dowry prohibition Act mainly deals with issues relating to dowry and its related offences in general. Dowry means transfer of parental property at the time of marriage of their daughter. It is a system of providing a certain amount of financial assistance to the groom’s family either in the form of money, property, gold etc. Demanding and acceptance of dowry, even though banned in India, is still seen in many parts of the country as the people are not willing to stop the prevailing customary practice. For abolishing the act of providing and accepting dowry, which lead to various financial crises to many families in India, Government formulated Dowry Pprohibition Act on the year 1961 so that there will be an eye of law in regulating such actions involving delivery and acceptance dowry. The Act provides various provisions relating to the term ‘dowry’ as well as provisions relating to the punishment for the offence of dowry and the concerned officers who are entitled with the authority to look into such matters. The Act also provides certain powers to make rules and regulations regarding giving and accepting dowry. But the fact is that almost all the marriages are taking place in certain assurance given by the family of both the spouses mainly the bride.
Apart from this Act, we have Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. This Act deals with certain special provisions mainly for married women who are facing certain cruelties from husband as well as his relatives and other members of the family. The Act itself states that it provides protection of constitutional rights for the women who face violence within the family itself. Chapter I of the Act deals with certain definitions, whereas Chapter II, deals with the definition and related provisions of the term ‘domestic violence’. It states that any physical or mental harm, injury or harassment to women for any unlawful demands or dowry or any other property may be termed as domestic violence. Chapter III deals with duties of various protection officers, security officers as well as magistrates in preventing them from any such offences. It also provides for the importance and needs of medical facilities for the aggrieved person. The Act also deals with certain provisions such as duties of Government in such issues, nature of compensation as well as liabilities of the accused person if found guilty. The Act also stipulates that husband and his family will be liable for the death of wife within seven years of marriage. Under such circumstances, the presumption is that the wife’s death was caused due to any kind of torture or violence from the part of husband and his family. A Recent example can be traced out from the case of death of Sunanda Pushkar where Shashi Tharoor was in a shadow of doubt as the death had occurred within seven years of marriage.
Supreme Court as well as High Court has looked into such cases involving domestic violence in such a serious way as it is clear from various judgments. In the case of D.Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal, Supreme Court examined the provisions of the Domestic violence Act in such a way that the term ‘domestic relationship’ includes not only relationship of marriage but also a relationship ‘in the nature of marriage’ and if a man and woman lives together for certain period of time is pretend to be a relationship equal to that of relationship after marriage depending on the nature of relation maintained by them. The Court also stated that violence in such circumstances must be treated as domestic violence and nothing else.
There were certain other cases such as Sunil Kumar Sharma v. State (cbi) where in Court stated that there is no relevant evidence to prove the guilty of the accused from the part of the prosecution. Hence the case was decided in the favour of the accused. Such cases stand as an exception to the issues of dowry death as even though the act has been committed, the prosecution fails to produce adequate evidence and hence the person will be held free.
There are exceptions to the cases involving dowry death as well as domestic violence due to the fact that some women will be having a criminal intention of making the husband and his family in trouble. For that, they file certain cases which involve the provision of the above stated Acts. In such situation, the investigating agency as well as the Court should make a critical analysis of the facts and issues of the case as the accused also have equal rights as the victims. In such a context, it must be stated that the families of both the husband and wife must be in good terms and free from any financial liabilities between them. Surveys state that India is the only country with the highest amount of offences relating to domestic violence as well as offences regarding dowry. This condition can be changed only when the people start thinking that no financial needs have to be satisfied during the time of marriage. Problems arising out in the family life must be cured instantly and effectively that there arises no further issues on the same matter in future. The government can implement certain amendment in certain statutes regarding dowry prohibition and domestic violence such that people changes their mind and there arise a notion that dowry and domestic violence against` women itself is a social evil of the time.
 Retrieved on: https://indiankanoon.org/doc/538436/
 D.Velusamy v. D. Patchaiammal 2010 (4) KLT 384
Retrieved on : http://www.jhalsa.org/pdfs/Reading_Materials/RM_on_18_01_2015.pdf
 Sunil Kumar Sharma v. State(cbi) 139(2007) DLT 407
Retrieved on : https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1698806/