Section 120A

The article is written by Tejaswini Kaushal, a student at Dr Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow. This article deals extensively with Section 304B IPC, 1860 which is the provision in Indian law governing the socio-legal menace of dowry deaths. This article discusses the dowry system as well as the legal remedies for dowry death.

This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.

Introduction 

Marriage in India is steeped in tradition, with deep-rooted cultural beliefs and practices passed down through the generations by word of mouth and, in some cases, with the passage of time. However, there is one tradition in India that persistently refuses to reform, which is the dowry system. It dates back to mediaeval times when a pride’s family gave her a gift in case or kind to ensure her autonomy after marriage. It became the only legal means to marry during the colonial period, with the British making dowry a necessity.

A dowry is the transfer of parental property, gifts, or money when a daughter marries. Dowry is distinct from the related terms bride price and dower. The dowry is the wealth sent from the bride’s family to the man or his family, ostensibly for the bride, whereas the bride price or bridal service is a contribution by the groom or his family to the bride’s parents. Similarly, the dower is the property that the husband bestows on the bride at the time of marriage and which she retains ownership and control over. 

Since dowry as a system is regressive and oppressive in its true form, the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 was designed to make it illegal to give or receive a dowry, as well as other connected offences. By virtue of Section 304B, a new offence known as dowry death was incorporated into the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in 1986. The provisions of Section 304B are more rigorous than those of Section 498A of the IPC.

Dowry system in India

The bride’s family delivers jewellery, cash, or other assets to the bridegroom, his parents, or relatives as a condition of the marriage in India’s dowry system. Dowry arose from India’s imbalanced inheritance laws, and the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 needs to be modified to prevent girls from being routinely disinherited. Dowry is essentially a cash payment or a gift given to the bridegroom’s family in exchange for their pride, and it comprises cash, jewellery, electricity, furniture, bedding, crockery, and other household items that the newlyweds use to build up their home.

The dowry system is supposed to burden the bride’s family financially. In some cases, the dowry system has been linked to crimes against women, ranging from emotional abuse to physical harm, and even deaths in extreme cases.

Dowry is a demand for property or valuable security having an inextricable nexus with the marriage, as defined by the Dowry Prohibition Act. It is a consideration from the bride’s parents or relatives to the groom or his parents or relative to the groom or his parents and guardian for the agreement to wed the bride to be.

The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, as well as Sections 304B and 498A of the IPC, have been formulated with the sole aim of fighting this menace. Despite the fact that these Indian dowry legislation has been in place for decades, they’ve received a lot of flak for being ineffectual. The practice of dowry killings and murders persists unabated in many regions of India, adding to enforcement issues. Section 498A of the IPC requires the bridegroom and his family to be instantly detained when a woman complained of dowry abuse. The provision was routinely misused, and the Supreme Court declared in 2014 that arrests may only be done with the authority of a magistrate. Therefore some loopholes in these provisions still need proper review.

Reasons for the demand of dowry

The practice of dowry in India has been attributed to several factors. There are both economic and social issues to consider.

Economic constraints

There are several economic elements that contribute to the dowry system. The bride’s economic situation and inheritance systems are two examples. Some argue that economics and poor legal systems in the area of inheritance put women at a disadvantage, with inheritances going to sons solely. As a result, women are completely reliant on their husbands and in-laws. And even when she marries, the husbands only get the dowry. 

Daughters and sons in Hindu families were given equal legal status in India in 1956 through the Hindu Succession Act. The Hindu Succession Act applies to Sikh and Jain households as well. Dowry provided women with economic and financial stability in their marriages in the shape of marble goods, at least in principle. This prevented the disintegration of the family’s fortune and offered protection to the pride at times. The practice may also be employed as a form of pre-mortem inheritance, as once a woman receives moral gifts, she may be removed from the family estate. Dowry has become a significant financial hardship for many families, and the demand from the groom can leave them penniless. Over time, the demand for dowry has grown.

Social determinants

In a marriage, this is advantageous, as it reduces the likelihood of a dowry over the bride price system. The structure and kinship of marriage in areas of India contribute to dowry. In the north, marriage mainly follows the apatri local (lives with husband’s family) system.

The groom is a family member who is not linked to the bride’s family. Due to the seclusion of the bride’s family after marriage as a type of pre-mortem inheritance for the bride, this system fosters dowry.

Marriage is more commonly performed inside the bride’s family in the south, for example, with near relatives or cross-cousins, and at a closer physical distance from her family. Furthermore, brides may be able to inherit the land, making them more susceptible.

While India has made progress in terms of women’s rights, women continue to be treated as second-class citizens in their families. The dowry system, as well as how much discretion a woman has over her marriage, are influenced by a woman’s education, money, and health.

Types of dowry crimes in India

Dowry is said to be a prominent factor in India’s observed violence against women. Physical brutality, mental torture, and even the murder of brides and young girls before marriage are among the crimes committed. Cruelty (including torture and harassment), domestic violence (including physical, emotional, and sexual assault), suicide abetment, and dowry death are the most common forms of dowry crimes (including, issues of bride burning and murder).

Cruelty

A sort of dowry crime involves abuse or harassment of a woman with the goal of getting her to comply with a demand for property or valued security. To coerce the woman or her family to comply with dowry demands, the cruelty might take the form of verbal attacks or be accompanied by beatings or harassment. In many cases, the cruelty may even lead the woman to attempt suicide, which is why anti-dowry laws in India have made it illegal.

Domestic violence

Domestic violence encompasses a wide range of threatening and abusive behaviours, including physical, emotional, financial, and sexual assault, as well as intimidation, isolation, and coercion. Domestic violence is reduced and women’s rights are protected through legislation such as the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Dowry murder

Dowry deaths and dowry murder refer to a bride’s suicide or murder by her husband and his family shortly after the wedding because they are unhappy with the dowry. It usually comes after a string of previous domestic violence from the husband’s relatives.

The majority of dowry killings occur when a young woman, unable to handle the harassment and abuse, hangs herself or consumes poison. Bride burning is another kind of dowry death, in which brides are doused with kerosene and set fire by the husband or his family. The provision for cases like these lies in Section 304 of the IPC.

Dowry deaths in India 

Mahatma Gandhi rightly observed that “Any young man, who makes dowry a condition to marriage, discredits his education and his country and dishonours womanhood”. Yet regardless of centuries of development and modernisation, dowry remains to be a national phenomenon in India. 

According to figures issued by the National Crime Records Bureau, despite strict rules against dowry and associated offences, as well as ongoing efforts against the threat, deaths connected to the evil have grown over the past 12 years. Between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2012, 91,202 dowry fatalities were registered in the nation. A total of 84,013 offences were charged and sent to trial as a result of this.

The biggest number of dowry fatalities were found in Uttar Pradesh (23,824; 19,702 taken to trial) and Bihar (13,548; 9,984 sent for trial), respectively. In Uttar Pradesh, the conviction rate was consistently over 50%, while in Bihar, it was about 30%. In every state, the number of acquittals was consistently higher than the number of convictions. In most years, the death toll in Uttar Pradesh exceeded 2,000. It was above 1,000 in Bihar. In the early years of the survey, the count in Madhya Pradesh fluctuated around 600 but eventually soared to 800 or more. In Delhi, 1,582 people died over a 12-year span. There were no dowry fatalities recorded in Nagaland or Lakshadweep during this time period.

More than 7.1 thousand dowry deaths were reported in India in 2019. In India, there is an increasing trend of dowry killing, with 19 women killed or forced to commit suicide per day as a consequence of dowry-related harassment by 2020. 

According to National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) records, a woman dies of dowry in India every hour on average, with the annual total reaching upwards of 7000. There were 6,966 dowry fatalities registered last year, with 7,045 victims. This was a gradual reduction from the previous year when the figure was 8.5 thousand. Another statistic demonstrates the actuality of our society and laws, as well as the legislative and judicial system’s inadequacy.

Recent cases of dowry deaths in India

Dowry remains rampant in modern India as well, with many alliances and marital relations getting influenced by how much the girl brought into the groom’s family as dowry. The rules of the game in Indian marriages haven’t changed throughout the years, and are now known as “gifts to the bride.” Most major of some of the dowry deaths in the past decade are as follows:

  1. In 2014, Neha Yadav, 29, was set on fire by her in-laws in front of her 5-year-old son. She suffered 45% burn injuries and died as a result of her injuries.
  2. In an incident in 2018, a newly-wed Ganga was forced to commit suicide at her marital home only 72 days after her marriage to Raju Mitra, the major cause being a demand for additional dowry money. She hung herself in the house, and traces of damage were discovered on the body of the dead, including a ligature mark, swelling on the back of the head, and bruise marks on the left palm of the deceased, according to the investigation. The court dismissed the ‘absurd’ claim that the woman committed suicide because she was dissatisfied with her husband’s financial situation, and went on to say that consistent evidence on record demonstrates that she was physically and emotionally abused at the matrimonial home over dowry demands, therefore held the husband guilty (Raju Mitra & Ors. v. State of West Bengal (2022)).
  3. A 27-year-old woman from Kerala, named Thushara, was starved to death for dowry in 2019. According to authorities, the woman was refused food for three weeks and was made to sustain only on soaked rice and sugar syrup. She weighed barely 20 kg at the time of her death and the authorities described her physical appearance as that of a “bag of a skeleton”.
  4. A 40-year-old man from Gujarat was arrested in Ahmedabad in 2020 for sexually assaulting his 14-year-old daughter and torturing his wife for dowry.
  5. Vismaya V Nair, 22, was discovered dead at her in-laws’ residence in June 2021, reportedly by suicide as a result of dowry harassment and domestic violence. An audio tape revealed Vismaya sobbing and talking about the harassment during a phone call with her father, indicating that she was subjected to extreme torment by her husband.
  6. Rashika Agarwal, 25, had died in early February 2022 at her in-laws’ home in an affluent Kolkata neighbourhood. Her relatives claimed that her husband and others mistreated her and that they paid a dowry of Rs 7 crore.
  7. Ayesha Banu, a 24-year-old Ahmedabad resident, made a video message before jumping into the Sabarmati River and ending her life on February 25, 2022. Ayesha said she was being harassed by her Rajasthan-based husband and in-laws about dowry.

Harassment and fatalities related to dowry span all social, economic, educational, and religious lines. Even though dowry was rendered illegal decades ago, it is still a crime that is seldom reported to the authorities. And unless it results in fatalities, the practice does not elicit widespread anger or public discussion. This causes this practice to continue unhindered and unquestioned.

Essentials of dowry death

To establish a case of dowry death, a woman must have died of burns or other physical injuries or “otherwise than under normal circumstances” within seven years of her marriage, according to Section 304B. She should have been subjected to brutality or harassment by her husband or in-laws in connection with a dowry demand “soon before her death.”

The essentials can be listed as follows:

  1. Under normal conditions, a woman’s death should not be caused by burns or bodily harm.
  2. Within seven years of her marriage, she should have died.
  3. Her spouse or any of her husband’s relatives must have treated her cruelly or harassed her.
  4. Any demand for dowry should be accompanied by or accompanied by such brutality or harassment.
  5. Such brutal treatment or harassment should have occurred prior to her death.
  6. If a woman dies as a result of the circumstances described above, the husband and his relatives will be believed to have caused a dowry death and will be held accountable for the offences until they can be proven differently.

The term “dowry” is defined in the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, not in the IPC. Hence it is specified in the statutory provision that for the purpose of Sub-section 304B, dowry shall have the same meaning as in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act (1961). It has been defined as any property or valued security granted or promised to be given directly or indirectly, according to the act:

  • by one party to a marriage to the other party to a marriage, or 
  • by one party to a marriage to the other party to a marriage or by one party to a marriage.

In connection with the marriage of the said parties, by the parents of either party to the marriage, or by any other person to either party to the marriage, or by any other person at or before, or any time after (on three occasions).

However, dowry does not encompass customary contributions that are common in diverse communities, such as those made at the time of a child’s birth. Both giving and receiving dowry are illegal.

In addition to the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, several other stricter provisions that have been enacted, include:

  • The Indian Penal Code (IPC) now includes Sections 304B (dowry death) and 498A (cruelty by a husband or his family) post its amendment.
  • The Indian Evidence Act (IEA) has been amended to include Section 113B (presumption of dowry death) in order to eliminate or at least reduce the horrific act of the dowry system and related fatalities.

Nature of the offence under Section 304B IPC

The offence of dowry death is criminal in nature and is regulated by the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860. The IPC covers the substantive provisions while the procedural aspect is provided by the Indian Evidence Act (IEA), 1872 and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973. The offence under Section 304B is:

Cognizable

A cognizable offence is one for which a police officer may arrest without a warrant in line with the First Schedule or any other legislation in effect at the time. The majority of cognizable offences are of serious nature. 

Non-bailable

Non-bailable offences are serious crimes for which bail is a privilege granted solely by the courts. When a person is arrested and brought into jail for a serious or non-bailable offence, he or she does not have the right to seek bail.

Non-compoundable

Compoundable offences are ones that can be compromised, meaning that the complainant can agree to drop the charges against the accused, whereas non-compoundable offences are the more serious kind that does not allow the parties to compromise.

Tribal by Court of Session

The Criminal Procedure Code does not define the term “trial”. The trial may be characterised as a form of investigation to determine the accused person’s guilt or innocence. Matters involving warrants can be heard by either the Court of Session or a Magistrate, but summons cases can only be heard by a Magistrate. The Court of Session does not directly take cognizance of the cases. Rather, the cases are committed to the Court of Session by the Magistrate under Section 209 of the Criminal Procedure Code if they are exclusively triable by the Session court. It should be observed that the Session Court hears cases involving crimes punishable by more than seven years in jail, life in prison, or death. 

Punishment for Section 304B IPC

Penal provision 

Anyone who commits dowry death is punishable under Section 304B (2) of the IPC with a term of imprisonment of not less than 7 years, which may extend up to life imprisonment.

Provision for evidence for dowry death

Presumption of dowry death under Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

When the inquiry is whether a person has committed the dowry death of a woman and it is established that such woman was exposed to cruelty or harassment by such person shortly before her death for, or in connection with, any dowry demand. The court will assume that this individual was responsible for the dowry death. For this provision to apply, dowry death has the same meaning in this provision as it does in Section 304B of the IPC.

This concept may be illustrated by utilising the following cases:

  1. In the case of Hansraj v. State of Punjab (1984), where the Supreme Court decided that the word “normal conditions” appears to indicate that it was not a natural death.
  2. In the case of Rameshwar Dass v. State of Punjab (2008), where the Supreme Court decided that a pregnant woman would not commit suicide until her relationship with her husband deteriorated to the point where she felt obliged to do so and that the accused is liable to be convicted if he fails to show his defence.
  3. In the case of Sher Singh @ Partapa v. State of Haryana (2015), where the two-judge bench of the Supreme Court utilised this principle while dealing with a matter concerning Section 304B. The judges held that even by a preponderance of the evidence, the prosecution can discharge the initial burden of proving the elements of Section 304B. The preliminary presumption of innocence is supplanted by an assumption of guilt of the accused, who is then required to produce evidence attempting to remove his guilt, beyond a reasonable doubt, once the participation of the concomitants is established, demonstrated, or proved by the prosecution, even by the prevalence of possibility.

Elements needed to get relief under Section 304B IPC

  1. The primary element that an accused can show to prove his innocence is the fact that there never existed a demand for dowry. If the plaintiffs are unable to procure and furnish sufficient evidence to show that the death occurred post the demand of dowry by the husband, then no case of dowry death exists.

In the case of Appasaheb v. State of Maharashtra (2007), the wife succumbed to death after ingesting poison. There was proof from her parents that she had been subjected to ill-treatment and physical and emotional torment as a result of bringing in less money. The High Court affirmed the conviction of the trial court. Both witnesses testified to ill-treatment as a result of household circumstances. There was a need for money to cover expenditures, but there was no proof of dowry demand. Since there was no display of a demand for dowry, which is an essential factor for dowry death, the conviction was overturned.

  1. The accused will also get relief in case the plaintiffs are unable to establish proper communication of the demand of dowry death to the wife or her family. 

In the case of Sumunt Ojha v. State of Bihar (2009), there was no evidence that the husband made a demand or that he treated his wife cruelly or harassed her, whereas the only piece of evidence that has come on record is the statement made by the deceased woman’s brother, that a demand was made by the deceased woman’s father-in-law just four days prior to the occurrence, which is doubted for the reasons stated in the order.

If a dowry demand is made, it is assumed that the demand would be relayed to the person from whom the dowry is expected, i.e. the woman’s father or guardian. In this case, no such communication was made to the father, and even PW 11’s testimony does not reveal that his son conveyed the demand to him. It would also be assumed that after making a demand, the erring party would spend some time before taking any further action. It cannot be stated that the victim would be exposed to mistreatment by her in-laws because she made a demand four days before her death.

Therefore, the appellants were wrongfully convicted under the Indian Penal Code Section 304B. There must also be a conviction under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code to be convicted under Section 304B.

A similar observation was made in Nepal Singh v. State of Haryana (2009), the woman committed herself after the trial court acquitted her of charges that her husband and in-laws sought a large dowry. The High Court intervened in the verdict, and she committed suicide within seven years of their marriage. The deceased informed her parents about the dowry demand, otherwise, her in-laws would refuse to let her enter their house. The person who finalised the marriage never confirmed any dowry demand. There was never any money exchanged. There was no evidence of dowry demand, and the appellant’s father submitted a notification of his son’s death shortly after it occurred. Simply stating that something must have occurred that caused the dead to commit suicide is not a legitimate plea, and the conviction was overturned.

  1. It is also required by the plaintiffs to prove doubt beyond a reasonable level for the accused to be convicted. For instance, in the case of Raman Kumar v. State of Punjab (2009), the husband and mother-in-law were accused of pouring kerosene on themselves and being burned alive. The defence claimed it was an accident. The victim’s letter did not offer proof of the dowry demand and the husband was convicted based on an unproven charge. and the irrational order is rescinded Although no statements were made throughout the inquiry, the High Court’s decision was hazy and lacking in reasoning. The prosecution was unable to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The conviction was subsequently overturned.

Similarly, in the case of Kuljit Singh & Anr. v. The State of Punjab (2021), the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that the trial court had not referred to any specific instances where the appellant No.2, namely, the deceased’s mother-in-law, had been ascribed any specific role in making the demand and inflicting cruelty, except for making vague statements to the effect that the husband and in­laws of their daughter had made a demand for dowry and inflicted cruel treatment. According to the statement recorded under Section 313 of the Cr.PC, appellant No.2 (Raj Rani) denied any involvement and claimed that she was not there at the house when her daughter-in-law died. Though the existence of appellant No. 1 (Kuljit Singh) was proven, no mention was made of appellant No. 2 (Raj Rani). Apart from that, there is no particular proof that appellant No.2 made such demand or that she committed cruelty in response to such a demand.

Finally, the Hon’ble Supreme Court granted the appeal in part, holding that the aforesaid evidence is insufficient for a conviction under Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code, and acquitting accused no. 2. (Raj Rani).

  1. Furthermore, any individual whose marriage to such a husband or wife has been declared invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction is not guilty of bigamy. It would be appropriate to interpret the term “husband” to include a person who enters into a marital relationship and, under the guise of such proclaimed or feigned status of the husband, subjects the woman to cruelty or coerces her in any manner or for any of the purposes enumerated in the relevant provisions Section 304B/498A, regardless of the legitimacy of the marriage or the limited purpose of Sections 498A and 304B.

In a situation like this, an interpretation known and accepted as purposive construction must be used. The lack of a definition of “husband” to specifically include such persons who contract marriages only apparently and cohabit with such women, in the purported exercise of his role and status as a husband, is not sufficient to exclude them from the scope of Section 304B or 498A of the Indian Penal Code when considered in the context of the legislation enacting those provisions. This was held in Koppisetti Subbharao @ Subramaniam v. State of Andhra Pradesh (2009).

  1. The above-mentioned case had also formulated the concept that dowry has primarily to do with marriage. Dowry refers to a series of requests made in connection with a marriage. Only dowry will not be demanded if the legitimacy of the marriage is being investigated. This is not a dowry demand. Sections 498A and 113B are considered in terms of their scope.
  2. To show guilt and cruelty, the evidence must be produced by the plaintiffs to create a presumption of dowry death. If the same is not proved, the accused will be allowed to go scot-free since no claim under Section 304B gets formed. In the case of Hazarilal v. State of Madhya Pradesh (2007),  the appellant spouse was found to be financially supporting the deceased’s father, hence there was no need for a dowry claim. The High Court acquitted him, but found him guilty under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, stating that after giving birth to a child, she would not have considered suicide unless she was being hounded for dowry. The High Court found that there had to be a motive for the accused appellant’s suicide and convicted him. Hence, the conviction was set aside.
  3. The case of Kaushik Das v. the State of Tripura (2008) lays down another instance where the accused was allowed to be released. Because there were no direct eyewitnesses against the accused-appellant in this case, the question was whether the accused-appellant might be convicted under Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code given the aforementioned facts and circumstances. Section 113B of the Evidence Act, which allows for a presumption that the Court may draw in specific situations, has taken care of such a problem. To use Section 113B of the Evidence Act, when the question is whether a person has committed the death of a woman and it is shown that such woman was subjected to cruelty or harassment by such person shortly before her death for, or in connection with, any dowry demand, the Court shall presume that such person had mused the dowry death of his wife.

Dowry death has the same meaning in this provision as it does in Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code. This Section’s application is contingent on the occurrence of specified facts. First and foremost, it must be demonstrated that the woman was exposed to abuse or harassment by someone shortly before her death, for or in connection with any dowry demand. In light of the facts and circumstances of this case, as well as the evidence presented, the Court was not convinced that:

  • The Appellant’s wife died of a burn injury in unusual circumstances within seven years of her marriage, and
  • She was subjected to cruelty and harassment by her husband accused-appellant in connection with a dowry demand.

When suspicion emerges, the accusing finger might be directed at the individual who was present at the time and location of occurrence. Because the accused-appellant was present at the time of the accident, there is no valid assumption that he was responsible for it, implying that he committed the offence under Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code.

Even if the case is considered an accident or an instance of a woman’s unnatural death, the accused-appellant cannot be found guilty of the charge under Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code, and no presumption can be established against him under Section 113B of the Evidence Act. Hence, no case was made out against the accused.

  1. Earlier the accused could also make use of the ambiguity in the phrase ‘soon before death’, but post the Satbir Singh & Others v. the State of Haryana (2021) judgement this loophole has been removed by the Supreme Court. The phrase ‘soon before’ as used in Section 304B cannot be understood to mean ‘exactly before’, the judgement stated. 

Landmark cases on Section 304B IPC

Kamesh Panjiyar @ Kamlesh v. State of Bihar (2005)

In this case, the Supreme Court stated the key ingredients of dowry death (Section 304B, IPC) as follows:

  1. A woman’s death should be caused by burns, physical harm, or some other unusual event.
  2. She should have died during the first seven years of her marriage.
  3. Her husband or a relative of her husband must have treated her cruelly or harassed her.
  4. Such cruelty or harassment should be in response to or in conjunction with a dowry demand.
  5. It must be proven that the woman was subjected to such brutality or harassment shortly before her death.

Facts of the case

In this case, the appellant and the deceased, Jaikali Devi, married in 1988. A dowry of Rs 40000 was paid at the time of the wedding. The groom’s side desired a she-buffalo for her second Bidai. The requirement was not met. The dead had previously expressed her dissatisfaction with her spouse and other members of his family’s mistreatment and torture.

Sudhir Kumar Mahto, her brother, heard various rumours in the area about the deceased’s murder on November 28, 1989. (her sister). He then travelled to the appellant’s village with his father, brother, and uncle. Her sister’s (dead) body was on the verandah, and there was blood gushing out of her lips. There were also a few markings on her neck indicating violence.

During the Sessions Court hearing, it was noted that this was not a case of natural death. Her spouse was sentenced to 10 years in jail after the Court found him guilty under Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code. He subsequently took his case to the Supreme Court.

Judgement of the Court

The conviction was affirmed by the High Court. However, the sentence was reduced to seven years. He then took his case to the Supreme Court. According to the Supreme Court, a combined reading of Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act and Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code establishes that there must be some material or proof to prove that the victim was subjected to cruelty or harassment shortly before her death.

Reema Aggarwal v. Anupam (2004)

The legitimacy of dowry demand in an invalid marriage was addressed in this case. The Supreme Court ruled that the idea of dowry is tied to marriage, and therefore dowry death regulations only apply to married people. It was also noted that if the legitimacy of marriage is illegal in and of itself, the dowry demand in an illegitimate marriage would be legally unrecognisable.

This is a watershed moment in the understanding of the term “husband” under Sections 498A and 304B of the Indian Penal Code, 1908.

Facts of the case

On January 25, 1998, the petitioner and the respondent married. The petitioner was taken to the Tagore Hospital in Jalandhar on July 3, 1998, after forcefully consuming a deadly drug. The I.O. questioned the appellant to record her statement as follows:

  1. That she was harassed by her husband, mother-in-law, father-in-law, and brother-in-law (respondents nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4) for bringing insufficient dowry after her marriage to respondent no 1. She further revealed that both the petitioner and the respondent were in their second marriage.
  2. They forced her to ingest a dangerous acidic chemical to end her life, which caused her to vomit and pass out.

The police filed an FIR and charge sheet, following which charges were drafted under Sections 307 and 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The case was heard in front of the Hon’ble trial court. The learned trial court found the accused people not guilty and ruled in their favour. The State of Punjab then sought a leave to appeal against the accused’s acquittal before the division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. However, the request for leave to appeal was denied and the case was dismissed. The appellant filed a criminal revision petition in light of the dismissal, which was likewise dismissed. Hence, an application was filed with the Supreme Court of India.

Judgement of the Court

The Supreme Court’s view, in this case, was as follows: 

  1. The liberal method of interpretation is to be used in evaluating a husband and wife’s relationship in cases when societal evil is being addressed. On the other hand, when it comes to deciding civil rights amongst them, stringent interpretation should be used.
  2. It is critical to interpret the legislation realistically rather than pedantically. The goal of the legislation must be understood in order to read the language in context.
  3. The appellant filed a criminal revision petition in light of the dismissal, which was likewise dismissed. Thus, an application has been filed with the Supreme Court of India. Any individual who, as a declared husband, treats the woman with cruelty in respect to dowry under these sections is referred to as a “husband” under Section 498A or 304B of the IPC.
  4. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the High Court for a merits hearing, stating that the High Court’s dismissal of the grant of leave and criminal revision petition was unreasonable.

The Court went on to say that understanding the intent of any statute is critical.

For example, the main factor in committing Bigamy under Section 494 of the IPC is “marrying” again within the lifetime of the husband or wife, but the key ingredient under Section 498A is cruelty to the woman concerned. The focus is on “marrying” under Section 494 IPC as opposed to cruelty to a woman under Section 498A. Similarly, the focus of the Section 304B offence is “Dowry Death.” Each segment has a distinct thrust or crucial component depending on who is doing the crime. The language used in this Section can be interpreted to mean not just people who are legally married, but also those who have experienced some sort of marriage and hence appears to be the husband. The court decided that the presumption of extended cohabitation could not be used simply because the parties were unable to establish that they had undertaken the appropriate rituals to form a legitimate marriage.

Bachni Devi v. State of Haryana (2011)

This case examines the concept of dowry demand. The Supreme Court declared in this case that any demand for property or valued security that is in any way related to marriage constitutes dowry demand.

Facts of the case

In May 1990, Kanta Devi, the deceased, married the accused. The deceased’s mother-in-law (accused 1) went to her father’s house after two months of marriage and demanded a motorcycle because her son (accused 2) wanted to establish a house milk vending company. However, because the deceased’s father was destitute, he expressed his inability to meet the demand.

Following that, the deceased’s husband and mother-in-law began harassing her and warned her father that if he would not stop pestering her, he would be killed. Following that, the deceased’s husband and mother-in-law began tormenting her and told her father that unless he gave her a motorcycle, they would not allow Kanta Devi to live in the matrimonial home.

Five days before Rakshabandhan, the deceased’s husband took her to her father’s house, left her there, and returned to his house the same day.

The deceased notified her father about her husband’s and mother-in-law’s harassment and mistreatment. However, two days before Rakshabandhan, Kanta was abducted from her parent’s home by her husband, who said that his brother’s engagement had to be fulfilled. Her husband’s statement was completely false.

Other locals notified the deceased’s father that Kanta had died after around eight days (on August 12, 1990). When her father and some other people went to the house of accused 1 and 2, he discovered Kanta’s body lying in the room. And, because Kanta’s death looked to have occurred under unusual circumstances, the deceased’s father launched a lawsuit.

Judgement of the Court

Her mother-in-law and husband were found guilty of violating Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code by the Trial Court. They were sentenced to seven years in solitary confinement. When the High Court heard the appeal, it agreed with the Trial Court, and the case was dismissed.

The case was then taken to the Supreme Court for review. The Supreme Court ruled that any demand for property or significant security with a connection to marriage is a dowry demand. It makes no difference what the cause or rationale for such a demand is. The accused harassed the dead when her father refused to comply with the demand, according to the report. Therefore, dowry death is defined as harassment that causes the deceased to commit suicide.

Hence, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and accused 1 was given two months to surrender in order to serve her sentence in jail. In addition, the Court said that in dowry death cases, direct proof is not always necessary. Furthermore, the defence did not present any evidence to explain the deceased’s neck injuries. Therefore, the husband’s conviction under Section 304B was warranted.

Rajinder Singh v. State of Punjab (2015) 

The word “soon before death” was defined by the court in this case. In this case, the Punjab-Haryana High Court noted that time delays might vary depending on the circumstances. What is required, however, is that the dowry demand continues to be a source of death for the married woman.

Facts of the case

In 1990, the deceased Salwinder Kaur married the appellant Rajinder Singh. She died four months after her marriage after ingesting a pesticide (Aluminium Phosphide).

In court, the deceased’s father testified that her husband had wanted money for the house’s construction. And he couldn’t offer the money at the moment. He had, however, given his daughter a she-buffalo to go to her in-laws’ house. Her daughter was then mistreated again around 7-8 months later. He assured his accused son-in-law that he would pay the money when the crop was harvested.

Judgement of the Court

Karnail Singh (the deceased’s father) told the lawyer that his daughter (the deceased) had made no complaint within the first year of their marriage. After reviewing the evidence, the Trial Court found the appellant (the deceased’s spouse) guilty under Section 304B and sentenced him to seven years in jail.

The conviction was also maintained by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. According to the Court, what is to be seen are not days or months, but instead, it is important to remember that the word ‘soon’ does not indicate ‘instant.’ Hence, the appeal was dismissed.

Satbir Singh & others v. State of Haryana (2021)

In this case, the Supreme Court clarified the term ‘soon before’ and provided standards for trial courts to follow while recording the accused’s statement, therefore doing away with a major loophole in this Section. 

Facts of the case

On July 1, 1994, the accused (appellant no. 1) married the dead. After almost a year, on July 31, 1995, at 4:00 p.m., the deceased’s father received word that his daughter (dead) had been admitted to the hospital. When the father and son arrived at the hospital, they learned that his daughter had died from terrible injuries. According to the doctor, traces of kerosene were discovered on the corpse of the dead. Due to burn injuries, 85 percent of the body was harmed. According to the witnesses, the deceased was subjected to dowry harassment and brutality.

The trial court handed down its decision on December 11, 1997, finding the accused guilty of cruelty under Sections 304B and 306 of the Indian Penal Code. The defendants took their case to the High Court, but it was rejected on November 6, 2008. The Punjab and Haryana High Court affirmed the lower court’s decision to convict. It had to be determined whether the Trial Court and the High Court’s convictions of cruelty under Section 304B of the IPC were correct, and if the allegation of abetment of suicide under Section 306 of the IPC, under which the accused was imprisoned, was correct or not.

Judgement of the Court 

The Supreme Court held that the expression “soon before death” cannot imply “exactly before death.” The Bench went on to say that there must be a direct and ongoing relationship between the dowry death and the husband’s and his relatives’ cruelty or harassment. The Bench made the aforementioned findings while dismissing an appeal filed by an accused guilty of an offence under Section 304B who was appealing a previous judgement.

State of Bihar v. Nasruddin Mian @ Lallu (2021)

This case is a landmark for specifying how not to write judgement in dowry death cases. The Patna High Court laid down guidelines for courts on how a dowry death case may be analysed and adjudicated. 

Facts of the case

Abdul Jabbar, the dead Sanjeeda Khatoon’s father. Sanjeeda Khatoon, his 23-year-old daughter, was married to Nasruddin Mian @ Lallu @ Nasiruddin Ahmad on 10.08.2003, according to his report to the S.H.O. of Thawe Police Station. Although he donated clothes and accessories as a wedding present in his capacity, the accused individuals demanded a motorbike. However, his daughter’s ‘bidagari’ was conducted on the promise of a motorbike after a while. Nasruddin Ahmad, his Deyadin (sister-in-law) Salamu Nesha, and his father Maqsood Alam, he said, tortured the dead in exchange for a Hero Honda motorcycle as dowry. He claims that on the evening of March 20, 2007, he learned that the aforementioned accused people had killed his daughter on March 17, 2007, by poisoning her food in response to the non-fulfilment of a motorbike demand, and buried her body without alerting him or his family members.

Judgement of the Court

In-State of Bihar versus Nasruddin Mian, the High Court of Patna held that the Supreme Court has frequently concentrated on the same point, namely, that courts and judges must conduct a dispassionate review of evidence. And that courts and judges should not be motivated by the horror of the crime or the character of the offender when giving judgement.

The following statement was given by the High Court of Patna when the Bench was hearing an appeal against the conviction and sentencing orders issued on the 26th and 29th of March 2019. The husband and sister-in-law of the dead wife were sentenced to prison for dowry death by the Trial Court.

According to the High Court of Patna, there was no charge under Section 306 of the IPC once the charge was altered, and the Trial Court had no chance to record such findings under Section 306 of the IPC. The High Court of Patna further considered that legally acceptable evidence was not present because the prosecution had failed to establish the motive beyond a reasonable doubt that it was a case of murder, and the Trial Court had convicted the appellants under Section 302 of the IPC only on the ‘moral ground’ that the wife had died in her matrimonial home. Subsequently, on the 26th and 29th of March 2019, the judgments and sentences were overturned. It was also proposed that the appellants be freed.

arbitration

Difference between Section 304B IPC and Section 498A IPC

Sections 304B and 498A are not mutually exclusive and represent different levels of seriousness in related crimes. These rules deal with two separate offences, however, they frequently overlap. True, ‘cruelty’ is a shared element in both parts, but this must be demonstrated. Section 498A was introduced in 1983 in response to an increase in the number of incidents of dowry harassment and cruelty. After just three years in 1986, the legislature had to create a new provision, Section 304B, dealing with dowry. True, “cruelty” is a common factor in both Sections, and the prosecution must establish it. The definition of “cruelty” is given in the explanation of Section 498A. 

There is no similar clarification in Section 304B concerning the definition of “cruelty,” but given the common backdrop to these offences, the definition of “cruelty of harassment” will be the same as that specified in Section 498A, where “cruelty” by itself is an offence punishable. The “dowry death” is punished under Section 304B, and it must have transpired within seven years of the marriage. Section 498A makes no mention of such a period, and the husband or his family might be held guilty for “cruelty” to the woman at any point after the marriage.

Difference in elements

The following are the main requirements for 498A to be applicable: 

  1. The woman must be married,
  2. She must have been exposed to cruelty or harassment, and 
  3. The cruelty or harassment must have been perpetrated by the woman’s husband or a relative of her husband. 

The word ‘cruelty’ also covers ay wilful acts which are of such a nature as are likely to drive the woman to commit suicide, any ‘wilful’ conduct which is likely to cause grave injury to the woman, or any ‘wilful’ act which is likely to cause danger to life, limb or health whether physical or mental of the woman. Furthermore, the term ‘harassment’ is devoid of the phrase ‘cruelty,’ and it is penalised in the following situations:

  1. Where the harassment is aimed at coercing the woman or anyone associated with her to fulfil any unlawful demand for property or valued security,
  2. When the harassment is based on her or anyone associated with her failing to meet such demands. It is self-evident that not all acts of cruelty or harassment are criminally punishable under Section 498A. This legislation deals with four categories of cruelty consisting of circumstances of physical violence and infliction of damage likely to cause grave injury or risk to life, limb, or health,
  3. Harassment with the intent of compelling the woman or her relatives to provide some property, or 
  4. Harassment because the woman or her relatives are either unable to succumb to the demand for additional money or refuse to give some portion of the property.

These elements are comparatively different from those of Section 304B, which have already been listed above.

Judicial rulings on the issue 

In Shanti v. State of Haryana (1990), the Honourable Apex Court decided that Sections 304B and 498A are not mutually exclusive. Two different offences are identified and addressed. If a case is formed, a person who has been accused and acquitted under Section 304B can be convicted under Section 498A without the need for a charge to be framed. The Supreme Court has ruled that in order to convict someone accused of causing dowry death, the prosecution must present evidence proving that the dowry demand was accompanied by acts of harassment and cruelty. The prosecution must establish, besides the demand for dowry, harassment or cruelty committed by the accused to the dead soon before her death for the court to draw the inference that the accused caused the dowry death. In the ruling, Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya of the Supreme Court said In any instance, to declare an accused guilty of both the offences under Sections 304B (dowry death) and 498A (cruelty), IPC, the prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the deceased was subjected to cruelty or harassment by the accused. The Supreme Court stated that because the prosecution was unable to show this element of harassment or cruelty beyond a reasonable doubt, none of the crimes under Sections 498A and 304B, IPC has been made out by the prosecution. 

In the matter of Sunita Malik v. Inder Raj Malik (1986), a Delhi High Court opined that Section 498A of the IPC differs from Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act in that the latter punishes the mere demand of dowry without requiring the presence of an element of cruelty, whereas Section 498A of the IPC punishes an act of cruelty committed against a recently married woman.

In Satvir Singh and Ors v. State of Punjab and Anr (2001), the Supreme Court declared that in dowry death cases, the conditions of harassment and cruelty to the victim must be shown soon before her death. The phrase “soon before death” appears in Section 304B of the IPC and is associated with the concept of a proximity test. There is no indication of a time frame, and this expression is undefined. The courts will establish the period soon before based on the facts and circumstances of the case. Normally, the phrase ‘soon before’ would suggest that there should not be much time between the harassing or cruel behaviour and the deceased’s death. Based on the proof required under Section 304B, the court must assume that the accused was responsible for the dowry death. 

In the case of Atmaram v. State of Maharashtra (2013), a woman was intentionally harassed by her husband and his family. Clause (a) of Section 498A deals with exacerbated types of cruelty that inflict grave damage, according to the Supreme Court, and her husband was found guilty of cruelty. 

The court in Shobha Rani v. Madhukar Reddi (1987) defined cruelty and gave it a new meaning, cruelty when awarding a divorce to the woman on the basis of dowry demand. 

According to the explanation of Section 498A, any wilful act that is likely to push a woman to commit suicide is considered cruelty. Cruelty is defined as purposeful action that is likely to inflict serious injury or risk to a woman’s life, limb, or health (whether mental or physical). Harassment of a woman with the intent of forcing her or anybody associated with her to comply with any unlawful demand for property or valued security would also be considered cruelty. 

Analysis

The offence of dowry death, as defined in Section 304B of the IPC, does not fall into any of the categories for which the death sentence is provided under the Penal Code. Murder and dowry death is not the same thing. The death of a bride may come under both the categories of murder and dowry death, in which case, depending on the facts and circumstances of each case, a death sentence may be imposed for committing the offence of murder. The Indian Penal Code specifically mentions the punishment for Dowry Death. It is specified in Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code, where Subsection (2) states that Dowry Death is punishable by “imprison­ment for a term not less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.” It’s crucial to think about what would happen if both Sections 498A and 304B are changed. It would, in general, serve a two-fold purpose in reducing the threat of cruelty.

Current legal developments in Section 304B IPC

Gurmeet Singh v. State of Punjab (2021)

In this case, the latest appeal was filed against the High Court’s judgement dismissing the appellants’ appeal and upholding the High Court’s judgement of conviction under Section 304B IPC with a sentence of seven years’ imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 5000/-. The prosecution claimed that the complainant’s dead – daughter was engaged to the appellant in 2004. The complainant then travelled to Abu Dhabi, and the marriage between the appellant and the dead was solemnised during his absence. A kid was born out of wedlock in 2006, and when the complainant returned in 2007, the dead confessed that she had been brutally attacked for dowry by her in-laws and husband-appellant.

The complainant was said to have handed the appellant a gold chain before returning to India later in 2008. The appellants had made a demand for the vehicle, but it had not been met this time. The deceased drank poison and died on the same day in 2008, little more than a month after the appellant returned.

The Trial Court found the appellant, his father-in-law, and his mother-in-law guilty of violating Section 304B and sentenced them to seven years in jail and a fine of Rs.5000/- each. The High Court affirmed the Trial Court’s ruling, prompting the appellants to take their case to the Supreme Court.

After hearing both parties and reading Sections 304B IPC and 113B Evidence Act, as well as the recent judgement of Satbir Singh vs. the State of Haryana, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that all of the elements of Section 304B IPC were met, namely, the death occurred due to dowry demand within 7 years of marriage and the deceased was harassed by her husband and in-laws shortly before her death. As a result of Section 113B of the Evidence Act, there is a presumption of causation against the accused, and the accused-appellant must refute this statutory presumption.

The defence of the accused that the deceased and they were in a cordial relationship and the deceased even helped in the mother-in-law’s treatment of cancer was found to be forged by the trial court on a thorough examination of records and witnesses therefore the supreme court held, such a decision did not require interference. The supreme court further held that the defendants failed to prove their contention that the deceased was suffering from depression. Therefore, the appellant failed to make out a case for us to interfere in the concurrent opinions of the Courts below, convicting the accused-appellant under Section 304B, IPC.

The appellant further submitted that a conviction under Section 304B of the IPC cannot be upheld without a conviction under Section 498A of the IPC. Although cruelty is a common thread in both counts, the Supreme Court concluded that the components of each violation are unique and must be shown individually by the prosecution. If a case is proven, both parties can result in a conviction.

In conclusion, the court held that the High Court and Trial Court did not make any mistake in convicting the appellant under Section 304B, IPC since the appellant failed to fulfil the burden under Section 113B, Evidence Act.

Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana (2021)

This case has been a landmark verdict and its facts and judgements have been discussed above. In a nutshell, the following were the major directions given by the Supreme Court in this matter:

  1. “Soon Before”- the phrase does not imply ‘immediately before’ under Section 304B of the IPC.

The phrase ‘soon before’ in Section 304B I.P.C. cannot be understood to indicate ‘exactly before,’ according to the Court. The Court found that the facts of cruelty or harassment vary from case to case and that ther.e is no one-size-fits-all methodology for defining the word “soon before” and what falls under it. 

  1. Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872 establishes a presumption

A presumption of causation against the accused arises under Section 113B of the Evidence Act when the prosecution proves that “immediately before the death of the woman she was exposed to cruelty or harassment by such person for or in connection with any demand for dowry.” Following that, the accused must refute the statutory presumption.

  1. Other guidelines are provided by the Court Trial courts when interpreting Section 304B I.P.C. 
  • The legislature seeks to minimise the social evil of bride burning and dowry demand by including this Section.
  • The application of rebuttable presumption under Section 113B places a larger burden on judges, defence attorneys, and prosecutors. In the instance of dowry death, judges must use special caution while conducting criminal cases.
  • Courts should not record the accused’s statements under Section 313 Cr.P.C. in a casual or superficial way. The accused’s examination under this clause cannot be viewed as a formality, and the judge should ask the accused meaningful questions about his defence. The audi alteram partem concept is included in this rule, which allows the accused to explain the incriminatory evidence brought against him. Therefore, the court has a responsibility to interrogate him fairly, cautiously, and carefully.
  • The court must provide the accused with incriminating circumstances and demand an explanation from him.
  • The accused’s lawyer should also prepare his defence carefully, taking into account 
  • According to Section 232 of the Criminal Procedure Code, if the judge determines that there is no proof that the accused committed the crime after obtaining evidence, questioning the accused, and hearing the prosecution and defence, the court may order the accused’s acquittal. 
  • The Courts must use this discretion as a best-efforts responsibility. If the offender is not acquitted under Section 232 Cr.P.C., the court will schedule hearings for “defence evidence.” The accused will be required to present his evidence in accordance with the method outlined in Section 233 of the Criminal Procedure Code. This is a crucial right that the accused has.
  • Other crucial factors, such as the right to a timely trial, must be weighed as well. The Supreme Court issued a warning to the trial courts. The Court admonished the trial courts not to allow the aforesaid provisions to be utilised as a delay tactic.
  • When sentencing and inflicting appropriate punishment, this Court’s guidelines must be observed.
  • In circumstances where family members who had no active participation in the conduct of the crime and who live in different locations are wrongly implicated, the courts must exercise caution.

Devender Singh & Ors. v. State of Uttarakhand (2022) 

While restoring the conviction and sentence of a man and his father in this dowry death case, the Supreme Court held that seeking money for the construction of a house constitutes a “dowry demand” that is punishable under Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code. Section 304B was put into the IPC to address the social evil of dowry demand, which has reached worrisome proportions, according to a bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana and composed of Justices A S Bopanna and Hima Kohli.

It cannot be maintained that if the wording employed in the clause is ambiguous, it should be interpreted rigidly since it would negate the purpose of the rule, it stated. They claimed that, in light of the clause (Dowry Act) that defines the term “dowry” and includes any sort of property or valuable security, the High Court made a mistake by ruling that a demand for money for a home building cannot be considered a dowry demand.

The Supreme Court ruled that interpreting a statute in a way that contradicts the legislature’s meaning should be avoided in favour of interpreting it in a way that advances the goal of the legislation, which is to eliminate social evils like dowry demand. In this context, the term ‘dowry’ should be given a broad definition to include any demand made on a woman, whether concerning a property or valued security of any kind. It was said that any strict interpretation would tend to negate the true purpose of the provision.

The Supreme Court was hearing an appeal filed by the Madhya Pradesh State Government against a High Court decision that overturned a man’s conviction and sentence for committing suicide at his wife’s matrimonial home under Sections 304B (dowry death) and 306 (abetment to suicide) of the Indian Penal Code. The Supreme Court stated that, after considering the evidence presented by the prosecution, it has no difficulty in concluding that the trial court’s analysis was sound and that the respondents deserved to be convicted under Sections 304B and 498A of the Indian Penal Code.

Conclusion 

In today’s culture, dowry is both a source of joy and a source of a curse. It also brings satisfaction to the husband and his relatives, who receive cash, expensive clothing and kitchenware, furniture, and bedding materials, among other things.

However, it is a burden for the bride’s parents, who must incur significant expenses to meet the bridegroom’s party’s outrageous expectations. Even after marriage, dowry expectations do not go away. In certain cases, the bride’s in-laws are willing to subject the bride to harassment, insults, and mental and physical torment.

When the bride’s parents are put under additional pressure, their precious daughter frequently has no choice but to commit suicide in order to prevent more insult and torment at the hands of her husband’s family. Furthermore, when brides are burned to death, the evidence is generally destroyed in the flames. Both recent and historical judicial precedents act as a beacon of hope in tackling this menace effectively, yet it is essential that the implementation of these provisions must be performed as dedicatedly as expected. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

  1. What are the legal provisions in India for the crimes related to dowry in India?

Section 304B (dowry deaths) and 498A (cruelty) of the Indian Penal Code,1860 as well as the specific legislation of Domestic Violence Act, 2005 may be made applicable in cases of dowry crimes. 

  1. What are the essential elements for dowry death under Section 304B?

The essential elements to prove dowry death are listed as follows:

  1. Under normal conditions, a woman’s death should not be caused by burns or bodily harm.
  2. Within seven years of her marriage, she should have died.
  3. Her spouse or any of her husband’s relatives must have treated her cruelly or harassed her.
  4. Any demand for dowry should be accompanied by or accompanied by such brutality or harassment.
  5. Such brutal treatment or harassment should have occurred prior to her death.
  6. If a woman dies as a result of the circumstances described above, the husband and his relatives will be believed to have caused a dowry death and will be held accountable for the offences until they can be proven differently.
  7. What is the nature of the offence of dowry death?

The offence under Section 304B is cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and subject to trial by Sessions Court.

  1. What are the penal repercussions for convicts of dowry death?

Anyone who commits dowry death is punishable under Section 304B (2) of the IPC with a term of imprisonment of not less than 7 years, which may extend up to life imprisonment.

  1. What is the provision for evidence in cases of dowry deaths?

When the inquiry is whether a person has committed the dowry death of a woman and it is established that such woman was exposed to cruelty or harassment by such person shortly before her death for, or in connection with, any dowry demand. The court will assume that this individual was responsible for the dowry death, and the burden of proof to prove themselves innocent shifts to the accused.

References


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