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Dowry Death - A vicious act for the women in India


Authored By : Ankita Roy


Keywords:

Dowry Death; Indian Scenario; Victims; Laws;


Abstract:

Dowry Death has been a compelling issue for years in India. Dowry death is the unnatural death of a young married woman for the extortion of dowry. Women have been the victim of such evil practices for years. Protection of women from such horrid act is the responsibility of the government. In past years government enacted laws for the eradication of dowry system and its repercussions. The Dowry Prohibition Act,1961has faced several challenges since its commencement. Prohibition of dowry is not the only measure, to deal with such evil practice Sec. 304B, Sec. 498A and Sec. 113B were incorporated in the Indian Penal Laws. This article is delved with the harsh reality of dowry system and impediments in its eradication in Indian society.


Introduction:

Marriage being a social institution is supposed to be a safe space for every woman. Imbibing her trust in marriage and her husband, a woman enters into a new phase of her life with numerous expectations, one of them being protection from all evils. In India, it’s believed that marriage lays a new relations between two families. A woman accepts the other family as her own and endows all her faith in them believing in all the promises made at the ceremony. Despite all these promises, the belief and trust in such relationship comes to an end with the demand of dowry by the husband and his family.

Indian society has always considered daughters as a liability and as the consequence it is believed to be a tradition. Dowry is transfer of property, jeweler, cash and gifts demanded by the groom and his family in case of a daughter’s marriage. The custom of dowry is deep-rooted in our society and has become a social menace. It has become a financial burden on the bride’s family. It is no more a burden rather an exploitation and torture for the bride and her family. The torment has escalated to a level where either the brides commit suicide or they are burned to death. Such deaths caused due to extortion of dowry from bride or bride’s family is dowry death. It is a compelling issue and has been a challenge for the society, moral value ad law-makers.

Despite all the enactments and amendments brought in the Indian Criminal law, even today it is a challenge curb this crime. Though great powers have been vested, they are not effectively enforced. 7634 brides were burned to death in India in 2015 due to dowry disputes. This approximates to one bride being burned every hour. 30.6% of total cases of dowry deaths were reported in Uttar Pradesh (2335 cases) and Bihar (1154 cases). There is a criticism of these laws due to their poor implementation and misuse of the vested powers.


Enactments:

The Dowry Prohibition Act,1961:

This act is a remedial and penal statute. Though this act lays certain preventive and punitive laws yet the objectives have not been achieved. The failure of this enactment is its flaws along with poor implementation. The vague definition of dowry weakens the law as it states that unless the cash is the consideration for marriage it is not dowry. Sec.3 of the act makes the act of dowry punishable for taker along with giver. The lack of enforcement of the provisions and necessary help to the dowry victims to prosecute their cases is the vital reasons of its failure.

Indian Penal Code,1860:

Sec.304B of IPC deals with dowry death. This section makes the offence punishable for not less than 7 years an extended to imprisonment for life. The apex court in Pawan Kumar v. State of Haryana laid the necessary ingredient for this section:

a) death of a woman either by burns or bodily injury or otherwise than under normal circumstances.

b) Within seven years of marriage

c) It should be shown that soon before her death , she was subjected to cruelty by husband or any relative of husband.

d) such cruelty or harassment should be for dowry.

Sec.498A deals with husband or relative of husband of the woman subjected to cruelty. This section makes the offence punishable to an extent of 3 years and fine. The cruelty which drives the woman to commit suicide or serious injury or threat to her life or health could be mental and physical.

Sec.306 states that if husband or his relatives create a situation which abets a woman to commit suicide within seven years of her marriage, it falls within the ambit of sec.306.

Code of Criminal Procedure,1973:

Sec.174 and Sec.176 deals with investigation and inquiries relate to the unnatural death cases by Police and Magistrates respectively. The amendment,1983 has made the post-mortem of the body of the woman occurred within 7 year of marriage due to suicide or any dubious manner mandatory. Also, empowers executive magistrate to conduct inquiry into the death of a woman under similar circumstances.

Indian Evidence Act,1872:

Sec.113(b) deals with provisions as to dowry death in case of death of a woman and that woman soon before her death has been subjected to cruelty or harassment or in demand of dowry by the accused.


Impediments in the implementation:

As we know that there are certain faults in the implementation of the enactments: social aspect, police and law enforcement and the judiciary.

Our society plays a vital role in the implementation of laws. Society refrain from supporting in the cases of dowry deaths. There are no witnesses of the transaction or of the cruelty, even though people have witnessed such practices they choose silence.

Police is considered as the shield for general masses but in reality in such cases they are accused of arriving late at the crime scene, leisurely-fashioned investigation, improper FIRs and case diaries, it was supported by the Apex court in Bhagwant Singh v. Commr. Of Police Delhi. The poor investigation by police obstructs the examination by the Forensics team.

Judiciary has always expressed anguish and concern regarding such cases but nothing is perfect. In a case it was said that no one on behalf of the harassed victim cannot file report. Though apex court is concerned about culprits being released it does not allow the State to approach in appeal.


Conclusion:

Dowry death is a social curse that has to be attacked by organized approach from the officials, judiciary, women organizations and police awarding them punishment based on the nature of the case. Our society needs to understand the gravity of this crime and should stand against it instead of supporting it with silence. The educational status and easy job opportunities for women can lay helping hand in curbing the death rates. Thus, a rational and practical approach will be certainly helpful.


Endnotes:

[1] Monika Soni, Dowry and Dowry Death,(Aug 6th,2020, 22:00pm), http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-1245-dowry-and-dowry-death.html;

[2] National Crime Records Bureau, Crime in India 2015: Compendium, (Aug 5th,2020, 22:45pm), https://ncrb.gov.in/sites/default/files/crime_in_india_table_additional_table_chapter_reports/Chapter%205-15.11.16_2015.pdf;

[3] National Crime Records Bureau, Crime in India 2015: Compendium, (Aug 5th,2020, 22:45pm), https://ncrb.gov.in/sites/default/files/crime_in_india_table_additional_table_chapter_reports/Chapter%205-15.11.16_2015.pdf;

[4] Dowry Deaths- Practiced by Traditions, Forbidden by Law, (Aug. 5th,2020, 23:45pm), https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/tag/dowry-deaths/;

[5] (1998) 3 SCC 309;

[6] Pragnesh Parmar, Dowry Death and Law Indian Scenario, IAIM, 2014; 1(2): 44-49,(Aug 6th,2020, 20:35pm),https://iaimjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/6-dowry-death-and-law-indian-scenario.pdf;

[7] Nilanjana Ganguly, Dowry Cruelty and Dowry Death,(Aug 6th,2020, 07:25am), https://www.soolegal.com/roar/dowry-cruelty-and-dowry-death;

[8] Id;

[9] Shashwat Pratyush, Dowry Deaths in India- A legal Study, (Aug 5th,2020, 19:45pm), https://blog.ipleaders.in/dowry-deaths-india-legal-study/#_ftn14;

[10] (1983) 3 SCC 344;

[11] Samunder Singh v. State of Rajasthan; (1987) 1 SCC 466;

[12] Virbhan Singh v. State of UP; (1983) 4 SCC 197;