By Nishtha Dwivedi
India is a country of different cultures and traditions in which the dowry has been followed from time immemorial. Dowry is a tradition in India in terms of durable goods, cash and movable and real property that the bride’s family gives to the broom or his family or his relatives as a condition of the marriage. It is referred to as “Dahez” in Arabic language and in eastern parts of India it is known as “Aaunnpot”.
The Dowry Prohibition ACT, 1961 was enacted by the parliament of India in the twelfth year of the republic of India which prohibits the giving and taking of dowry. There are other laws regarding the dowry deaths and imposes a ban on it. Section 304B and section 498-A of Indian Penal code, 1860 deals with the cases of dowry death. Section 113B of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 states about the presumption as to dowry death.
- In the year 2019 there were more than 7.1 thousand dowry death cases that were registered under section 304B of IPC.
- It amounted for 40% to 50% homicides in the country for almost a decade from 1999 to 2018.
DOWRY DEATH ( SECTION 304B OF IPC, 1860)
Section 304B states that where a women dies under 7 years of her marriage due to any bodily injury or burns or otherwise under normal circumstances and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or his family or any other relative, in connection with any demand for dowry, such death shall be called as “dowry death” and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death. For the purpose of this sub-section dowry shall have the same meaning as defined under dowry prohibition act 1961 (28 of 1961).
Whoever commits the offence of dowry death shall be punished with the imprisonment for the term not less than 7 years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.
In Tummala Venkateswar Rao v/s State of Andhra Pradesh 2014, the hon’ble Supreme Court said that the words ‘soon before her death’ in section 304B does not mean immediately before her death.
CRUELTY: SECTION 498A OF IPC
If a husband or his relative causes mental or physical harm to a woman then they will be liable under this section. The punishment for which is 3 years imprisonment and shall also be liable to fine.
PRESUMPTION AS TO DOWRY DEATH
Section 113B of Indian evidence act, 1872 states about the presumption as to dowry death. If a woman dies under 7 years of her marriage due to the demand for dowry by her husband or any other relative and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to harassment or cruelty by any person. The court will assume such person responsible for her death.
INADEQUACY IN THE EXISTING LAW
There is a great inadequacy in the dowry law as the law provides a 7 years punishment that may extend to life imprisonment and it is silent on the capital punishment/death punishment.
The question has been raised to amend section 304B of IPC, 1860 and more stringent punishment should be provided in order to curb the menace of dowry death.
This question was raised in the matter of Nathu vs State of Uttar Pradesh (Criminal bail application no. 12466 of 2002). Wherein Katju J.( as he then was) observed that dowry death is a serious offence and it is much worse than murder but surprisingly death penalty is provided in cases of murder and not in dowry deaths. So the time has come to amend the existing law and to provide death punishment in cases of burns and dowry deaths. As there are many laws on dowry deaths but still the rate of harassment against women/ cruelty against women to get more dowry from her parents are still increasing in number. From the past many years there is not much decline in dowry death cases. Thus, this gives rise to demands for capital punishment/death punishment for the offence of dowry death in order to imbibe necessary deterrence in the law.