From Advocatespedia, The Law Encyclopedia
(1) death of a woman is either by burns or by bodily injury or otherwise than under normal circumstances;
(2) it should be within seven years of marriage;
(3) it should also be shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by husband or any relative of husband;
(4) such harassment or cruelty should pertain to demand for dowry.
India is a land of traditions and cultures followed across its length and breadth. It comprises of many traditions accepted and practiced widely. One such is that of dowry deaths. Numerous legal provisions have been set up for curbing this problem yet it is being practiced openly. Dowry deaths or as popularly known as bride burning has become extensively common in many parts of the country and unfortunately accepted by persons who have no interest in changing the state of affairs. Fortunately increasing demands by feminists and demand for women empowerment as a matter of right have led to various amendments of provisions in the criminal law on the country in order to achieve the goal of curbing the problem of dowry deaths.Over the years many legislative steps have been initiated towards bringing equality and fair treatment towards women. These legal provisions have helped families of the victims to get justice and find comfort in the arms of law. Married women have suffered and continue to suffer even to this date by being tortured by their husband and his family members. Due to such provisions culprits can no longer hide behind obsolete traditions which violate right to live of a person, e.g. wife. Although such provisions have their cons as well since sometimes cunning women use such tactics to frame their in-laws and husband for petty fights and conflicts. Thankfully our Indian legal system is strong enough to differentiate frivolous cases from those of genuine nature and would continue to do so in the future as well.The Indian Penal Code (IPC) was amended specifically to deal with dowry-related violence, cruelty and dowry deaths in 1983. Section 498A IPC penalizes harassment (or any kind) of a woman by her marital family. Unnatural death of a woman within seven years of marriage attracts penal provisions of section 304B IPC. This section defines dowry death as the unnatural death of a woman following harassment or cruelty by her husband or his relatives in connection with a demand for dowry. In cases where a woman commits suicide, as a result of harassment (not related to dowry) from her husband or his relatives, section 306 IPC addresses abetment of suicide. If it is a dowry-related suicide both sections 304B and 306 are applicable.Section 498-A IPC has paved the way for cruelty/domestic violence to be recognised as a criminal offence. Prior to insertion of Section 498-A IPC, cruelty was only a ground for divorce as a matrimonial wrong, leaving women vulnerable. Another important provision that impresses me is Section 304-B IPC which for the first time recognised dowry death as a specific crime. It further condemned dowry death as a social evil by its enactment. Insertion of this provision by the legislature has proved to be a boon to its women citizens. Section 113-B of the Evidence Act, by shifting the onus on the accused in dowry death cases, is a very important tool in aid of penalising dowry deaths. Today, the social evil of dowry death has been put into perspective. Although I honestly feel that the Indian legal system has come a long way from where it had started, yet there is much more to achieve. Unfortunately in cases related to dowry deaths, sometimes there are mala fide and frivolous cases made by the victim’s family. In such instances the whole family of the husband is put behind bars even when they are not a part of it. I am aware that it is tough to make provisions to make sure that the entire family or innocent members of the family are not unnecessarily punished for acts not done by them. But, I think, judicial jurisprudence has developed ensuring some protection for the innocent. There are loopholes in all systems and India is not immune to it. However, these laws serve an important social function and misuse, if any, should be dealt with by appropriate measures, not undermining its inherent need. Therefore, I as a citizen of India overall feel the need for the existing legal provisions and hope for further advancement to curb this menace. With progressive legislation, judicial progressive interpretations and social awareness, the time will come soon when such evils will be history.
1. Kuldip Singh And Anr. vs State Of PunjabII (2004) DMC 628
2. Chain Singh Dhakad vs Hargovind And Ors. 1991 CriLJ 33
3. Khimiben vs State Of Gujarat And Anr.1992 CriLJ 1994
4. Balkrishna Pandurang Moghe vs The State Of Maharashtra And Anr.1998 CriLJ 4496
5. Sunil Kumar Sharma vs State139 (2007) DLT 407
6. Rameshwar Das Vs. State of Punjab 2008 Cri. L. J. 14000 SC