This article has been written by Ms. Leezer Kaur, a 3rd-year student at the Army Institute of Law, Mohali.
‘Dowry’ refers to the amount of money or any property which is given by the bride’s family to the groom’s family on the solemnization of their marriage. The concept finds its roots in the ancient Indian culture as it was given as a gift, but this concept is turning into a social evil in today’s materialistic society. It is resulting in an economic burden on the bride’s family and dowry deaths. Dowry deaths are the deaths resulting from the violence inflicted upon the brides for the demand of dowry. The government of India enacted The Dowry Prohibition Act, of 1961 to specifically deal with the issue. Also, several provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 as Sections 304B and 498A provide for provisions related to dowry and punishment for dowry deaths.
- SECTION 304B OF THE INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860
It provides that where the death of a woman is caused within seven years of her marriage and it can be proved that she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband and her husband’s family in connection to any demand for dowry, such death shall be deemed to be dowry death. It also lays down that the person who commits dowry death shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than seven years which may extend up to life imprisonment. It considers it to be a non-bailable and cognizable offense. The following essentials are to be fulfilled for the application of this provision:
- The woman must have been subject to burns or bodily injury which resulted in her death.
- The death must have occurred within seven years of marriage.
- The woman must have been subjected to cruelty by her husband or his family members.
- The reason for the cruelty must have been the demand for dowry.
In the case of State of Punjab v. Iqbal Singh, the court observed that the period of seven years is given under the act as it is believed that after that, the couple would have settled down in their life.
In the case of Mustafa Shahadal Sheikh v. State of Maharashtra, the court observed that if the cruelty caused was too remote to cause death then the person cannot be held liable for dowry death and no cause of action could arise.
- SECTION 498A OF THE INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860:
It provides for imprisonment of up to three years or a fine or both, to the husband or his relatives responsible for subjecting a woman to cruelty. The word ‘cruelty’ here refers to:
- Any willful conduct that is likely to induce the woman to commit suicide.
- Harassment to coerce her to meet any illegal demand of dowry.
For the application of this provision, the following essentials have to be fulfilled:
- A woman must be legally married.
- She must be made subject to cruelty or harassment
- It must be concerning any unlawful demand of dowry.
In the case of Niraj Trivedi v. State of Bihar, the court observed that for application of Section 498A of the IPC, there must be the commission of a crime.
- SECTION 113A OF THE INDIAN EVIDENCE ACT, 1872
It provides that if a woman within seven years of her marriage commits suicide and it is established by the prosecution that she was subjected to cruelty by her husband and his relatives concerning the illegal demand of dowry then the opposite party shall be presumed guilty for abetment of suicide.
- DOWRY PROHIBITION ACT, 1961
Section 2 of the act defines ‘dowry’ as any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given, directly or indirectly by one party to the marriage or the parent of that person to the other party to the marriage. Section 3 of the act considers giving and taking of dowry as an offense. Section 4 provides for a punishment of imprisonment of not less than five years or a fine for giving and taking dowry.
In the case of Pandurang Shivram Kawathkar v. State of Maharashtra, the court held that mere demand for dowry will constitute an offense punishable under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
In the case of Rajeev v. Ram Kishan Jaiswal, the court held that if any property is given by the parents of the bride in consideration of marriage then that will constitute dowry.
- PROTECTION OF WOMEN FROM DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT, 2005
This act protects women who are subjected to domestic violence in their matrimonial homes. It also provides woman protection against illegal demands of dowry by their husband or family members and any kind of harassment or cruelty resulting from it.
MISUSE OF THE PROVISIONS BY WOMEN
It has been seen that the legislation and provisions which were made to protect women from the social evil of dowry and resulting harassment are being misused by them to defame and harass their husbands and their family members.
In the case of Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar, the court observed that Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 which was a provision introduced to provide a shield to women against the social evil of dowry, is now used as a sword against her husband and his family members.
In the case of Shiv Ram v. State of Delhi, the court observed that the death of the woman was due to some accidental burning but the prosecution was trying to befool the court by establishing it to be a dowry death under Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
In the case of Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand, the court observed that there was a need to reconsider and amend Section 498 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 because a large number of complaints were being filed based on exaggerated stories about the actual incidents.
LAW COMMISSION’S RECOMMENDATIONS
The Law Commission of India in its 243rd Report made the following recommendations to minimize the misuse of Section 498 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860:
- The power to arrest must not be used in the first instance. The police must first try to resolve the case by other methods like counseling or ADR mechanisms.
- The power to arrest without a warrant must not be used unless there are exceptional circumstances.
- The condition of the deposit of the passport for release on bail by the court should not be made as it is excessive punishment.
Dowry is a social evil that makes women suffer harassment and cruelty and can sometimes, even result in their death. It is punishable under Sections 304B and 498A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The Dowry Prohibition Act, of 1961 is legislation that specifically deals with this issue. It provides that giving and taking of dowry constitutes an offense and it also provides for the punishment. Other legal provisions like Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 also protect women against the social evil of dowry. However, it has been observed these provisions related to dowry are being misused by several women for their benefits and to defame their husband and their families.
- State of Punjab v. Iqbal Singh.
- Mustafa Shahadal Sheikh v. State of Maharashtra.
- Niraj Trivedi v. State of Bihar.
- Pandurang Shivram Kawathkar v. State of Maharashtra.
- Rajeev v. Ram Kishan Jaiswal.
- Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar.
- Shiv Ram v. State of Delhi.
- Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand.
Law students often face problems, which they cannot share with their friends and families. We have started a column on our website Student’s Corner. In this column we are talking to several law students about the challenges that they face. Students who are interested in participating in the same, can fill this Google Form.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING IN THE SAME, DO LET ME KNOW.
The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.
If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems to email@example.com
Join our Whatsapp Group for latest Job Opening