From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Dowry deaths in India
Dowry death can be presumed if the wife was harassed, mentally and physically close before her death in the marital home, the Supreme Court has held.
Section 304B, IPC
- A Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana was interpreting Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code (dowry death).
- The provision mandates that the death of a married woman could be linked to the crime if she had been harassed for dowry “soon before her death”.
What is the recent judgment?
Ans. Bridges the gap between extreme Harassment and Death
- The cruelty has to be proved during the close proximity of time of death. It should be continuous.
- Such continuous harassment, physical or mental, by the accused should make life of the deceased miserable which may force her to commit suicide, ruled Justice Hima Kohli.
- The court said the expression “soon before her death” would normally imply that the interval should not be much between the cruelty or harassment concerned and the death in question.
- In other words, there exists a proximate and live link between the effect of cruelty based on dowry demand and the death concerned.
- Frequent incidents of cruelty disturb the mental equilibrium of the women concerned, ruled the court.
- However, the presumption of dowry death was also rebuttable, observed the court.
Dowry System : A Backgrounder
- The dowry system in India incorporates payments in the form of capital, durable goods, real estate among others, made to the bridegroom from the family of the bride as a condition for marriage.
- The abuse for the demand for dowry can be in the form of verbal and the most serious can take the shape of death of the victim or dowry death.
Dowry Deaths in India
- Dowry deaths are deaths of married women who are murdered or driven to suicide by continuous harassment and torture by their husbands and in-laws.
- This is mainly over the demand of dowry, making the women’s homes the most dangerous place for them to be.
What numbers reveal?
- In 2020, reported dowry death cases in India amounted to nearly seven thousand.
- This was a gradual decrease from the 2014, in which this number was approximately 8.5 thousand.
Why is dowry so much prevalent?
- Bride pricing: There exists a system of “bride price”, whereby the family of the groom had to give some gifts to the family of the women before marriage.
- Property inheritance: Until its amendment in 2005, the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 was biased towards the male next of kin when it came to property inheritance. The amendment stated that women had the right to their parents’ property irrespective of being married.
- Financial dependency: In practice, the inheritance of the woman is socially imparted to her as dowry in marriage leading to financial dependence on the husband or the in-laws.
Factors contributing to its continuance
- Traditions and historicity: It has been a preconceived notion of the people that the dowry system has been existing since centuries back and it is quintessential to be followed by the two families.
- Social status associated with Dowry: It is a belief among people that dowry giving or receiving gives a lot of merit in reputation and honor within the society.
- Illiteracy: Although dowry is something that is even practiced by the literates of our society, it becomes a lot difficult to make them understand the laws.
- Bridegroom coercion: The demand for the well-earned bridegroom in prestigious workplaces often encourages brides families to pay hefty dowries leading to the continuance of such evil customs.
Legal measures against dowry
- Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973: Dowry death is a non-bailable offence and the person cannot be acquitted without court’s order.
- Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961: It was passed by the government which prohibits the giving or taking of dowry in India.
Dysfunctions created by the Dowry system
- Defamation: There have been many instances where these laws have been used to defame or slander one’s name.
- Fights for property inheritance: This go ugly when the girl involves into interfaith marriage. This often leads to honor killing.
- The dignity, modesty and safety of women must be prioritized by all. Abusing them just for dowry or any other financial favour is a shameful act in itself.
- To prevent such heinous crimes stringent provisions and measures need to be undertaken by the government.