This article is written by Srishti Sharma, a Third Year B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) Student at Ideal Institute of Management and Technology (Affiliated to Guru Gobind Singh Indrapastha University), Delhi.
Dowry Deaths are death of married women who are murdered or driven to suicide by continuous harassment and torture by their husband and in-law over a dispute about dowry. India has an alarming trend that sees women dying every day as a result of harassment over dowry. The Dowry system was abolished in 1961 in India, but it still prevails in India. According to THE NEW INDIA ECONOMY in the beginning of 2020 the state Bengaluru also known a Silicon Valley of India has reported 17 cases of abuse and death of women.
This activity is not restricted to rural areas only but is spread to the whole country whether rural or urban city life, all are trapped in this heinous crime. We cannot blame the particular sect of the society for this even the educated group of society was also indulged in this crime.
In 1956, both boys and girls were given equal rights in the family by Hindu Succession Act,1956. But then also family rightfully abundant or abuse the woman for dowry.it is very shameful that when any woman was unable to give dowry demanded by Husband or his family then she needs to face violation, harassment and finally give off her life.
Dowry Death 1961 A new offence known as Dowry Death was inserted in the Indian Penal Code by virtue of Section 304 B. the provisions under section 304 B are more stringent than provided under section 498 A of Indian Penal Code.
The act was not just a few years back but it is deep rooted cultural practices which are exercised from decades. Marriage under Hindu Marriage Act is a sacramental bond where not only two souls bind alongside two families also unites. Where the father gave his daughter’s hand in the hand of the groom and made an implied promise that the groom will take care of his daughter like a princess. But was unaware of the fact that one day that man will take away his daughter’s life just for the greed of wealth. There is however, one custom that stubbornly resists change: The Dowry System.
It has roots in Medieval times when a gift in cash or kind was given to a bride by her family to maintain her independence after marriage. During the colonial period, it became the only legal way to get married, with the British making practice of dowry mandatory. The trend in present India, with its booming economy, leads to the increase in bride prices which causes more violence against women.
WHY THE DOWRY SYSTEM STILL PREVAILS IN INDIA
We exist in the 21st century which is termed as the advanced century and the dowry system was prohibited in 1961 in India. But still we receive the news of violation because the woman leads to her death because of the custom prevailing in Patriarchal society which gives more emphasis to man over woman. This is the unofficial price the boy worth and that worth was measured by the dowry his bride gets in marriage. The strong bond of gender inequality prevailing in society makes bride parents obliged to the dowry which is asked by the groom’s parents.
One major question arises why did parents give dowry (Dahej) to their daughters. A woman’s marriage is of the paramount importance in Indian families. The parents gave their daughter all luxury items by going beyond their pocket just to secure her married life. Because at the end parents think that whatever they are gifting to their daughter/girl will be helpful to her in the near future. But they were unaware of the fact that one day that dowry will take her life. This system is still prevailing in society because it has deeply rooted traditional culture which is so natural and unchangeable.
There are certain social factors also which make parents obligated to meet the demand of the groom’s family. If they forbid to give dowry, then it may lead to the refusal of the marriage and society will start making mockery of females. Instead of bearing this stigma they stand for this act. So, the groom’s family got a permit to do anything in the name of dowry and eventually this increased one more case of dowry death.
The National Crime Bureau of India, as recently as 2017, recorded nearly 7000 dowry linked deaths. Dowry deaths rose from about 19 per day in 2001 to 21 per day in 2016. And we are yet talking about reported dowry deaths here. There are many that go unreported. Taking or giving dowry has been criminalized by law as early as 1961.
CAUSE OF DOWRY
There are many causes which promote the activity of dowry. Some of them are economic and social factor
When parents go beyond their savings to do everything for their daughter in her marriage just to satisfy the groom and his family so that their girl should live peacefully in her married life. But soon after marriage husbands start demanding more luxury items including technical goods, latest model vehicles, etc. but due to paucity of money they can’t fulfil it. So, they forced the girl to that extend that she attempts to suicide or tortured her so much that she takes her life.
This all starts when there is economic status inequality between the spouses and the bride belongs to a slitter richer family. So, the greed began and forced the bride to compel her parents to grant her things. When she refused them, they beat her and finally killed her.
This activity is permitted by the educated and wealthy class of the society because of social factor. They have their name, fame, prestige in the society which binds them for doing so and by not doing that way then might happen that their image would be down in front of the society.
LEGAL PROVISIONS OF DOWRY
The legal definition of dowry is stated in Section 2 of dowry prohibition act, 1961. According to this act, dowry means any property or valuable security by one party to the marriage to the other party to the marriage before or at any time of marriage in connection with the marriage.
Moreover, Section 3 imposes penalty for giving and taking dowry if any person after commencement of this act shall be liable for the fine not less than FIFTEEN THOUSAND and can sentence imprisonment for a term less than FIVE years.
Section 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act, further made party to demand dowry guilty for the act and court shall sentence him imprisonment for the term not less than SIX MONTHS but extend to TWO YEARS with fine of ten thousand rupees.
There are some other provisions in Indian Penal Code and Evidence Law which prohibit Dowry System in India.
Section 304 B of IPC states that if any woman dies within seven years of her marriage with any burn or harm like bodily injury on her body cause in relation with the demand of dowry by her husband or her relatives then the death of the woman in that case will be liable for the minimum sentence of 7 years of imprisonment or a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
SHER SINGH VS. STATE OF HARYANA
Court held “Finally the court observed that it would not be appropriate to lessen the husband’s onus to that of preponderance of probability as that would annihilate the deemed guilty expressed in Section 304 B of IPC.”
Section 498 A of IPC, defines cruelty that if any wilful, conduct done by husband or any of his relatives on a woman to cause her injury to fulfil their unlawful demand or to instigate her to commit suicide. The person will be punished for the imprisonment for 3 years and also will be liable to pay a fine.
Section 113-B of Indian Evidence deals with the presumption of a court that a woman has gone through harassment or cruelty by any person subject to her death. Then the court will assume such a person is responsible for her death.
STATE OF HIMACHAL PRADESH VS. NIKKU RAM
In this case, the couple was married and soon after 5-6 months of their marriage husband, sister-in-law, mother-in-law started taunting the wife of the husband for bring less dowry. Gradually the torture on her increased so much that the mother-in-law hit her with a sharp blade on her forehead causing deep cut over there. She was unable to tolerate the torture any more so she commits suicide by consuming naphthalene balls and died.
After her dead husband and his relatives held liable under Sections 304-B, 306 and 498-A of IPC.
Court after examining all the evidence, take away all the charges and free them from these criminal charges due to the insufficient evidence. Only the mother-in-law was held guilty under Section 324 of IPC as voluntarily causing hurt to her.
After being educated enough the greed for the money is never ending. The dowry is a curse for the family who lost their daughter just for the case that they were unable to pay more. On the other side it will be a pleasurable activity for the groom side as they are getting money without doing any hard work. But under this whole act of satisfaction and dissatisfaction an innocent girl sacrifices her life.