DOWRY DEATH BY SHRISHTI MISHRA@LEXCLIQ

DOWRY DEATH:

BY SHRISHTI MISHRA

The problem of Dowry has always been persistent in India and is also rising at a rapid rate and so are the offenses related to dowry demand. Dowry demands can go on for years together. The birth of children and a number of customary and religious ceremonies often tend to become the occasions for dowry demands. The inability of the bride’s family to comply with these demands often leads to the daughter-in-law being treated as a pariah and subject to abuse. In the worst cases, wives are simply killed to make way for a new financial transaction—that is, another marriage. Section 304-B, IPC has been inserted by the Dowry Prohibition Amendment Act, 1986 with a view of combating the increased menace of dowry deaths.

Dowry Death

Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, such death shall be called” dowry death”, and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.

Presumption as to Dowry Death

When the question is whether a person has committed the dowry death of a woman and it is shown that soon before her death such woman had been subjected by such person to cruelty or harassment for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry; the court shall presume that such person had caused the dowry death.

In the case of State of Punjab v. Iqbal Singh, AIR 1991 SC 1532. 7 the Supreme Court clarified the position as to why the necessity to introduce Section 113-B in the Indian Evidence Act was felt

– The legislative intent is clear to curb the menace of dowry deaths, etc. with a firm hand. It must be remembered that since crimes are generally committed in the privacy of residential houses and in secrecy, independent and direct evidence is not easy to get. That is why the legislature has by introducing Section 113-B in the Evidence Act tried to strengthen the prosecution’s hands by permitting a presumption to be raised if certain foundation facts are established and the unfortunate event has taken place within seven years of marriage. This period of seven years is considered to be the turbulent one after which the legislature assumes that the couple would have settled down in life. When the question at issue is whether a person is guilty of the dowry death of a woman and the evidence discloses that immediately before her death she was subjected by such person to cruelty and/or harassment for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry.

Section 113-B, Evidence Act provides that the court shall presume that such person had caused the dowry death. A conjoint reading of Section 113-B of the Act and 304-B I.P.C. shows that there must be material to show that soon before her death the victim was subjected to cruelty or harassment. The prosecution has to rule out the possibility of a natural or accidental death so as to bring it within the purview of the ‘death occurring otherwise than in normal circumstances. ‘Soon before’ is a relative term and it would depend upon the circumstances of each case and no straitjacket formula can be laid down as to what would constitute a period soon before the occurrence. There must be the existence of a proximate and live link between the effect of cruelty based on dowry demand and the concerned death.

AUTHOR- SHRISHTI MISHRA

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