DOWRY DEATH IN INDIA
Author: Madhumita L, II Year of B.A.,LL.B from Christ University School of Law Bengaluru.
Human beings evolution is slow process where advanced stage was erect man was evolved which we call them as “ Homo Sapiens” and then the gradual changes has come and gender and sex was looked,where gender is what society looks at and sex is the biological factor which is generally looked through. In India the customs was given due importance and in this note from the ancient period till today the women were suppressed for their gender and our society began to under spoken about women and began to torture her and then various customs like Sati, Dowry began,Then during British the sati was abolished and the age old Dowry and dowry death still happening in this 21st century society, laws has been advocated to curb this social evil.
STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
India is one such country where crimes against women are high, and in that dowry. The social reformers during the British period have taken a lot of pain to curb these social issues, for instance, the contribution of Raja Rammohan Roy, who, with the help of Lord William Benthick, abolished the sati system in India and but people did not think rationally,so still this type of crimes such as rape, dowry death and bride burning prevails in our society, The legal framework is progressive where the dowry prohibition act 1961 was implemented. In section 304 B, which discusses the essentials of dowry death, So this act is meant only for women. It prohibits giving or taking of dowry. Before this act came, the act was amended twice and the act mainly serves the purpose that women should not be demanded by dowry.but the major flaw in this act is it is vague in nature,influence of cultural aspect of women. Laws are not constant, it changes as the society moves forwards.so the necessary steps have been taken for the women’s safety.
The methodology adopted by the researcher is a doctrinal form of research. It is elaborate in nature where it gives a broad outlook on dowry death which is the prevalent social issue. It has analysed the issue of dowry death in three time periods also,Ancient, Medieval and Modern. The primary sources of research include legislations, case laws, various reports of international conventions, policies and rules formed by the government. The secondary sources include books, research articles, blogs, and various websites on this issue.The researcher has tried to figure out the suggestion to overcome these social issues. The researcher used the following keywords: the information regarding the research , the history of the dowry issues in India, the present legal analysis on the dowry death issue, the flaw in the act, the role of the government, and methods to prohibit dowry death.
Dowry death is one of the crimes against women, and it is an evil public issue , but still it is being practised. The concept of dowry has been there from the beginning, which can be noticed in the epics of Ramayana, where it is been said that Sita’s father gave high weightage of dowry in marriage to Ram. Also, in Mahabharat, the dowry practice is witnessed where the queen of Pandavas, Draupadi brought dowry from her kingdom, horses and jewels and property were given in the marriage and Subhadra and Uttara. They brought dowry in the form of elephants and gold ornaments. But paradoxically queen Draupadi who wanted to marry Arjuna alone, but her wish was not fulfilled and she was harassed by Kauravas and her husbands remained silent as they lost the ludo game.The daughter of Sun who had a treasure box and she carried this as dowry to her husband Soma’s place. In India during the medieval period there was a practice in which the father had to give the gift in the form of cash or ornaments to bride grooms and it was given for the security of their daughters in the paternal house. So this shows the role of money in marriage.The issue of dowry was slowly made mandatory by British rule and the main causes for the dowry death which is increasing day by day is due to the patriarchal society, especially in India where there is belief in the rigorous practice of the old customs and traditions,Then marriages were mostly decided by the parents, the consent of bride and bride grooms were not asked. The concept of dowry is done in different names like VaraDakshina and Kanyadan where the bride’s father gives his daughter to his son in law and stridhan is the gift.
This cruel concept of dowry is spreading like a virus, where every family be it lower middle class till elite class makes sure that dowry should be given. So this has become a stigma and this practise has made the life of the bride's parents miserable and they would be in debt, which can lead to the poverty level. In India, the dowry rates differ based on the education qualification and beauty is given much priority. The dowry which has eventually raised and has led to major crimes against women is Dowry death or bride burning. This has been spoken and discussed in various platforms and debates, and this also raised the suicide rates of girls were in a family; three girls in the city of Kanpur committed suicide. The core reason is not to create any financial burden to their family as the father earned only 4000 per month, and with this money, he could not tolerate the expense of the older daughter. Thus India developing country is making efforts to remove “Dowry death” by legislative measures.
Dowry death in connection with demand for dowry and its effect on brides and their family - In India, it is a man dominated society. So the crimes against women are drastically high. In that Dowry death is the social issue that is affecting the bride’s family. Firstly, as soon as they are born, the girl children are treated as a boon to the family because the girls go to the paternal family after marriage and even if she works, her income would not come to their parents. So the bride’s family think that they will not get any return, and during the marriage, they face the dowry issue and get tensed like how much they will demand. Meanwhile, some women will still be harassed if she goes to in-laws for not satisfying the dowry they have taken at the time of marriage. Subsequently, the dowry death cases rapidly rose, in the case of Shanti vs state of Haryana, which deals with the demanding of the dowry after marriage where the Kailash was married to Sat pal and his mother subjected to torture her daughter in law for not bringing the scooter and television, so here they were accused of two sections such as 498 A , 304 B and was acquitted under 498 A. So in the case of the Queen Empress vs Huree Mohun Mythee, this husband has committed culpable Homicide under the criminal act. He has severely hurt her, which has led to the victim’s death, and in this blood was oozing from the girl’s body. The accused said it was due to sexual intercourse, which was false, and the court underwent a detailed investigation and said that this was not the case of Rape. Still, he was convicted for section 338 of 1PC and sentenced to one-year rigorous imprisonment.
In the case of Dowry death groom’s family tend to take a defence by merely saying that their daughter in law has died due to kitchen accidents and fell from the staircase, and had health issues, Due to the demand for more dowry in the form of cash and equipment, the bride decide to kill herself [ suicide] for the constant harassment and torture. And thus, prohibition has been made where they have brought the essentials for dowry death, in which the first condition is to have an injury or burn mark in her body. It should have been committed within seven years of marriage. They should be connected with the issue of dowry, and the instinct of torture or harassment should have taken place; lastly, this harassment and cruelty would have made her take extreme steps. So this essential is needed to be implemented when the dowry death case arises, which has been incorporated in section 304 B. The other form is bride burning. In this, they burn the daughter in law using the kerosene, and this all comes under the broad concept of Dowry death. It is also linked with sex-selective abortion, and if it is girl children, the parents tend to abort the fetus in the womb itself. So many states in our country have banned not informing the sex of the child. So various issues is connected where the demand for dowry will lead to the harassment and domestic violence can be some of the results of the dowry, So for the protection of women, section 498A which instil on the cruelty aspect to the bride and so the cruelty is not only by the husband and it also includes the family members of the bride groom's family and for this the punishment is for three years and fine or both. And third prevention is 113A Indian Evidence act, for demanding more dowry can be punished under this act. So the Judiciary, the body which delivers justice, makes the steps for solving the problem in the case of Kamlesh Paniyar vs State of Bihar, where the judge says that dream of the newlywed girl is shattered when she is harassed for dowry. He connects with terrorism and informs that terrorist is dowry. The protection is also there for failure to transfer of property where the punishment is imprisonment for six months to two years and fine up to 10000 and in case of the death of women the property should go, legal heir, if no children or parents for the women, they must give it to the trust.
Marriage in connection with the dowry death - Marriage is the institution that becomes the core base for dowry death and India. In this multi-religious country, marriage is interpreted as a sacrament according to Hindu beliefs. The dowry concept has been there for ages, and it has been approved and mentioned in the ancient texts in Manusmriti. So the dowry is given from the bride father to his son in law in the institution of marriage for taking care of his daughter. We can observe that women are always under the control of men. During her childhood, she is looked after by her father or brother and later after marriage, and she is under her husband’s authority and later son. So, her entire life, she is being suppressed. The reason is the customs and daughter marriage is not so easy. It takes time, and dowry doesn't come in one settlement; the payment is always there till the marriage gets over. The dowry aspects through various elements are considered like education. The problem is due to the open-ended nature.
The dowry death has been increasing, even though the provisions have been made in section 5 mentions that receiving or giving dowry will be considered void. This offence is treated as cognisable and cannot make bail, and is non-compoundable. In contrast, the dowry death has been rising. The apparent reason is the domination of men over women, an intense feeling of gender inequality can be seen. In society, they treat women as a sexual object, and the next point is the customs are followed intensely. The way the Indian marriage is designed began from the Stridhan, the gift given from the bride’s family; later, the gift has turned to dowry. After marriage, the new bride’s dreams are shattered, and the circumstances make her take an extreme step like suicide or cause her to end her life by pushing her in stairs and making it look like an accident. The recent statistics by the National Crime Records Bureau [NCRB] has stated that seven thousand dowry cases have been registered in dowry deaths. Uttar Pradesh is the state which reports the highest number of dowry deaths. India is one of the countries which stands at the number one position in dowry in the world.
With the loopholes of the Dowry prohibition act 1961, the punishment for these heinous crimes was not severe. This act was a bit vague as it does not restrict the gifts which they get after the marriage and non-enforcement of the previous laws where the investigation is not serious done by the police officers. Merely they considered these cases as family disputes and registered them as accidents that have taken place in the kitchen. There is no proper implementation of the arrest of the guilty persons, where there are no proper photographs, and this leads the judge to decide and convict the guilty person. There is a chance where the groom’s family has bribed police officer, and this will lead to delay in the court procedure, like filing the charge sheet and cultural attitude towards women were from girls childhood she has been taught to learn the basic skills like putting rangoli in front of their house and when she becomes matured, will be thought to learn cooking and then she will be made to do the household chores. When she comes to marriageable age, she will be asked to tolerate the family. These situations of the women can be seen in Phaniyamma by MK Indira and in the movie “The Great Indian Kitchen”, where the crimes against women are portrayed. The next flaw is the economic discrimination against women. The paradox can be seen, where people who work for the stipulated time period is paid for their work and their salary is withdrawn. Still, women who manage to do all their household works. But she is neither paid, and if she is a working woman, she needs to balance both personal and professional life, but still, people tend to subjugate her in society. So they face discrimination against women, where they compare the salary between husband and wife. In the case of Sunil Balaji v State of Madhya Pradesh which points out the loopholes of section 304 B where the husband who demanded dowry amount after the marriage and then the girl used to ask her mother about the demand claimed by her husband, and she mentioned that her husband had illicit relationship with some girls. She could not tolerate it, and she committed suicide and then. The lower court verdict was not justifiable, and this was brought to appeal in the high court. It shows the negligence of the judiciary by not looking into section 304 B carefully. The judgment of the high court is considered as illegality. This dowry is practised in other Asian countries such as Pakistan, where they call it Jahez, Bangladesh and Iran, where this violence against women is carried, and also the main problem in many cases have been unreported, and women were not allowed to raise their voice in this matters.
India is one of the developing countries and it can be said that customs are given importance in our society, Crimes are happening everywhere, the victim suffers a lot and in that crime against women is observed in India, right from the girl child is born, the orthodox family become saddened and also take the decision of female infanticide, and then dowry and the situation of torture or cruelty of in-laws make her to take the extreme step, to end the life and then the society has created a taboo that women need to a dependant in their life. This highlights the effect of atrocities faced even when legal recognition and protection is guaranteed in the text but not in practice. So if we think in a rational manner, dowry death is murdering someone, and this evil social issue is considered not only illegal but also unethical in nature. This social stigma is against morality. Many provisions have been made in various states, such as the Dowry Prohibition act 1961. The dowry prohibition officers should be appointed to check and impose the punishment adhering to the crime committed and not convict.
In light of the existing laws, such as the dowry prohibition act of 1961, the necessary measures have been taken, yet the cases of dowry death in the country are rising to prohibit this social stigma. This should be nipped from the bud itself, which means we need to tackle the core cause for dowry death, So educating and creating awareness for girls, children and their families and make the society to think in rationale aspect, so as a whole we can curb this evil social issues impeding the development of the country. Laws should be made for the welfare of the people, so before passing, it must be discussed in the public platform and take the opinions and try to convince them for the progress of our country India. Literacy can make this situation better. If more people are educated, they will get a clear distinction between the customs and laws, making a shift towards an egalitarian society. Self-help groups and other schemes should be advanced in every part of the country, and good work always starts from home, so we need to share our domestic and they should be made that no discrimination must be made based on gender. The stricter laws must be included where the punishment must be made more rigid to get the fear.
Book - 1. Law relating to Women and Child by OP Mishra Central Law Agency
2. Bare act of the Dowry Prohibition act 1961
3. Website- Legal service in India and Indian Kanoon
4. SCC [case laws]
5. JSTOR article on dowry death