BURDEN OF PROOF FOR DOWRY DEATH

Dowry Death

Dowry death is the unnatural death of women who are either murdered or driven to suicide through continuous torture or harassment by their husbands or his family in an attempt to extort dowry. Dowry is a sum of money as well as other material things given by the bride’s family to the groom’s family. these kinds of deaths are very upsetting and on the rise due to mans’ greed and degenerated social values. To tackle such issues the government of India passed the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 and also introduced many provisions in IPC to take care of this issue, but the problem has such deep social roots that in a very few cases the accused is punished because it is very difficult to prove a dowry case.

Evidence is a very important factor in such cases. In cases related to dowry death there can be various forms of evidence, e.g. a letter by the deceased to her parents explaining her plight and torture by the family members of her husband or it can be communicated through any other means. In various cases, the presumptions can be raised against the accused only when the following criterion is fulfilled:

  1. If the accused is being tried for the offence under Section 304-B of IPC.
  2. The woman was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or his relatives.
  3. Such cruelty was in connection with dowry demands.
  4. Such cruelty was soon before death.

Traditionally the burden of proof for culpability under the offence of dowry death lies on the prosecution to prove as to whether the accused or his family member ever demanded dowry. Without this being proved provisions of law cannot be invoked against the accused. But in Evidence Act it has been added that the accused would be held prima facia guilty if a woman dies within seven years of her marriage and there is enough evidence to prove cruelty against her.

But there have also been false cases against the accused or the husband and his family where the story told by the victim and her family does not in any way show either any cruelty by the husband or his family or even the correct facts of the case. in light of such a burning issue decision by the court should be taken by reviewing all the evidence on display and not to show over enthusiastic judicial power to give pseudo justice to the victim while the innocent accused is sent behind bars.

DOWRY AND INDIA

Dowry India

“Any young man, who makes dowry a condition to marriage, discredits his education and his country and DISHONOURS WOMANHOOD”

Mahatma Gandhi

The custom which initiated as an effort of the parents to ensure the financial stability of their daughter in a patriarchal society has now translated into a means to assure the life of their daughter and a root of the host of social atrocities against women. The concept of dowry owes its origin to the custom where the father presents clothes and jewellery his daughter during ‘Kanyadan’ and cash/kind to the bridegroom during ‘Vardakshina’. The main causes for its emergence were the patriarchal society, performance of religious obligations only by the son, greed, adhering customs and urge to show off. Apparently, it’s not just a mere evil; it’s the mother of many evils. It’s a curse which has resulted in female foeticide, dowry deaths, bride burning and cruelty against women. The Dowry system is the crudest expression of male-dominance in India.

Article 51A (e) of the Constitution states that citizens must endeavour to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women. The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 was enacted to curb the menace of dowry and it punishes a person who gives/takes, r abets the giving/taking of dowry with minimum 5 years imprisonment and a fine of minimum ₹15,000 or the amount of dowry, whichever is more.[1] Demanding dowry directly or indirectly is punishable with imprisonment between 6 months to 2 years and fine of maximum ₹5000.[2] The Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 1986 made dowry death punishable under IPC with minimum 7 years imprisonment which may be extended to for life.[3] Subjecting a woman to cruelty is also an offence under IPC.[4] As per the government data, 8,455 dowry cases were reported in 2014.[5]

As there are 2 sides of a coin, it is felt that these laws are being misused and that the cases lack genuineness. What is to be considered here is that, the fake cases can be detected but the level of change these laws have brought and justice that has been delivered to the victims is unmatchable and appreciable.

“The bird sitting on the tree is not afraid of the branch breaking, because its TRUST is not the branch but on its wings. BELIEVE IN YOUR SELF and don’t take dowry”

[1] The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, Section 3

[2] The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, Section 4

[3]The Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act,1986 inserted section 304B IPC making dowry death an offence.

[4]The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1986 inserted section 498A.

[5]Open Government Data (OGD) Platform India,data.gov.in,https://data.gov.in/catalog/cases-registered-and-their-disposal-under-dowry-deaths.