Anti-dowry law makes it wife-biased, discriminatory,and poorly formulated. A complaint from your wife or her family member can land husband and his entire family in jail without any investigation.
"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."
- Winston Churchill
The dictionary meaning of the term dowry is ‘property or money brought by bride to her husband on marriage’. The system of taking dowry is prevalent in our country since ages. As per section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.,1961 dowry is defined as “dowry includes any property or valuable security given or greed to be given either directly or indirectly:
-By one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage; or
-By the parents of either party to a marriage or by any other person, to either party to the marriage or to any other person at or before or any time after the marriage in connection with the marriage of the said parties.
During the ancient times dowry was considered as a custom in our country. The custom however became a social evil with the passage of time. This social evil has taken lives of many innocent brides for its non fulfillment. Deaths of young brides through suicide or homicide following disputes over the dowry are increasingly a feature of Indian society.
Marriages in India are usually arranged by parents and the wife becomes a member of the husband's family, in most cases moves in with them. Since most marriages are arranged with the assistance of third parties, the family generally do not know each other well. Nevertheless, the newly wedded bride is expected to switch her principal loyalty overnight to her husband's family. The husband's family may make little accommodation to the bride, but expect her to adjust to them. Since they are now supporting her, the husband’s family believes that she must be considerate to their wishes. If they think she is not, they may feel justified in treating her harshly, even violently. In the early stages of a marriage, a new bride who is being mis-treated by her husband's family may not seek help from her own parents because they will already have counseled her that a period of adjustment to her new situation may be needed. If she does complain, unless the abuse is repeated or extreme, most parents would probably be reluctant to intercede on her behalf with the in-laws or husband. This reflects the Hindu norm that once a girl is married, her parents have only limited rights to a say in her new family's personal affairs. They might also hope that some mutual adjustment might occur between the bride and her new family so that there would be a reduction in harassment and ill-treatment. If the girl returns to her parents' house because of quarrels with her husband, this brings shame on her parents' family and prevents the marriage of any of her sisters. Moreover, she cannot take part in any religious ceremonies without her spouse. For all these reasons an abused wife may not expect much support from her parents and may only get support in more extreme cases. These marriage arrangements reflect the generally subordinate and powerless position of younger women, and patterns of domestic violence in India are indicative of this position.
The practice of dowry has its roots in the most common rite associated with a Hindu marriage (the majority of Indians are Hindus), 'Kanyadan', the act of giving the bride to the groom. (The word literally means the act of giving or donating a virgin to the groom on an auspicious day). It is recommended in the shastras (certain rules prescribed in Hindu philosophy) that the bride be adorned with jewelry and then given away. According to the shastras, the ritual gift remains incomplete until the groom and his parents are given 'dakshana', a token gift in their honor. This is supposed to be in recognition of the fact that the bridegroom and his kin deserve to be honored (and financially compensated) for accepting the girl into their fold.
TO HIGHLIGHT THE OFFENCE OF DOWRY DEATH AND HOW IS IT MISUSED IN OUR COUNTRY, ALSO TO HIGHLIGHT THE INDIAN SCENARIO.
STATUTORY PROVISION OF DOWRY DEATH :-
Section 304 B was introduced in the Indian Penal Code in order to strictly deal with and punish the offence of Dowry Death. It was a new offence created with effect from November 19, 1986 by insertion of the provision in the Indian Penal Code providing for a more stringent offence, than provided by Section 498A of the same Act, which deals with punishment for cruelty by husband and his relatives.
Section 304-B of IPC reads as follows:-
(1) 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 relatives shall be deemed to have caused her death.
Explanation – For the purposes of this sub section, "dowry" shall have the same meaning as in section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
(2) Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.
Therefore from the above section we can see that the following ingredients are necessary for application of dowry death:-
1. When the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury, or occurs under unusual circumstances.
2. And the aforesaid two facts spring within 7 years of the girl's marriage.
3. And soon before her death, she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or her relative
4. And this is in connection with the demand for dowry.
If these conditions exists it would constitute dowry death, and the husband and/or his relatives shall be deemed to have caused her death.
It is true that in criminal jurisprudence the benefit of the doubt is extendable to the accused. This concept of 'benefit of doubt' has an important role to play but within the confines of the stringency of laws. Since the cause of death of a married woman was to occur not in normal circumstances but as a dowry death, for which the evidence was not easily available, as it is mostly confined within the four walls of a house, namely the husband's house, where all likely accused reside, the amendments brought in the concept of deemed dowry death by the husband or the relatives, as the case maybe.
In cases of dowry deaths and suicides, circumstantial evidence plays an important role and inferences can be drawn on the basis of direct or indirect evidence. This section lays down stringent provisions by shifting the burden onto the accused by bringing in the deemed clause. According to Section 8-A of the 1961 Act, which came into force for taking or abetting any dowry, the burden to explain is placed on such person against whom the allegation of committing the offence is made. Similarly, under Explanation to Section 113 B of the Indian Evidence Act, there is a presumption that a death caused within 7 years of marriage is a dowry death.
LAW COMMISSION ON DOWRY DEATH:-
The 18th Law Commission has recommended increasing the minimum sentence from 7 to 10 years in dowry death cases. It has, however, declined the suggestion to increase the maximum punishment from life imprisonment to death sentence.
Justice A.R.Lakshmanan-chairman of the reconstituted commission, handed over the report on 'Dowry Death' to Union Law Minister HR Bharadwaj on October 10,2007. The report examined the questions whether section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code should be amended to provide for death sentence to end dowry deaths. This section provides for a jail term not less than 7 years but which may extend to life imprisonment..
The report says , It may be pertinent to point out that where a case of dowry death also falls within the ambit of the offence of murder, awarding death sentence may be legally permissible. The guidelines laid down by the supreme court for award of death sentence, especially the dictum of the rarest of rare cases, will, however, have to be adhered to in such cases". The commission says there are misgivings & misapprehensions associated with dowry death. It is quite often confused with the offence of murder. There may be instances where the two overlap. This gives rise to the demand for parity in the matter of sentence in both cases. Nevertheless, the two offences are distinct & independent offences. The commission says " there is no justification for amending section 304-B of IPC to provide for death penalty.
DOWRY DEATH IN INDIA:-
In India not only was there an apparent increase of dowry-related deaths from kitchen fires but from this weed other covert forms of related oppression sprouted. Some of these led to psychological torture, suicides and murder of married women, desertion by their husbands, rampant abortion of female fetuses, and poor families resorting to female infanticide for fear of not being able to provide dowry.
On an average one Indian woman commits suicide every four hours over a dowry dispute, as per official data, despite a series of laws to empower them.
According to data complied by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 2,276 female suicides due to dowry disputes were reported in 2006 that is six a day on an average, while the figure was 2,305 in 2005. In 2004, at least 2,585 such cases were registered across the country.
Statistics suggest that Madhya Pradesh topped the list for the fourth time with 585 cases, accounting for one-fourth of the total number of such suicides last year in the country. West Bengal was second with 445 cases and Uttar Pradesh third with 314 cases. The national capital was seventh with 69 cases.
Police officials in the capital told reporters that suicide by hanging was the most common means adopted to end life followed by self-immolation in such cases.
The NCRB is a central body assigned to compile crime figures in the country. Its figures also state that one case is registered almost every hour under Dowry Death, which includes suicides as well as murders.
A total of 7,618 cases were registered under Dowry Death in 2006, while 6,787 cases were registered in 2005.
Dowry is a social evil but continues to be a common practice in almost every part of India. Women at the time of marriage are expected to bring with them jewellery, cash and even consumer durables are part of dowry to the in-laws and they are subsequently ill-treated, often violently, if they fail to do it.
DOWRY DEATH MISUSE:-
NCW want each and every death of a wife to be converted to dowry death, so that they can fool the people that dowry death is increasing and demand more and more fund form the government and other sources.
Such loop sided and assumption based law should be immediately changed by our LAW maker and the same to be made gender equal, husband/wife to be replaced by the word spouse, as more than 52000 married man also end their life in un natural death as per crime Beureu report itself, but all the husband killers are moving freely in our society.
Let stop this legal terrorism promoted by NCW and their associated organizations, who wants that each and every home more and more litigations, so that their recommended Panel lawyers can earn more and more money by sucking the blood of common people.
In the IPC already the Murder LAW/Attempt to murder law are there and the convection up to hang to death already available, still they want more and more duplication of law to increase more and more litigation and want to send the innocent people behind the bar without any evidence and without any investigation and want to convert each and every death of a wife to a dowry death to fulfill their hidden agenda.
It is a great challenge to our LAW makers, will they surrender to NCW’s absurd, ill-minded proposal or do justice to common people and stop this Legal Terrorism in India in the name of so called dowry Laws, which is totally assumption based instead of any evidence based.
It is ironic that in India dowry was originally designed to safeguard the woman and it was the provision of " Sthreedhan" ("Sthree" meaning woman and "dhan" wealth) in the form of money, property or gifts given solely to the woman by her parents at the time of her marriage. "Sthreedhan", an inheritance was meant to exclusively belong to the woman at the time of her marriage. The abuse of this custom eroded and aborted the original meaningful function of dowry as a safety net for the woman and was corrupted to become the price tag for the groom and consequently the noose for the bride. The price of the Indian groom astronomically increased and was based on his qualifications, profession and income. Doctors, Chartered Accountants and Engineers even prior to graduation develop the divine right to expect a "fat" dowry as they become the most sought after cream of the graduating and educated dowry league. A reactionary preliminary wave of preserving oppressive practices of dowry demands, harassment and placing Indian males as high commodity line of goods, appeared to surface also in the West and other countries where immigrants of Indian origin established themselves.
A number of laws like the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 (often touted as toothless) and Section 113-A and Section 113-B in the Evidence Act exist to tackle the problem of dowry. But none of them is good enough.
Also various legislations that have been enacted for dowry death should not be misused .