DOWRY (DAHEJ): CURSE FOR WOMEN & SOCIETY &LACUNAS IN INDIAN LEGAL SYSTEM
Author: Gaurav Kumar Yadav from Faculty of Law Integral University, Lucknow
Co-author: Rajshree S. Kabra from Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar College of Law
“There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on one wing.”
- P.R. Sarkar
Marriage in India is drowned in traditions and deep-rooted cultural belief practices are passed down by word of mouth and in some cases, with the changing times. Still, there is a practice that resists changing the dowry system in India, its foundation dates back to the medieval period when cash or in-kind gifts were given to a bride by her family to the bridegroom family to maintain her independence after marriage. At the time of the colonial period, it became the only legal way to marry, making the dowry practice compulsory by the British. In present-day India, with its growing economy, it is now encouraging higher bride prices among all socioeconomic sectors. But the increase in bride price has brought with it an increase in violence against women. Dowry violence is usually committed by husbands or in-laws to take high dowry from the bride's family. The value of dowry given at the time of marriage can be significant, but the thirst of the husband and in-laws may increase after marriage which leads to dowry violence and death also in thirst of money Husband and in-laws commit several offences related to dowry that is Cruelty, domestic violence, Dowry death. At present dowry has become a segment of wedding ceremonies. If we say anything common among uneducated or educated people is dowry because both educated and uneducated people are also involved in these evil practices. Dowry is the path of many evils. There is no religious anxiety with this practice, but most people in society happily adopt it. Dowry is a big stain and curse for Indian society.
The curse for Women and Society
Dowry is a big stain and curse for our society these evil practices make conditions of women miserable this system is not new for us it was present in Buddha and Mahavirera also there was no compulsion in those days. Every day we listen to cases of dowry death for not bringing dowry to husband one woman was killed every one hour in India. Due to dowry, a sacred relation becomes a business deal between two parties. There were 4668 dowry murders in the country in the year 1995, which increased the figures 6787 in the year 2005 and further increased to 7634 in 2015. According to recent figures 3, 72,706 pending cases, in 3, 17,000cases result likely to an acquittal. In India total of 21 dowry death cases are reported every day the conviction rate is only 34.7% rest of the cases are pending in courts if we look at data of the last five years, a total of 715 cases of dowry deaths have been reported in the New Delhi and the crime rate is increasing with each passing year. For dowry, women are harassed, murdered, or forced to commit suicide in India because society values the lives of women around the amount of money and gold they bring at the time of marriage in form of dowry. The National Crime Bureau of India recently recorded around 7000 dowry deaths by 2017. Not more than 16 days after 2020, India's Silicon Valley Bengaluru reported 17 cases of abuse and deaths of women for dowry as stated in The New Indian Express. By seeing the statistics the pictures show clearly that the dowry system is problematic and how it affects the lives of women and society. It becomes a curse for both society and women.
Legal Remedies and Judicial Pronouncement
The legal remedies provided to the victim for protecting them from such evil practices which spread in society which are happily accepted by the society.
The Dowry prohibition act, 1961
Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act states that any person, who takes or gives or encourage for the giving or taking of dowry, is liable to be punished with a minimum imprisonment of 5 years and a minimum fine of Rs 15,000 / - or the amount of price of such dowry, whichever is higher.
In the case of Sanjay Kumar Jain v. State of Delhi it was said that “The dowry system is a big slur and curse on our society, democracy and the country. It is incomprehensible how such unfortunate and condemnable instances of dowry deaths are frequently occurring in our society. All efforts must be made to combat and curb the increasing menace of dowry death. The legislature was seriously worried about this unfortunate reality of our society and the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 was enacted to curb and combat the increasing menace of dowry deaths.
Indian Penal Code, 1860
Section 304-B- it defines dowry death to mean a woman died due to burn of by bodily injury or under unnatural situation within 7yrs of her marriage and it shows she was brutally tortured by her husband and relatives for dowry they will be punished for term seven yrs. or life imprisonment.
Section 174 and 176 deal with the investigation and enquiries related to the causes of unnatural deaths by police and magistrate respectively. The 1983 Amendment Act makes it compulsory for the police to send the body for post-mortem if the woman has died within seven years of marriage matter of suicide or any dubious matter. It also empowers the executive magistrate to investigate the death of a woman under similar circumstances.
Indian Evidence Act, 1872
About the burden of proof in dowry death, a new provision, section 113B, has been made, according to which the court has to consider that dowry death caused by the person who is shown to have subjected the woman to cruelty or harassment soon before her death.
Usually, many times the Supreme Court expressed anguished and shocking thoughts about the deaths of young brides. In Virbhan Singh v. State of U.P Apex Court said given increasing deaths of brides, such dastardly crimes whenever detected and proved then ruthless action and deterrent punishment must be imposed. The Supreme Court worries about the acquittal of some of the alleged convicts but the state cannot move to the Supreme Court in appeal.
“In Samunder Singh v. State of Rajasthan, the court opined that anticipatory bail cannot be given in cases of bride burning and dowry deaths. Some dissatisfaction happened at a trial level only by the certain beliefs of courts such as the person with 100% burn not fit for the dying declaration. If some other case has not been reported on behalf of the victim of harassment, which makes a lacuna in the Indian legal system”
In Rameshwer Das V. State of Punjab, 2019, in this case SC held that pregnant women, the woman would not commit suicide unless the relationship with her husband comes to such a passed that she would be compelled to do so, accused is liable to be convicted on the failure to prove his defence.”
Lacunas in the Indian Legal System
Once again the prosperous Indian legal system has failed to make any commendable repairs in the unfortunate situation in which dowry victims are kept. The reason behind the failure of the Indian legal system is indistinct legal language, non-enforcement of existing laws, and delay in execution. The language of the statute is also too indistinct to effectively stop the practice of soliciting or giving dowry. This is a problem of inclusiveness. As originally believed by the courts, dowry consisted only of money and property given at the time of the wedding. As a result, the Act did not prohibit gifts sought after marriage.
Uniformly at fault in the ongoing issue of dowry death is the criminal laws were not enforced by police and prosecutors. Albeit the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a certain guideline to the police officer to how they investigate cases of dowry death but hardly ever follow these guidelines and fail to investigate properly. Often police register cases of dowry death police dismiss these and report them as a family dispute or register as a kitchen accident. Less than 10% of cases are investigated by police clearly. Even when it was examined it was incomplete.
The contribution of the judiciary is also very disappointing in dowry-related prosecution the complaints of dowry cases take one year before to court agree to hear the priority of court in such cases is low and sometimes it does not take some important evidence on the technical ground like a suicide note, dying declaration. The slowness of the judiciary is also a reason for the increase in such crimes. The dowry-related cases increase year by year and the reason behind that is the conviction rate is very low and the parties are tired from legal procedure. In 90% of cases, the victims compromise because they want to get out from the long legal procedure. Findings made by the Center for Social Research (CSR) about 50 million married women in India are victims of domestic abuse and only 0.1% (1 in 1000) cases are reported.
Dowry killing is a social curse that is a fiery issue in Indian society. Organized approach by women welfare organizations, police, public servants and judiciary by applying deterrent punishment for dowry deaths culprit. It can be seen that the Indian judiciary as well as the Government of India formulate and further provide cooperative and supportive legislation to protect the life interest and honour of women and provide justice to the victim of harassment or cruelty done by husband and his relatives. In cases to reduce the rate of dowry deaths, harassment or cruelty more female police personnel should be included in the police so available in a situation relating to unnatural deaths of women. In the well-being of appropriate investigation and justice, the investigation cannot be done below the post of assistant commissioner. The Punishment for abetment of suicide should be increased up to seven years. To be effective, anti-dowry legislation must ensure that the social utility provided by the dowry system is displaced from exercises that are less problematic, and that the obvious reasons for the practice should be attacked. Doing so would mean an attempt to eradicate the social evils generated by the dowry. To stop the dowry death in society, the government should start an educational camp. It is needed for an hour and the proper cleaning and filtration of the mentality of society should be done.