UNDER INDIAN LAW VIDE INDIAN PENAL CODE 1860
The offence of dowry death has been added in the Indian Penal Code vide insertion of section 304B, with a view to curb the growing atrocities against woman. One may have to sweep it down the throat real rough but, as a matter of fact, the menace of dowry isn’t ancient or obsolete yet. Thousands of young women are being done to death due to failure to pay up the dowry demands of the greedy in-laws. Where greed knows no bounds or fulfilment, it is on life that it quenches.
According to Section 304B, dowry death has been defined as under where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occur 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 each husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.
For the purpose of this sub-section, “dowry” shall have the same meaning as in Section 2 of ‘the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961’.
1. The death of a woman should be caused by burns or bodily injury or otherwise than under normal circumstances.
2. Such death should have occurred within 7 years of marriage.
3. She must have subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or relative of any husband.
4. Such cruelty or harassment should be for or in connection with the demand of dowry, and
5. Such cruelty or harassment is shown to have been meted out to woman soon before her death.
Detailed analysis of section:
1. DEMAND FOR DOWRY:
The main component of section 304B is that death of the woman should not only be under circumstances specified in the section but should also be the consequence of demands for dowry.
The meaning of cruelty for the purpose of S. 304B has to be gathered from the language as found in section 498-A IPC and as per explanation clause of that section. The relationship is further affirmed by Supreme Court in Shanti vs. State of Haryana
“Cruelty means any useful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life etc. or harassment to coerce her or any other person related to her to meet demand.
3. SOON BEFORE
Section 304B uses the words “soon before her death”. The expression is not synonymous with term “immediately before” or the legislature would have had it that way. The expression, therefore, is clear and normally implies that interval should not be much between cruelty or harassment and the death in question.
In Heera Singh vs. State of Uttaranchal 2005 GLJ 2062, it was held that cruelty should not be remote in time to become stale enough not to disturb mental equilibrium of the women concerned.
Presumption as to dowry death:
Indian Evidence Act I872, Section 113B:
Section 113B of the Evidence Act provides for presumption as to dowry death. The initial burden lies on the prosecution to prove the ingredients of section 304B. Once the prosecution succeeds in discharging the initial burden, the court draws a presumption against the accused to have caused dowry death. The onus, therefore, falls on the accused to prove his innocence as the accused is presumed guilty.
Punishment for causing Dowry Death is given under section 304B (2) of the Indian Penal Code 1860:
Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 7 years but may extend to imprisonment for life.
Taking note of the seriousness and gravity of the problem of dowry death, and in order to plug loop holes in law, the law makers took this step to make law more pragmatic and effective. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to quote that to a greater extent the law has worked. It has brought relief and justice. Also, it has created deterrence.
However, if we are to do a rational and judicious scrutiny, there lies a huge scope of rationale to be put in place for bringing a change in the position of law which contradicts the Standing Principle of Criminal Justice System – an accused shall be presumed to be innocent until guilt against him is proven beyond doubt. To imagine of laws without loop holes and tumors is a fancy proposition. Laws evolve and so do the chances of falling out of it or landing on the wrong side.
One has to be living under a rock to deny that Indian jails host quite a lot of innocents. False accusation and convictions in 304B is as common as is under any other law in India. In scenario as such, it is suggested to never comprise and choose the best criminal advocate to be on your side and defend you till the last breath. It demands loyalty, integrity, extremely high intellect and most importantly – honed legal skills. Besides, the fee the best criminal advocate is going to charge is a hundred times lesser than what one can earn back – Justice, freedom, respect & life!!