Dowry death and cruelty

Question asked on: 12/02/2019

My daughter died in strange circumstances. She in-laws were demanded dowry after the marriage. I could not fulfil their demands but tried best to achieve as far as possible. I have sufficient evidence to prove that they demanded dowry otherwise ready to face dire consequences.

By and large, they were unhappy and called a meeting for settlement. I have so many messages about the incidents of cruelty. They tortured my daughter to compel us to give XUV 500. Mainly her husband and his parents are responsible. I want to know what is the law regarding dowry death and cruelty.

Advised by: Shivendra Pratap Singh,

Accused has committed the offence of dowry death and all the ingredients of that offence are exist in your case. You should file FIR as soon as possible. Delay in filing FIR may cause serious impediment.

The offence of dowry death is made punishable under section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Following are the essential ingredients of the offence: 

Basic components

The Supreme Court in Ram Badan Sharma v. State of Bihar, (2006) 10 SCC 115;  has explained the essential ingredients of dowry death as:

  • Deceased died due to burn or bodily injury or otherwise than under normal circumstances. 
  • She died within seven years of marriage. 
  • Soon before her death, she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband. 
  • Finally, that torture or cruelty related with any demand for dowry

Time is an essential element for this offence. Death should be caused within seven years of marriage, and such death is the direct consequence of cruelty committed by the accused of the demand of dowry. If there is remoteness of the link between death and demand for dowry, then offence of dowry death is not made out.

For brought the accused in the purview of dowry death, section 113 B inserted in the Indian Evidence Act. According to this section, the court upon fulfilment of some conditions shall presume that the offence of dowry death is committed. Section 113 B ensues presumption of dowry death. 

Presumption of dowry death

Section 113 B of the Indian Evidence Act empowers the court to presume dowry death upon fulfilment of these conditions

  • Soon before her death, she was subjected to cruelty. 
  • That cruelty or harassment was in connection with any demand for dowry

When prosecution successfully proves the conditions mentioned above, then the Court may presume that the accused has committed dowry death.

As far as your case is concerned, there has been persistent demand of dowry and harassment, humiliation and physical violence by the husband and her in-laws. After all, your daughter died in the relation of demand for dowry. She died within seven years of marriage. Hence, it is a clear case of dowry death.

The Supreme Court held in State of H.P. v. Nikku Ram [(1995) 6 SCC 219]; that the demand for dowry can be made at any time, and not necessarily before marriage. Generally, the accused demands dowry on three occasions. Firstly before the wedding. Secondly at the time of marriage and finally after the marriage.

However, to get a conviction under this section, cruelty must relate with demand for dowry as well as deceased being subjected to cruelty soon before her death.

Cruelty 

Section 498-A of IPC defines the act of cruelty. This section extends the ambit of section 304-B. Mere harassment of woman does not constitute cruelty. When the act committed with a view to forcing the wife to fulfil illegal demands of accused, then the court treats such act as cruelty under section 498-A.

There must be some cogent evidence in support of the fact that accused harassed his wife. Such harassment should be in connection unlawful demands like payment of money, delivery articles. That cruelty was committed soon before her death.

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Shivendra Pratap Singh

Advocate, Lucknow

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