Sati and dowry death has plagued this nation for centuries. Sati, the practice of sending a widow to her husband’s funeral pyre to burn in it. It was first outlawed under British Rule in 1829 and 1830 under the Governor-Generalship of Lord William Bentinck in the Bengal, Madras and Bombay Presidencies.
It was and still a menace to our society. The Parliament responded much earlier, the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. By the above said Act, provides minimum sentence and penalty for the giving or receiving of dowry. This specific menace, however, was tackled by the insertion of a new provision in 1986 in IPC as section 304-B together with another new provision Section 113 B of the Evidence Act.
- If a woman dies by any burns or bodily injury or otherwise than under normal circumstances
- Where she dies within seven years of her marriage. Also, shows 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.
Explanation: For this sub-section, “dowry” shall have the same meaning as in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of 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.
Section 113-B Indian Evidence Act Presumption as to dowry death
When the question is whether a person has committed the dowry death of a woman and prosecution shows that soon before her death such woman had been subjected by such person to cruelty or harassment for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, the Court shall presume that such person had caused the dowry death.
Explanation: for this section “dowry death” shall have the same meaning as in Section 304-B of Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).The ingredients of the offence under Section 304-B have been stated and restated in many judgments.
Any burns or bodily injury must have caused the death of a woman or her death must have occurred otherwise than under normal circumstances. Such death must have occurred within seven years of her marriage, and soon before her death, she must have been subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband.
Appasaheb v. the State of Maharashtra, (2007) 9 SCC 721; the Supreme Court construed the definition as it forms part of Section 304-B which is part of a penal statute. The court held that a demand for money for defraying the expenses of manure made to a young wife who in turn caused the same demand to her father would be outside the definition of dowry.
Sher Singh v. State of Haryana, 2015 the word ‘soon before’ finds a place in Section 304-B, it necessarily indicating that the demand for dowry should not be stale or an aberration of the past, but should be the continuing cause for the death under Section 304-B.
Dinesh v. State of Haryana, 2014 The expression “soon before” is a relative term as held by this Court, which is required to consider under the specific circumstances of each case and no straight-jacket formula can be laid down by fixing any time of allotment.