Top court says dowry laws okay

As questions are being raised on the anti-dowry laws on the ground that they are being “misused” to fix husbands and their family members, the Supreme Court in an important judgement has revisited the entire jurisprudence on the issue and held that the concept of these legislations is based on “deemed fiction” which otherwise is not applicable in the criminal justice system.

Explaining the concept, a bench comprising Justices B.S. Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar said “deeming fiction is hardly applicable in the criminal jurisprudence. In contradiction to this aspect, the legislature has applied the concept of deeming fiction to the provision of section 304B of the Indian Penal Code.”

Section 304B inserted in IPC by the 1986 amendment by Parliament makes husband and his family members and relatives liable for the dowry death if a bride dies of the bodily injuries within seven years of the marriage. Besides, any case registered should meet the other ingredients of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. The section carries the minimum sentence of 7 years and maximum for life.

The apex court said where the other ingredients of section 304B are satisfied, the husband or his relatives “shall be deemed” to have caused the bride’s death. “Once the prosecution proves its case with regard to the basic ingredients of the section, the court will presume by deemed fiction of law that the husband or relatives, have caused her death,” the bench ruled.
But such a presumption would be drawn by the trial courts strictly based on the evidence produced by the prosecution in support of the substantive charge under section 304B.

Source: Manushi magazine

“Of course, deemed fiction would introduce a rebuttable presumption” giving husband and his relatives right to produce evidence to show that the ingredients of section 304B were not “satisfied,” the top court said.
The main “ingredients” to meet the requirement of section 304B include, subjecting the wife to cruelty and harassment by the husband, his family members or relatives, the harassment is related to the demand of dowry and it had started soon after the marriage and continued till her death. The significant expression used in the section about cruelty or harassment “soon before her death, in our view cannot be given a restricted or narrow meaning,” the bench said. “The expression must be understood in the plain language and with reference to the meaning in common parlance,” court ruled.

People suggesting “misuse” of the law should cite even one law where a man was burnt alive or physically harmed by his wife/in-laws to an extent that he was battling for his life on way to/in the hospital. Such cases neither occur nor can be registered. The court has also now accepted gender bias is prevalent not just in our society but also in our government working.

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  1. Trackback: Relook 498a? Really needed? « Being an Indian Woman

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