498a: Taunt for dowry is cruelty!

The Supreme Court has ruled that taunting a married women for not bringing sufficient dowry, amounts to cruelty and harassment within the meaning of Section 498 A and Section 304 part B of the Indian Penal Code. Thus, taunting is different from mere demand!

A bench comprising Justice R M Lodha and Justice A K Patnaik, noted, ”A girl dreams of great days ahead with hope and aspirations when entering into a marriage, and if from the very next day the husband starts taunting her for not bringing dowry, there cannot be greater mental torture, harassment or cruelty for any bride and such acts of taunting by the husband would constitute cruelty oath within the meaning of Section 498 A and Section 304 B IPC.”

The bench, however, emphasised the need to check the increasing tendency among the complainants in dowry-related cases to implicate the entire family and relatives of the family of in-laws. The apex court held that mere demand for dowry does not amount to cruelty or harassment for dowry unless and until it is accompanied by the acts of cruelty and harassment for dowry.

In many cases today, the cloud around misuse of dowry laws has led to great difficulty for women to prove their cases. After all, it is not easy to prove that your in-laws mistreated you within the four walls of the house till you had to be moved to the hospital for treatment/burns/untimely death in suspicious circumstances. In many cases, it is the woman’s death and willingness of her family members to pursue the case that cases are registered. A legal loophole which may just dilute the very essence of justice for women.

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