It is argued till today that dowry in ancient India was only the daughter’s inheritance rights given to her when she got married but the practice grew to become something evil. Around the 1980s there were significant number of deaths of women related to dowry and the government was forced to take measures.
Dowry death in simple terms is the murder of a new bride by her husband or in-laws due to the non-satisfaction of demands in relation to money, property, articles (jewelry) or any valuable security.
Know the law:
Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code is the main provision that deals with cruelty by husband or relatives of husband and makes the act criminally punishable.
The provision gives the punishment for such action for up to three years in prison along with fine.
Cruelty is also defined as:
- A conduct which is done on purpose and is of a nature that it drives the woman to commit suicide or causes certain grave injury to her.
Here injury can be both mental and physical.
Thus this provision allows for punishment even after woman’s death and therefore even the parents of the bride can file a complaint.
- Harassment of any kind with respect to the non-fulfilment of any unlawful demand for property or valuable security or forcing her to meet these demands are also covered under the definition of cruelty.
- Cruelty within the section is a non-bailable offence. This means that the magistrate has full authority to refuse for a bail and order judicial/police custody of the accused.
Dowry death is a major part for which this provision is use but it is important to understand that it is meant to be a holistic provision and any act that comes within the definition of cruelty would be looked within the boundaries of the section.
Provisions around S. 498A
There are various specifications in laws that become complimentary to Section 498A.
- When there are unanswered questions relating to circumstances of a woman’s death and there is evidence regarding certain harassment or cruel conduct then the court shall presume that such husband or his relatives caused dowry death.
- Cruelty becomes one of the grounds to seek dissolution of marriage or divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act.
It is an accepted principle in law that “Justice delayed is justice denied” and this holds a special place in case of evil dowry deaths. Quick assistance and efficient redressal is the best option in domestic violence cases. Finding the right Lawyer for correct advocacy thus becomes a priority.