Murder, bride burning, suicide and dowry death are the harsh realities of our peculiar patriarchal society and elements of an unfortunate social setup. Even though demanding or giving dowry is an offence, dowry demands have plagued our country as they are practiced by almost every section of the society.
Recently, a woman aged 24 years old was burned alive for not giving into dowry demands by her in-laws in West Delhi. This inhumane treatment came after 5 years of marriage when the woman’s family could not fulfill the latest demands meted out by her in-laws.
Dowry as defined by Section 2(1) of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly-
(A) From one party to the marriage to another party; or
(B) from the parent or either party to a marriage or by any other person to the either party to the marriage or any other person at or any time after the marriage in connection with marriage of the said parties.
Dowry does not include mahr as in terms of Muslim law and also customary gifts and payments do not come under its ambit.
There are four situations that are covered under the Indian Penal Code,1860, wherein a married woman is subjected to harassment and cruelty with respect to demands for dowry. These include-
(A) Cruelty of woman by husband and his relatives i.e. Section 498a IPC
(B) Dowry death i.e. 304b IPC
(C) Intentional murder of woman i.e. 302 IPC
(D) Abetment of suicide of woman i.e. 306 IPC
In the above case, the victim made a dying declaration before the Magistrate that her husband and in laws set her on fire when she visited their home in Vikas Puri. The couple got married in 2012 and the victim faced regular dowry demands from the family. She was evicted from the house on inability to meet a dowry demand of Rs. 10 Lakh and was subsequently, set on fire when she came to collect clothes from the marital home.
The essentials of dowry death include -
- Death of a woman should be caused by burns or bodily injury or otherwise than under normal circumstances
- Death should have occurred within 7 years of marriage
- The woman must have been subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband and his relatives for or in connection with dowry demands before her death.
In the instant case, since the woman, within seven years of marriage was set on fire for not meeting dowry demands and was subjected to cruelty and harassment, this is an alleged case of dowry death.
It is important to make note of the seriousness and gravity of the problem and to stop the cancerous demands growing on an unprecedented scale.
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