This article has been written by Baibhabi Tripathy a student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune
Since the dawn of humanity, particularly after Adam ate the apple, man’s fascination for women has been unbounded and boundless. It has found its manifestation in the adoration as well as the abuse of women. It is unfortunate that respect for womanhood in our country is on the decline of molestation, rape, etc. are steadily growing. An Indian woman is now required to suffer indignities in different forms, from lewd remarks to eve-teasing, from molestation to rape. Besides, dowry and dowry-related murders and suicides are such evils in society that are putting society to great shame. As the love for consumerism increases, so is the greed for dowry. When in-laws fail to get the desired articles, they either murder the wedded wife or induce her to commit suicide by their persistent cruelty, harassment, taunts, insult, and humiliating behavior.
It is a very pathetic of our contemporary times that on the one hand, marriage is a very cherished and fond dream of a man and his family and yet on the other, the most cruel and heinous crime, brutal death of a bride within the four walls of the matrimonial home culminates from it. This has become such a menacing reality that Parliament had to make dowry related death as crime. In view of this, a new section 304B has been inserted in the Indian Penal Code in the year 1986. Section 304B, IPC, reads:
Where the death of a woman is caused by any bums or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstance within seven years of her marriage and it is show 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, such death shall be called “dowry death”, and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.
It should be noted that, the ‘dowry’ mentioned in Section 304B could be any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given in connection with the marriage.
Although Indian laws against dowries have been in effect for decades. They have been largely criticized as being ineffective. The practice of dowry deaths and murders continues to take place unchecked in many parts of India and this has further added to the concerns of enforcement. Section 498-A of the IPC required the bridegroom and his family to be automatically arrested it a wife complains of dowry harassment. The law was widely abused and in 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that arrests can only be made with a magistrate's approval.
In Taiyab Khan v. State of Bihar  the Supreme Court laid down the ingredients of Section 304B, IPC, in the following manner:
The main ingredients of Section 304B, IPC, are –
(1) The death of a woman should be caused by burns or bodily injury or otherwise than under normal circumstances;
(2) Such death should have occurred within seven years of her marriage;
(3) She must have been subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband;
(4) Such cruelty or harassment should be for or in connection with demand for dowry;
(5) Cruelty or harassment should have been meted out to the women soon before her death.
SECTION 498A OF INDIAN PENAL CODE
Women have always been subject to cruelty by male society. Laws like these help women to fight back. Woman feel they are being heard. There is a lot of need for laws like these in a country like India –
· 9 out of 10 cases are always related to dowry. So, there is dire need for these laws to prevent women from the cruelty.
· Woman are continuously forced, tortured, threatened or abused for demand for something or the other. The Section 498A of the IPC helps the woman to approach the court of law and punish the wrongdoer.
· In many cases, the woman are also subject to mental cruelty. There is no law which can help the woman to ease the mental pain caused to her. Acts like these help women in every possible way.
· No matter if the laws are misused,they cannot be removed from the Indian Penal Code. As the laws can always be amended. There will be certain loopholes but always a provision can be added to rectify the problems.
The Indian Constitution is using the section 498A to protect married women from cruelty at the matrimonial home. The section was added to IPC to protect women from any domestic violence. Though there is wide misuse by the women. This section is the most fiercely debated section of the IPC. Supreme Court calls the Section 498A as ‘Legal Terrorism’. The misuse or abuse of the law is mostly done by urban and educated women. Also, in most of the cases, the husband and two of his relatives are prosecuted.
GREY AREA IN THE LAW
The judiciary has always ensured to provide equal rights to women and to protect them. It ensures that women do not get discriminated as it is also mentioned in our Constitution. The government has always been enthusiastic enough to protect the rights of women. Therefore, the government of India formed Domestic laws and section 498A. But there are certain grey areas in it. There are lacunas in the existing law which can hamper the successful implementation of the law. Some of the grey areas are –
· Judiciary acts as an ‘agents of wives. There are cases in which wives’ side brutally hit husband and husband’s relatives. The attacks are fatal in nature. But there are no laws on this. The wife has got a free licence to hit the husband and have an easy escape. Also, the judiciary accepts this behaviour as normal.
· Judges do not dismiss the case if the wife does not attend the case proceedings. Even if she does not attend the proceedings for years, the case continues to go on. Also, judges take months and sometimes years to decide upon one bail petition. This makes the men neither free of charge nor lets him live a happy life.
· The Section 498A is non-bailable and a cognizable offence. The judiciary should change it to a bailable and non-cognizable offence. Bails should be granted to the husband so that if the case is filed on false grounds, there is a course of action left.
CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS
According to Hindu mythology, marriages are made in heaven indeed, but mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, husbands and other relatives are being increasingly involved in the breaking of the wedlock for the lust of dowry. Dowry death, murder, suicide, and bride burning are symptoms of peculiar social malady and are an unfortunate development of our social set up. During the last few decades India has witnessed the black evils of the dowry death system in a more acute form in almost all parts of the country since it is practised by almost every section of the society. It is almost a matter of day -to-day occurrence that not only married women are harassed, humiliated, beaten and forced to commit suicide, leave their husband, etc., tortured and ill-treated but thousands are even burnt to death because parents are unable to meet the dowry demands of in-laws or their husbands.
Demands for dowry can go on for years. Religious ceremonies and the birth of children often become the occasions for further requests for money or goods. The inability of the bride’s family to comply with these demands often leads to the daughter-in-law being treated as a pariah and subject to abuse. In the worst cases, wives are simply killed to make way for a new financial transaction—that is, another marriage.
1 (2006) CCR 23 (SC).
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