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Report No. 91

Chapter 4

Dowry and The Law of Divorce

4.1. Amending the law of divorce.-

The amendments recommended in the preceding Chapters of this Report touch the criminal law and its periphery. Once a dowry death takes place, there is certainly need for inserting provisions designed to facilitate investigation and prosecution, if the case contains a criminal element. But the pressing need is for effective measures which have, as their objective, preventing the recurrence in society of situations that lead to dowry deaths, whether such deaths are the result of suicide or of murder. Close reflection will reveal that dowry deaths occur because the woman's relatives in the husband's family make a persistent and determined demand for dowry. In the mind of the woman, this builds up tension of an acute character. The tension is built up step by step. Ultimately, a stage comes when the woman does not see any way out of the situation, excepting suicide.

Returning to the parents' home would hardly suggest itself to her as a permanent solution, though it is sometimes resorted to as a temporary expedient. Death becomes the last refuge of the woman. Side by side with building up tension in the woman's mind, the situation occasionally develops into one where the greed for money, the aggressiveness provoked by resistance and the ease with which the weaker sex can be exploited, all culminate in the desire to take the woman's life. It is not sudden or impulsive step, it is the final catastrophe to which each of the psychological and social factors mentioned above contributes. Students of dramatics might even discover a parallel between this real life drama and the classical exposition of the elements of tragedy. The slow ascent, the crisis, the catastrophe and the denouement, all are present here.

The object in stressing this aspect here if to substantiate the recommendation for reform that is going to be made in the next sentence. Stated in brief, our recommendation is that the law relating to the grant of divorce or judicial separation should be reformed by specifically providing that a persistent demand for dowry shall be deemed to constitute cruelty for the purpose of the grant of matrimonial relief under the head of cruelty. To equate such conduct to cruelty, is to our mind, a perfectly legitimate approach. Moreover, it is the only practicable legal reform that would enable the woman, if she so chooses, to secure release from a situation that is potentially dangerous to her life.



Dowry Deaths and Law Reform - Amending the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 Back




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