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Report No. 91

1.3. The approach to be adopted.-

If, in a particular incident of dowry death, the facts are such as to satisfy the legal ingredients of an offence already known to the law, and if those facts can be proved without much difficulty, the existing criminal law can be resorted to for bringing the offender to book. In practice, however, two main impediments arise

i) either the facts do not fully fit into the pigeon-hole of any known offence; or

(ii) the peculiarities of the situation are such that proof of directly incriminating facts is thereby rendered difficult.

The first impediment mentioned above is aptly illustrated by the situation where a woman takes her life with her own hands, though she is driven to it by ill-treatment. This situation may not fit into any existing pigeon-hole in the list of offences recognised by the general criminal law of the country, except where there is definite proof of instigation, encouragement or other conduct that amounts to "abetment" of suicide. Though, according to newspaper reports, there have been judgments of lower courts which seem to construe "abetment" in this context widely, the position is not beyond doubt. The second situation mentioned above finds illustration in those incidents in which, even though the circumstances raise a strong suspicion that the death was not accidental, yet, proof beyond reasonable doubt may not be forthcoming that the case was really one of homicide. Thus, there is need to address oneself to the substantive criminal law as well as to the law of evidence.

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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