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Report No. 202

2.12 Summation

From the aforesaid, it may thus be seen that traditionally marriage has been a sacramental institution. It continues to be so even at present. However, over a period of time, dowry emerged as a social evil, leading to increasing number of deaths of innocent brides. This trend assumed alarming proportions and dimensions, which led the legislature to ponder over the issue and devise means to curb the menace of dowry deaths. Where the cases of bride deaths squarely meet the requirements of the offence of murder or any other offence under the Penal Code, the guilty persons can be proceeded against accordingly.

The law provides for death penalty in case of murder. Here also the judicial trend has been to award death penalty in rarest of rare cases and not as a matter of routine. The case law on the subject vividly brings out the judicial guidelines for determining as to whether a given case falls in the category of rarest of rare case. These are aptly reflected in the cases where death sentence has been converted into life imprisonment. Generally, life sentence may extend to the whole life. The law, however, provides for release of life convicts upon completion of 20 years detention subject to certain conditions laid down in this regard.

Inadequacies in the then existing laws were noted where cases of bride deaths for reason of dowry could not be clearly brought in Section 302. Nonetheless circumstances were found to be such which indicate the suspicious nature of death that warranted appropriate punishment in order to effectively curb the menace of dowry death. Accordingly, a new substantive offence of dowry death was created on presumptive basis, casting the onus to rebut the presumption on the accused.

The Evidence Act too was amended to provide for certain presumptions in this regard. The offence of dowry death as provided in Section 304-B is not the same offence as murder in terms of Section 302. A case may or may not fall under both the sections. Where an accused is charged for one offence, he can be convicted for another offence if the charged offence is failed to be made out but the ingredients of another offence are satisfied on available evidence, provided it does not lead to miscarriage of justice.

In spite of such provisions in the law, the incidents of dowry deaths are not showing any significant decline or abatement. Hence the demand for more stringent punishment of death for the offence of dowry deaths. nhether such demand has any substance or not, will be discussed in the succeeding chapter.

Proposal to amend Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code Back

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