Report No. 202
1.2 Earlier Report of the Commission on the subject.
The question of "Dowry Deaths and Law Reforms" was suo motu taken up earlier by the Law Commission in its 91st Report. The existing laws on the subject may be viewed as the culmination of the Commission's earlier efforts in this arena. Generally, where the facts in any incident of dowry related death, or for that matter any offence, are such which unambiguously satisfy and prove the legal ingredients of an offence already known to the law, say, murder in case of dowry death, the law can be resorted to for bringing the offender to book in such a case.
In this regard the Law Commission noted in its earlier report referred to above, two impediments in connection with dowry death cases, namely, firstly the facts might not fully fit into any known offence; and secondly, difficulties in having proof of directly incriminating facts in the peculiarities of the situation in cases of dowry related deaths. These difficulties have been sought to be redressed by amending the substantive as well as procedural laws.
Thus, a new offence of dowry death has been created in Section 304B that has been inserted in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 with effect from November 19, 1986. The section provides for punishment of imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.
The section embodies a legal fiction whereby the husband or the concerned relative is deemed to have caused the dowry death in a case where the conditions prescribed in the section are present and then the onus shifts on the husband, or as the case may be, on the relative concerned to rebut the presumption enshrined in the section by cogent evidence to show that he has not caused such dowry death. Besides, Section 113A was inserted in the Indian Evidence Act in 1983 providing for presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman if the conditions specified in that section are satisfied.