Report No. 202
Dowry Death and The Law
2.1 Dowry - A Social Evil
2.1.1 Over the years, Dowry has grown as a deep-rooted social evil. It has become bane for our society. It is the cause of atrocity on woman and many unfortunate deaths of young ladies. It is an offence heinous, brutal and barbaric. The Hon'ble Supreme court in Kamlesh Panjiyar v. State of Bihar, (2005)2 SCC 388 has made the observation :
"Marriages are made in heaven, is an adage. A bride leaves the parental home for matrimonial home leaving behind sweet memories therewith a hope that she will see a new world full of love in her groom's house. She leaves behind not only her memories, but also her surname, gotra and maidenhood. She expects not only to be daughter in law, but a daughter in fact. Alas! The alarming rise in the number of cases involving harassment to the newly wed girl for dowry shatters the dreams. In-laws are characterized to be outlaws for perpetrating terrorism which destroys the matrimonial home. The terrorist is dowry, and it is spreading tentacles in every possible direction".
2.1.2 The offenders of death relating to demand of dowry always tries to give an impression that to be a suicidal or accidental death, but it is always the bride who meets with the accident while cooking or doing household work.
2.1.3 In Soni Devrabhai Babubhai v. State of Gujarat and Others, (1991) 4 SCC 298, the Supreme Court observed:
"Section 304B of the India Penal Code and the cognate provisions are meant for eradication of the social evil of dowry, which has been the bane of Indian society and continues unabated in spite of emancipation of women and the women's liberalization movement. This all-pervading malady in our society has only a few exceptions in spite of equal treatment and opportunity to boys and girls for education and career. Society continues to perpetuate the difference between them for the purpose of marriage and it is this distinction, which makes the dowry system thrive.
Even though for eradication of this social evil, effective steps can be taken by the society itself and the social sanctions of the community can be more deterrent, yet legal sanctions in the form of its prohibition and punishment are some steps in that direction. The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 was enacted for this purpose. The report of the Joint Committee of Parliament quoted the observations of Jawaharlal Nehru to indicate the role of legislation in dealing with the social evil as under:
"Legislation cannot be itself normally solve deep rooted social problems. One has to approach them in other ways too, but legislation is necessary and essential, so that it may give that push and have those educative factors as well as the legal sanctions behind it which help opinion to be given a certain shape."
The enactment of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, in its original form was found inadequate. Experience shows that the demand of dowry and the mode of its recovery take different forms to achieve the same result and various indirect and sophisticated methods are used to avoid leaving any evidence of the offence. Similarly, the consequence of non-fulfillment of demand of dowry meted out to the unfortunate bride take different forms to avoid any casual connection between the demand of dowry and its prejudicial effects on the bride. This experience has led to several other legislative measures in the continuing battle to combat this evil" (Paras 5 and 6 at pp.300-301).