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dowry death

Section 2- in the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

Definition of ‘dowry'. —In this Act, “dowry” means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly—

(a) by one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage; or

(b) by the parent of either party to a marriage or by any other person, to either party to the marriage or to any other person,

at or before 1 [or any time after the marriage] 2 [in connection with the marriage of the said parties, but does not include] dower or mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies.

3 [***] Explanation II.— The expression “valuable security” has the same meaning as in section 30 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).


section 3 - Penalty for giving or taking dowry.-

(1) If any person, after the commencement of this Act, gives or takes or abets the giving or taking of dowry, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years, and with the fine which shall not be less than fifteen thousand rupees or the amount of the value of such dowry, whichever is more:


Provided that the Court may, for adequate and special reasons to be recorded in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than five years.

* * * Explanation I omitted by Sec.2 w.e.f 2nd October, 1985

(2)Nothing in sub-section (1) shall apply to or, in relation to,-

presents which are given at the time of a marriage to the bride (without nay demand having been made in that behalf):

Provided that such presents are entered in list maintained in accordance with rule made under this Act;presents which are given at the time of marriage to the bridegroom (without any demand having been made in that behalf):

Provided that such presents are entered in a list maintained in accordance with rules made under this Act;

Provided further that where such presents are made by or on behalf of the bride or any person related to the bride, such presents are of a customary nature and the value thereof is not excessive having regard to the financial status of the person by whom, or on whose behalf, such presents are given.



"Cruelty" - By explanations (a) and (b) of Section 498A of IPC cruelty has been defined as:


(a) "Any willful conduct which is of such nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or


(b) Harassment of the women where such harassment is with a view of coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.


"Dowry" - Dos muliers. Lat" otherwise called maritagium, or marriage goods, that which the wife brings to the husband in marriage. This word should not be founded with dower - Co. Litt 31. Wharton's Law Lexicon.



SUPREME Court in the case of Tarsem Singh v. State of Punjab [AIR 2009 SC 1454], held that the legislative object in providing such a radius of time by employing the words `soon before her death' is to emphasize the idea that her death should, in all probabilities, has been the aftermath of such cruelty or harassment. In other words, there should be a reasonable, if not direct, nexus between her death and the dowry related cruelty or harassment inflicted on her. Similar view was expressed by this Court in the case of Yashoda v. State of Madhya Pradesh [(2004) 3 SCC 98], where this Court stated that determination of the period would depend on the facts and circumstances of a given case. However, the expression would normally imply that there has to be reasonable time gap between the cruelty inflicted and the death in question. If this is so, the legislature in its wisdom would have specified any period which would attract the provisions of this Section. However, there must be existence of proximate link between the acts of cruelty along with the demand of dowry and the death of the victim. For want of any specific period, the concept of reasonable period would be applicable. Thus, the cruelty, harassment and demand of dowry should not be so ancient whereafter, the couple and the family members have lived happily and that it would result in abuse of the said protection. Such demand or harassment may not strictly and squarely fall within the scope of these provisions unless definite evidence was led to show to the contrary. These matters, of course, will have to be examined on the facts and circumstances of a given case.


Kaliyaperumal v. State of Tamil Nadu [AIR 2003 SC 3828], stated the following ingredients which should be satisfied :


"4...................

1) The question before the Court must be whether the accused has committed the dowry death of a woman. (This means that the presumption can be raised only if the accused is being tried for the offence under Section 304-B, IPC).

2) The woman was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or his relatives.

3) Such cruelty or harassment was for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry.


4) Such cruelty or harassment was soon before her death."


In Soni Devrajbhai Babubhai v. State of Gujarat & Others (1991) 4 SCC 298, this Court dealt with the objects and philosophy behind enactment of Section 304- B IPC. In this case, it has been mentioned that Section 304-B 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. For eradication of social evil, effective steps can be taken by the society itself and social sanctions of community can be more deterrent, yet legal sanctions in the form of its prohibition and punishment are some steps in that direction.


A conjoint reading of Section 113-B of the Evidence Act and Section 304-B IPC shows that there must be material to show that soon before her death the victim was subjected to cruelty or harassment. The prosecution has to rule out the possibility of a natural or accidental death so as to bring it within the purview of the “death occurring otherwise than in normal circumstances”. The expression “soon before” is very relevant where Section 113-B of the Evidence Act and Section 304-B IPC are pressed into service. The prosecution is obliged to show that soon before the occurrence there was cruelty or harassment and only in that case presumption operates. Evidence in that regard has to be led in by the prosecution. “Soon before” is a relative term and it would depend upon the circumstances of each case and no straitjacket formula can be laid down as to what would constitute a period of soon before the occurrence. It would be hazardous to indicate any fixed period, and that brings in the importance of a proximity test both for the proof of an offence of dowry death as well as for raising a presumption under Section 113-B of the Evidence Act. The expression “soon before her death” used in the substantive Section 304-B IPC and Section 113-B of the Evidence Act is present with the idea of proximity test. No definite period has been indicated and the expression “soon before” is not defined. A reference to the expression “soon before” used in Section 114 Illustration (a) of the Evidence Act is relevant. It lays down that a court may presume that a man who is in the possession of goods soon after the theft, is either the thief who has received the goods knowing them to be stolen, unless he can account for his possession. The determination of the period which can come within the term “soon before” is left to be determined by the courts, depending upon facts and circumstances of each case. Suffice, however, to indicate that the expression “soon before” would normally imply that the interval should not be much between the cruelty or harassment concerned and the death in question. There must be existence of a proximate and life link between the effect of cruelty based on dowry demand and the death concerned. If the alleged incident of cruelty is remote in time and has become stale enough not to disturb the mental equilibrium of the woman concerned, it would be of no consequence.”


in Hira Lal & Others v. State (Govt. of NCT), Delhi (2003) 8 SCC 80 reiterated that Section 304- B IPC and Section 113-B of the Evidence Act were inserted with a view to combat the increasing menace of dowry deaths. Perhaps the Legislations are outcome of public opinion and a comprehensive 91st Report on "Dowry Deaths and Law Reform: Amending the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872" submitted on 10.8.1983 by the Law Commission of India. In the introductory chapter of the report, it is mentioned that the last few months have witnessed an alarming increase in the number of cases in which married women die in circumstances which, to say the least, are highly suspicious. In the popular mind, these deaths have come to be associated with dowry, which is why, in popular parlance, they have come to be called "dowry- deaths". Even after more than two decades of submitting the said report and enactments of new Legislations, unfortunately cases of dowry deaths are increasing. In the report, deep concern has been shown that once a serious crime is committed, detection is a difficult matter and still more difficult is successful prosecution of the offender. Crimes that lead to dowry deaths are almost invariably committed within the safe precincts of a residential house. The criminal is a member of the family; other members of the family are either guilty associates in crime, or silent but conniving witnesses to it. In any case, the shackles of the family are so strong that truth may not come out of the chains. There would be no other eye witnesses, except for members of the family. Perhaps to meet a situation of this kind, the Legislature enacted Section 304-B IPC and Section 113-B of the Evidence Act.


Court cannot ignore one of the cardinal principles of criminal jurisprudence that a suspect in the Indian law is entitled to the protection of Article 20 of the Constitution of India as well as has a presumption of innocence in his favour. In other words, the rule of law requires a person to be innocent till proved guilty. The concept of deeming fiction is hardly applicable to the criminal jurisprudence. In contradistinction to this aspect, the legislature has applied the concept of deeming fiction to the provisions of Section 304-B. Where other ingredients of Section 304-B are satisfied, in that event, the husband or all relatives shall be deemed to have caused her death. In other words, the offence shall be deemed to have been committed by fiction of law. Once the prosecution proves its case with regard to the basic ingredients of Section 304-B, the Court will presume by deemed fiction of law that the husband or the relatives complained of, has caused her death. Such a presumption can be drawn by the Court keeping in view the evidence produced by the prosecution in support of the substantive charge under Section 304-B of the Code.

a) To attract the provisions of Section 304B IPC the main ingredient of the offence to be established is that soon before the death of the deceased she was subjected to cruelty and harassment in connection with the demand of dowry.



Supreme Court of India

Kashmir Kaur & Anr vs State Of Punjab on 12 December, 2012

a) To attract the provisions of Section 304B IPC the main ingredient of the offence to be established is that soon before the death of the deceased she was subjected to cruelty and harassment in connection with the demand of dowry.

b) The death of the deceased woman was caused by any burn or bodily injury or some other circumstance which was not normal.

c) Such death occurs within seven years from the date of her marriage.

d) That the victim was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband.

e) Such cruelty or harassment should be for or in connection with demand of dowry.

f) It should be established that such cruelty and harassment was made soon before her death.

g) The expression (soon before) is a relative term and it would depend upon circumstances of each case and no straightjacket formula can be laid down as to what would constitute a period of soon before the occurrence.

h) It would be hazardous to indicate any fixed period and that brings in the importance of a proximity test both for the proof of an offence of dowry death as well as for raising a presumption under Section 113B of the Evidence Act.

i) Therefore, the expression “soon before” would normally imply that the interval should not be much between the concerned cruelty or harassment and the death in question. There must be existence of a proximate or life link between the effect of cruelty based on dowry demand and the concerned death. In other words, it should not be remote in point of time and thereby make it a stale one.

j) However, the expression “soon before” should not be given a narrow meaning which would otherwise defeat the very purpose of the provisions of the Act and should not lead to absurd results.

k) Section 304B is an exception to the cardinal principles of criminal jurisprudence that a suspect in the Indian Law is entitled to the protection of Article 20 of the Constitution, as well as, a presumption of innocence in his favour. The concept of deeming fiction is hardly applicable to criminal jurisprudence but in contradistinction to this aspect of criminal law, the legislature applied the concept of deeming fiction to the provisions of Section 304B.

l) Such deeming fiction resulting in a presumption is, however, a rebuttable presumption and the husband and his relatives, can, by leading their defence prove that the ingredients of Section 304B were not satisfied.

m) The specific significance to be attached is to the time of the alleged cruelty and harassment to which the victim was subjected to, the time of her death and whether the alleged demand of dowry was in connection with the marriage. Once the said ingredients were satisfied it will be called dowry death and by deemed fiction of law the husband or the relatives will be deemed to have committed that offence.


SECTION 304 B AND 498A ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE :-

Smt. Shanti And Anr vs State Of Haryana on 13 November, 1990

The appellants, along with three other co-accused, were charged of committing a dowry death. They were prosecuted under sections 201, 304-B and 498-A of the Indian Penal Code. The Trial Court convicted the appellants on all the counts but acquitted the other three co-accused. The appellants preferred an appeal before the High Court which set aside their conviction under section 498-A holding that Sections 304-B and 498-A are mutually exclusive and that when once the cruelty envisaged in section 498-A culminates in dowry death of the victim Section 304-B alone is attracted. Accordingly, the High Court acquitted the appellants under section 498-A. But their convictions under section 304-B and 201 were affirmed.


SUPREME COURT HELD: 1. The view of the High Court that Sections 304-B and 498-A I.P.C are mutually exclusive Is not correct. Sections 304-B and 498-A cannot be held to be mutually exclusive. These provisions deal with two distinct offences. It is true that "cruelty" is a common essential to both the Sections and that has to be proved. The Explanation to

Section 498-A gives the meaning of "cruelty". In Section 304-B there is no such explanation about the meaning of "cruelty" but having regard to the common background to these offences, the meaning of "cruelty or harassment" will be the same as found in the explanation to Section 498-A under which "cruelty" by itself mounts to an offence and is punishable. Under Section 304-B, it is the "dowry death" that is punishable and such death should have occurred within seven years of the marriage. No such period is mentioned in Section 498-A and the husband or his relative would be liable for subjecting the woman to "cruelty" any time after the marriage. Further a person charged and acquitted under section 304-B can be convicted under Section 498-A without charge being there, if such a case, is made out. But from the point of view of practice and procedure and to avoid technical defects it is necessary in such cases to frame charges under both the Section and if the case is established they can be convicted under both the Sections but no separate sentence need be awarded under Section 498-A in view of the substantive sentence being awarded for the major offence under Section 304-B.


There is a clear distinction between section 304B and 498A of the Indian Penal Code. Now,

under section 304B it is a dowry death that is punishable and such death should have

occurred within seven years of marriage and this period of limitation is not there in 498A.

In the case of Soni Devrajbhai Babubhai v. State of Gujarat it was held that Section 304B is

a substantive provision creating a new offence and not merely a provision effecting a change

in procedure for trial of a pre-existing substantive offence. As a consequence, accused cannot

be tried and punished for the offence of dowry death provided in section 304B with the

minimum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment for an act done by them prior to creation of

the new offence of dowry death.


In Shanti v. State of Haryana, in-laws insisted for dowry from the daughter-in-law.

Ultimately, it appeared that she was done to death and her body was cremated without

sending any information to her parents or any relatives. The Supreme Court held that, if it

was natural death, there was no need for the appellants to act in such unnatural manner and

cremate the body in great and unholy haste without even informing the parents. In the result it

was an unnatural death, either homicidal or suicidal. But even assuming that it is a case of

suicide even then it would be death which had occurred in unnatural circumstances. Even in

such a case, section 304B is attracted and this position is not disputed. Therefore, the

prosecution has established that the appellants have committed an offence punishable under

section 304B beyond all reasonable doubts. In Venugopal v. State of Karnataka 29 the

appellant husband was held liable for dowry death under 304B I.P.C. for creating a situation

whereby the wife committed suicide within two years of marriage.




Akula Ravinder And Others vs The State Of Andhra Pradesh on 11 January, 1991


A perusal of the Section 304B shows that one of the essential ingredients that has to be established is that death was otherwise than in normal circumstances. In this case no doubt, the other circumstance namely that the death occurred within seven years of the marriage and that before her death they have harassed her for demand of dowry are established. Coming to the other ingredient we find that the prosecution has miserably failed to establish that death was otherwise than in normal circumstances.



WHAT IS CONSIDERED TO BE DOWRY :


In the case of Ram Singh v. State of Haryana [(2008) 4 SCC 70], held that the payments which are customary payments, for example, given at the time of birth of a child or other ceremonies as are prevalent in the society or families to the marriage, would not be covered under the expression `dowry'.

Again, in the case of Satbir Singh v. State of Punjab [AIR 2001 SC 2828], this Court held that the word `dowry' should be any property or valuable given or agreed to be given in connection with the marriage. The customary payments in connection with birth of a child or other ceremonies are not covered within the ambit of the word `dowry'.

This Court, in the case of Madhu Sudan Malhotra v. K.C. Bhandari [(1988) Supp. 1 SCC 424], held that furnishing of a list of ornaments and other household articles such as refrigerator, furniture and electrical appliances etc., to the parents or guardians of the bride, at the time of settlement of the marriage, prima facie amounts to demand of dowry within the meaning of Section 2 of the Act. The definition of `dowry' is not restricted to agreement or demand for payment of dowry before and at the time of marriage but even include subsequent demands, was the dictum of this Court in the case of State of Andhra Pradesh v. Raj Gopal Asawa [(2004) 4 SCC 470].


Supreme Court of India

Ashok Kumar vs State Of Haryana on 8 July, 2010

The cruelty and harassment by the husband or any relative could be directly relatable to or in connection with, any demand for dowry. The expression `demand for dowry' will have to be construed ejusdem generis to the word immediately preceding this expression. Similarly, `in connection with the marriage' is an expression which has to be given a wider connotation. It is of some significance that these expressions should be given appropriate meaning to avoid undue harassment or advantage to either of the parties. These are penal provisions but ultimately these are the social legislations, intended to control offences relating to the society as a whole. Dowry is something which existed in our country for a considerable time and the legislature in its wisdom considered it appropriate to enact the law relating to dowry prohibition so as to ensure that any party to the marriage is not harassed or treated with cruelty for satisfaction of demands in consideration and for subsistence of the marriage.

The Courts have also taken the view that where the husband had demanded a specific sum from his father-in-law and upon not being given, harassed and tortured the wife and after some days she died, such cases would clearly fall within the definition of `dowry' under the Act. Section 4 of the Act is the penal Section and demanding a `dowry', as defined under Section 2 of the Act, is punishable under this section.





In Satvir Singh v. State of Punjab MANU/SC/0588/2001, the Hon'ble Apex Court considered the definition of "dowry" as defined under Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, with reference to the offence under Section 304B of the I.P.C., and held that it should be any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given in connection with the marriage, Customary gift or payment in connection with birth of child or other ceremonies unrelated to the marriage ceremony, held, do not fall within the ambit of "dowry".


The relevant para No. 21 of the judgment reads as under:


"21. Thus, there are three occasions related to dowry. One is before the marriage, second is "at any time" after the marriage. The third occasions may appear to be an unending period. But the crucial words are "in connection with the marriage of the said parties". This means that giving or agreeing to give any property or valuable security on any of the above three stages should have been in connection with the marriage of the parties. There can be many other instances for payment of money or giving property as between the spouses. For example, some customary payments in connection with birth of a child or other ceremonies are prevalent in different societies. Such payments are not enveloped within the ambit of "dowry". Hence the dowry mentioned in Section 304B should be any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given in connection with the marriage."


In K. Prema S. Rao v. Ydla Srinivasa Rao MANU/SC/0890/2002, the Hon'ble Apex Court considered the definition of "dowry" in the context of offence under Section 304A, I.P.C., along with Section 113B of the Evidence Act and held that one of the key ingredients of the offence is that deceased must have been subjected to cruelty and harassment "in connection with the demand for dowry" shortly before her death. Para 16 of the judgment reads as under:


"16. The evidence which has been found acceptable by the Courts below against accused I is that the cruel treatment and harassment of the deceased by him led her to commit suicide which was a death "otherwise than under normal circumstances". To attract the provisions of Section 304B, I.P.C., one of the main ingredients of the offence which is required to be established is that "soon before her death" she was subjected to cruelty and harassment "in connection with the demand for dowry". There is no evidence on record to show that the land was demanded as dowry. It was given by the father to the deceased in marriage ritual as pasupukumkuma. The harassment or cruelty meted out to the deceased by the husband after marriage to force her to transfer the land in his name was "not in connection with any demand for dowry". One of the main ingredients of the offence of "demand of dowry" being absent in this case, the High Court cannot be said to have committed any error in acquitting accused 1 for offence under Section 304B, I.P.C."


In Appasaheb and Anr. v. State of Maharashtra MANU/SC/7002/2007 : 2007 (1) Crimes 110 : AIR 2007 SC 763 (SC), there Lordships of the Hon'ble Supreme Court considered the similar point in the context of offence under Section 304B, I.P.C. with the meaning of "dowry" as defined under Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, and held that giving or taking of property or valuable security must have some connection with the marriage of the parties and a correlation between the giving or taking of property or valuable security with the marriage of the parties is essential. A demand for money on account of some financial stringency or for meeting some urgent domestic expenses or for purchasing manure cannot be termed as a demand for dowry as the said word is normally understood. Para 9 of the judgment reads as under:


9. Two essential ingredients of Section 304B IPC, apart from others, are (i) death of woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances, and (ii) woman is subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with any demand for "dowry". The explanation appended to Sub-section (1) of Section 304B, IPC says that "dowry" shall have the same meaning as in Section 2 of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.


Section 2 of Dowry Prohibition Act reads as under:


2. Definition of "dowry" - In this Act "dowry" means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly:


(a) By one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage:


(b) By the parent of either party to a marriage or by any other person to either party to the marriage or to any other person, at or before or any time after the marriage in connection with the marriage of the said parties, but does not include dower or mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies.


In view of the aforesaid definition of the word "dowry" any property or valuable security should be given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly at or before or any time after the marriage and in connection with the marriage of the said parties. Therefore, the giving or taking of property or valuable security must have some connection with the marriage of the parties and a correlation between the giving or taking of property or valuable security with the marriage of the parties is essential. Being a penal provision it has to be strictly construed. Dowry is a fairly well known social custom or practice in India. It is well settled principle of interpretation of statute that if the act is passed with reference to a particular trade, business or transaction and words are used which everybody conversant with that trade, business or transaction knows or understands to have a particular meaning in it, then the words are to be construed as having that particular meaning, (See Union of India v. Garware Nylons Ltd. MANU/SC/0967/1996 : AIR 1996 SC 3509) and Chemical and Fibres of India v. Union of India MANU/SC/0147/1997 : AIR 1997 SC 558). A demand for money on account of some financial stringency or for meeting some urgent domestic expenses or for purchasing manure cannot be termed as a demand for dowry as the said word is normally understood. The evidence adduced by the prosecution does not. Therefore, show that any demand for "dowry" as defined in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act was made by the appellants as what was allegedly asked for was some money for meeting domestic expenses and for purchasing manure. Since an essential ingredient of Section 304B, IPC viz. demand for dowry is not established, the conviction of the appellants cannot be sustained.


In para Nos. 11,12 and 13 in the case of Vikaram Singh v. State of Rajasthan reported in MANU/RH/0018/2007 : 2007 Cri LJ 1622 discussed about the definition of dowry and the same are reproduced hereinunder:


In Satvir Singh v. State of Punjab MANU/SC/0588/2001, the Hon'ble Apex Court considered the definition of "dowry" as defined under Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, with reference to the offence under Section 304B of the I.P.C., and held that it should be any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given in connection with the marriage, Customary gift or payment in connection with birth of child or other ceremonies unrelated to the marriage ceremony, held, do not fall within the ambit of "dowry".


The relevant para No. 21 of the judgment reads as under:


21. Thus, there are three occasions related to dowry. One is before the marriage, second is "at any time" after the marriage. The third occasions may appear to be an unending period. But the crucial words are "in connection with the marriage of the said parties". This means that giving or agreeing to give any property or valuable security on any of the above three stages should have been in connection with the marriage of the parties. There can be many other instances for payment of money or giving property as between the spouses. For example, some customary payments in connection with birth of a child or other ceremonies are prevalent in different societies. Such payments are not enveloped within the ambit of "dowry". Hence the dowry mentioned in Section 304B should be any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given in connection with the marriage.


In Reema Aggarwal v. Anupam MANU/SC/0022/2004 : 2004 AIR SCW 344 : AIR 2004 SC 1418 : 2004 Cri LJ 892, the Apex Court discussed about the definition of term "dowry" under Section 2 of the Dowry Act, which is available in para 14 of the said judgment. Para 14 is reproduced herein under:


"14. The definition of the term 'dowry' under Section 2 of the Dowry Act shows that any property or valuable security given or, "agreed to be given" either directly or indirectly by one party to the marriage to the other party to the marriage "at or before or after the marriage" as a "consideration for the marriage of the said parties" would become "dowry" punishable under the Dowry Act. Property or valuable security so as to constitute 'dowry' within the meaning of the Dowry Act must, therefore, be given or demanded "as consideration for the marriage."


Further in para 18 of Reema Aggarwal (supra), the Apex Court dealt with the concept of dowry as well as the aim of the legislation introducing the provision of Section 498A as well as 304B IPC. For better understanding para 18 of the aforesaid judgment is quoted herein under:


"18. The concept of "dowry" is intermittently linked with a marriage and the provisions of the Dowry Act apply in relation to marriages. If the legality of the marriage itself is an issue further legalistic problems do arise. If the validity of the marriage itself is under legal scrutiny, the demand of dowry in respect of an invalid marriage would be legally not recognizable. Even then the purpose for which Sections 498A and 304B, I.P.C. and Section 113-B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (for short the "Evidence Act") were introduced cannot be lost sight of. Legislations enacted with some policy to curb and alleviate some public evil rampant in society and effectuate a definite public purpose or benefit positively requires to be interpreted with certain element of realism too and not merely pedantically or hyper technically. The obvious objective was to prevent harassment to a woman who enters into a marital relationship with a person and later on, becomes a victim of the greed for money. Can a person who enters into a marital arrangement be allowed to take a shelter behind a smokescreen to contend that since there was no valid marriage the question of dowry does not arise? Such hairsplitting legalistic approach would encourage harassment to a woman over demand of money. The nomenclature 'dowry' does not have any magic charm written over it. It is that a level given to demand of money in relation to marital relationship. The legislative intent is clear from the fact that it is not only the husband but also his relations who are covered by Section 498A. Legislature has taken care of children born from invalid marriages. Section 16 of the Marriage Act deals with legitimacy of children of void and voidable marriages. Can it be said that Legislature which was conscious of the social stigma attached to children of valid and voidable marriages closed eyes to plight of a woman who unknowingly or unconscious of the legal consequences entered into the marital relationship. If such restricted meaning is given it would not further the legislative intent. On the contrary, it would be against the concerned shown by the Legislature for avoiding harassment to a woman over demand of money in relation to marriages. The first exception to Section 494 has also some relevance. According to it, the offence of bigamy will not apply to "any person whose marriage with such husband or wife has been declared void by a Court of competent jurisdiction". It would be appropriate to construe the expression 'husband'; to cover a person who enters into marital relationship and under the colour of such proclaimed or feigned status of husband subjects the woman concerned to cruelty or coerce her in any manner or for any of the purposes enumerated in the relevant provisions Sections 304B/498-A, whatever be the legitimacy of the marriage itself for the limited purpose of Sections 498A and 304B, IPC. Such an interpretation, known and recognized as purposive construction has come into play in a case of this nature. The absence of a definition of 'husband' to specifically include such persons who contract marriages ostensibly and cohabitate with such woman, in the purported exercise of his role and status as 'husband' is no ground to exclude them from the purview of Section 304B or 498-A, I.P.C. viewed in the context of the very object and aim of the legislations introducing those provisions."




HOW TO DEAL WITH TESTIMONIES OF WITNESSES :-

Section 304-B deals with dowry death. The death may be of following two natures:-(i) Natural death (ii) Unnatural death. Law does not take cognizance of the natural death but in case if it is unnatural death, then the provisions of law and the criminal jurisprudence comes into picture. Unnatural death may be of following kinds:-


(i) Accidental death


(ii) Suicidal death


(iii) Homicidal death


(iv) Dowry death