Harassment and cruelty in connection with demand of dowry

“It is not any cruelty that becomes the subject matter of the provision but it is the cruelty or harassment for or in connection with, demand for dowry”

In this case, the death of a woman has occurred during seven years of her marriage. It is also stated that, at the time of marriage, the dowry has been paid according to the capacity of the complainant. However, after the marriage, the deceased S was harassed for not bringing more dowry. Ten days before the incident the deceased had come to the complainant’s place and stated that her in-laws were demanding Rs. 7,000/- as they wanted to purchase a buffalo. She had further stated that till she brings the desired money, she would not be allowed to reside in her in-laws, place. To establish the offense under Section 304B -IPC the prosecution is obliged to prove that the death of women is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances and such death occurs within 7 years of her marriage and if shown that before her death that was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband. Such harassment and cruelty must be in connection with any demand and dowry?

  1. Deepak vs State Of U.P. on 3 March 2021
  1. If death is a result of burns or bodily injury, or otherwise than under normal circumstances, and it occurs within seven years of the marriage and, it is ‘shown’ in contradistinction to ‘proved’ that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or his relatives, and the cruelty or harassment is connected with a demand of dowry, it shall be a dowry death, and the husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.
  2. To borrow from Preventive Detention jurisprudence – there must be a live link between the cruelty emanating from a dowry demand and the death of a young married woman, as is sought to be indicated by the words “soon before her death”, to bring Section 304B into operation; the live link will obviously be broken if the said cruelty does not persist in proximity to the untimely and abnormal death. It cannot be confined in terms of time; the query of this Court in the context of condonation of delay in filing an appeal – why not minutes and second – remains apposite.
  1. In this connection, we may refer to the judgment of this Court in Kans Raj v. State of Punjab [(2000) 5 SCC 207: 2000 SCC (Cri) 935] where this Court considered the term “soon before”. The relevant observations are as under: (SCC pp. 222- 23, para 15) ’15. … ‘Soon before’ is a relative term that is required to be considered under specific circumstances of each case and no straitjacket formula can be laid down by fixing any time-limit. This expression is pregnant with the idea of proximity test. The term ‘soon before’ is not synonymous with the term ‘immediately before’ and is the opposite of the expression ‘soon after’ as used and understood in Section 114, Illustration (a) of the Evidence Act.
  2. These words would imply that the interval should not be too long between the time of making the statement and the death. It contemplates the reasonable time which, as earlier noticed, has to be understood and determined under the peculiar circumstances of each case. About dowry deaths, the circumstances showing the existence of cruelty or harassment to the deceased are not restricted to a particular instance but normally refer to a course of conduct. Such conduct may be spread over a period of time. If the cruelty or harassment or demand for dowry is shown to have persisted, it shall be deemed to be ‘soon before death’ if any other intervening circumstance showing the non-existence of such treatment is not brought on record, before such alleged treatment and the date of death.
  3. It does not, however, mean that such time can be stretched to any period. The proximate and live link between the effect of cruelty based on dowry demand and the consequential death is required to be proved by the prosecution. The demand of dowry, cruelty, or harassment based upon such demand and the date of death should not be too remote in time which, under the circumstances, be treated as having become stale enough.’ Thus, there must be a nexus between the demand of dowry, cruelty, or harassment, based upon such demand and the date of death. The test of proximity will have to be applied. But, it is not a rigid test. It depends on the facts and circumstances of each case and calls for a pragmatic and sensitive approach of the court within the confines of the law.”
  4. In light of the law as discussed above, the main ingredients of dowry death are harassment and cruelty for the demand of dowry, which should be examined first. As per the prosecution case, the marriage of the victim and appellant herein was solemnized on 10.12.2012. The Factum of marriage was admitted by the accused in his statement under Section 313 Cr. P.C. Even defense witnesses have admitted marriage of the accused-appellant with the victim in the year 2012. There is also no dispute that the victim was found dead within seven years of her marriage. As per the F.I.R. version, on 12.06.2015 father of the victim had received telephonic information from the police concerning his daughter’s death.
  5. The Factum of death had not been disputed by the accused in his defense, which occurred within two and half years of the marriage. The Factum of demand of dowry has been asserted by the prosecution witnesses, though the same has been denied by the accused in his statement under Section 313 Cr.P.C. and the deposition of the defense witnesses.
  6. A perusal of the evidence of prosecution in the totality of surrounding circumstances along with other evidence available on record, in which crime is alleged to have commissioned, it can easily be inferred that the victim was subjected to cruelty and harassment for the demand of dowry and the chain of incidents constitute proximate live link with the death of deceased.
Protection of Women Against Cruelty in India - B&B Associates LLP.
In the facts and circumstances of the present case, it cannot be said that there was a stray incident of demand of dowry. Death of victim within two and half years of marriage in suspicious circumstance wherein seat of injury no.  at the forehead of the deceased and persistent demand of dowry shows that soon before her death, she was subjected to cruelty and harassment by her husband for, or in connecting with, the demand of dowry. The prosecution has successfully discharged its duty and it is obligatory on the Court to raise a presumption that the accused caused the dowry death. No unimpeachable evidence has been adduced by the accused to prove his innocence and rebut his complicity in the commission of the crime of dowry death. There is no illegality, infirmity, or perversity in the impugned judgment and order passed by the Court below warranting interference by this Court in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction. Learned Court below has rightly held the present appellant guilty under Section 304-B and 498-A IPC and under Section 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act.
Dowry related crimes continue to rise even after 59 years of Dowry Prohibition Act: What are the reasons for this? | by Gatha G Namboothiri | Nyaaya | Medium
Dharam Das vs State Of U.P. on 29 September 2020
  1. At this stage, it would be pertinent to mention that Section 113-B of the Evidence Act mandates the Court has to raise the statutory presumption in a case where it is shown that soon before her death such woman has been subjected to cruelty or harassment for or in connection with any demand of dowry. In the case of Banshi Lal Vs. The state of Haryana, AIR 2011 SC 691, has held that the court has to analyze the facts and circumstances as leading to the death of the victim and decide if there is any proximate connection between the demand of dowry and act of cruelty or harassment and the death. Meaning thereby cruelty or harassment concerning the demand of dowry soon before death is a crucial ingredient to be proved by the prosecution before attracting any provisions of section 304-B I.P.C.
  2. In Mustafa Shahdal Shaikh Vs. In the state of Maharashtra, AIR 2013 SC 851 it was observed by the Hon’ble Apex Court that “soon before death” means the interval between cruelty and death should not be much. There must be the existence of proximate and live links between the effect of cruelty based on dowry demand and the concerned death. 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. Similarly in Kaliyaperumal Vs. State of Tamil Nadu, AIR 2003 SC 3828 it was held that that the expression ‘Soon before her death” used in the substantive Section 304-B I.P.C. 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 her death” is not defined. 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 concerned cruelty or harassment and effect of cruelty based on dowry demand and the concerned death. 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.
  3. In the case in hand, as pointed out earlier, both PW-1 Veer Singh and PW 2 have made consistent statements that after the marriage of the deceased, she was continuously being harassed on account of dowry demand of a buffalo and cash of Rs.40,000/. PW-1 Veer Singh has stated that after 6-7 days of marriage, the deceased visited his house after vidai and told that her husband and his family members were harassing for the demand of dowry and they were not allowing her even to take proper food and other necessary apparels. She has told that accused persons were making a demand of a buffalo and Rs.40,000/. However, after and a half month, the deceased was again sent to her matrimonial home. After that, she used to tell on the phone that accused persons were harassing for said demand. PW-1 Veer Singh has stated that he also used to visit the matrimonial home of the deceased and that she used to complain about the harassment on account of dowry demand. In his cross-examination, PW-1 Veer Singh stated that after her marriage, the deceased visited his house three times, and after that on 25.09.2008, he was informed about the incident.
  4. The version of PW-1 Veer Singh has been corroborated by PW-2 Smt. Krishna Devi. PW-2 Krishna Devi also stated that even when third time her daughter Saroj Devi came from her matrimonial home, she has told that she was being continuously harassed and that accused persons were not allowing her even to take proper food and that her husband Dharam Das used to beat her after consuming liquor. However, the deceased was again sent back to her matrimonial home, and thereafter, on the day of the incident, they were informed that the accused persons have burnt the deceased.
  5. The evidence indicates that after her marriage, the deceased was continuously being harassed for the fulfillment of the alleged demand of dowry. The incident took place within about 7 months of marriage and during this period of 7 months deceased has visited her paternal home three times and on every occasion, she always told her family members that she was being harassed in connection with said dowry demand. During this period of 7 months, besides the three visits of the deceased, PW-1 Veer Singh also used to visit her matrimonial home house.
  6. There are no reasons to doubt this evidence. The accused-appellant has also not taken any such specific plea that the deceased did not visit her maternal home or that PW-1 Veer Singh did not visit his house. Thus, there is evidence that within a short span of 7 months of matrimonial life of the deceased, she visited her parental house three times, and whenever the deceased met her father or brother, she used to tell about the harassment being meted out to her on account of demand of buffalo and cash of Rs. 40,000/ by the accused-appellant. All these facts clearly imply that the deceased was continuously being harassed for demand dowry and there is absolutely nothing to indicate that this cruelty and harassment has ever ceased till the incident.
  7. One important aspect of the matter is that there is evidence in the form of the dying declaration of the deceased that it was the accused-appellant Dharam Das, who has put the deceased on fire and she died after two months of a said incident of burn injuries sustained by her in the alleged incident. Though the accused-appellant was not charged for the offense under section 302 IPC, the fact that she was set ablaze by the accused-appellant, also goes to show that the deceased was being subjected to cruelty till the incident of burning and this cruelty clearly covers ”cruelty soon before her death”.
  8. Considering the entire evidence, it is manifest there is a proximate connection between the demand of dowry and the act of cruelty/harassment meted out to the deceased and the death of the deceased. The interval between cruelty and death of the deceased is not much and such gap has to be examined in the attending facts and circumstances of the matter. There is a proximate and live link between the effect of cruelty based on dowry demand and the death of the deceased. As observed by the Hon’ble Apex Court, the determination of the period which can come within the term “soon before” is to be determined by courts, depending upon facts and circumstances of each case and it normally implies that the interval should not be much between the concerned cruelty or harassment and effect of cruelty based on dowry demand and the concerned death.
  9. Considering the evidence in light of peculiar facts and circumstances of the instant case as well as the position of law, it is established that the deceased was continuously being harassed on account of dowry demand of a buffalo and cash of Rs.40,000/ and the accused-appellant continued the harassment and ill-treatment to the deceased till the incident of her burning.
  10. As noticed earlier there is absolutely nothing to indicate that this cruelty and harassment has ever ceased till the incident. Considering the entire evidence, it is clear that there is a proximate and lives link between the effect of cruelty meted out to the deceased based on dowry demand and the death of the deceased. Thus, it established that the deceased was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband / accused-appellant in connection with demand for dowry and that such cruelty or harassment was soon before her death. Because of this evidence, the presumption enshrined under section 113-B Evidence Act can safely be raised against the accused-appellant appellant.

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