Dowry System In India

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    In Context 

    Recently, the Allahabad High Court, while allowing two criminal revisions pertaining to a dowry case, took cognisance of the misuse of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

    Major Points 

    • The High Court expressed its concern over the growing tendency of dowry victims to rope in the husband and all his family members using general and sweeping allegations.
    • HC proposed certain safeguards and directed the State authorities of Uttar Pradesh to take the necessary steps for their implementation in a given time period. 
    • The directions, inter alia, include constitution of a family welfare committee in each district under the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA), handing over the first information report to such a committee immediately after its registration, and no arrest to be made by the police during this “cooling period’ of two months. 
      • The High Court specifically mentioned in its judgement of taking guidance from the judgement of the Supreme Court of India in Social Action Forum for Manav Adhikar vs Union of India (2018).

    Dowry System In India

    • The dowry system in India refers to the bride’s family giving to the bridegroom, his parents, or his relatives as a condition of the marriage. 
      • Dowry is essentially in the nature of payment in cash or some kind of gifts given to the bridegroom’s family along with the pride and includes cash and other household items.
    • As per the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, dowry has been defined as “any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly, by one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage, or 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”. 

    Reasons for Dowry

    • Economic causes: These include inheritance systems and the bride’s economic status. Dowry gave, at least in theory, women economic and financial security in their marriage.
    • Social factors: The system encourages dowry perhaps due to the exclusion of the bride’s family after marriage as a form of pre mortem inheritance for the bride.

    Issues 

    • The dowry system is thought to put a great financial burden on the bride’s family. 
    • In some cases, the dowry system Leads to crime against women, ranging from emotional abuse and injury to even deaths.

    Legal Status in India

    • The payment of dowry has long been prohibited under specific Indian laws including the Dowry Prohibited under specific Indian law including:
    • Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961- To prohibit giving or taking of dowry.
      • Anyone who violates this law is punishable with imprisonment for a term not less than five years, and fine of not less than Rs 15,000, or an amount of the value of such dowry, whichever is more. 
    • Section 304-B of the IPC
      • It is about the Dowry death of a woman subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband.
    • Section 498-A of the IPC (offence of cruelty)
      • Against the husband or his relative if the wife commits suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage.
    • Section 174 of CrPC was also amended to secure Post Mortem in case of suicide or death of a woman within seven years of her marriage. 
    • Section 113A has been introduced in the Evidence Act, 1872 raising a presumption of cruelty as defined under Section.

     

    SC’s Observations 

    • In Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan (1997), the Supreme Court issued directions to enforce fundamental rights in the absence of law in certain cases of sexual harassment at the workplace. 
    • The Supreme Court said not just laws but people had to also change from within and learn to treat a woman with respect for the social evil of dowry to be vanquished once and for all.
    • It requested the Law Commission of India to take a “fresh look” to bring “more teeth” to the law against dowry.
    • Recently, the Supreme Court has held that Dowry death can be presumed if the wife was harassed, mentally and physically close before her death in the marital home.

    Conclusion and Way forward 

    •  Educate the daughters
      • Education and independence is one powerful and valuable gift that we can give to our daughters.
    • At the same time, the society at large needs to become aware and understand the gravity of such crimes.
    • The police must strictly enforce the Supreme Court’s directions issued in Arnesh Kumar vs State of Bihar (2014) and ensure that there is sufficient reason and credible material against the accused person to necessitate arrest. 
    • The investigating officers must be imparted rigorous training with regard to the principles stated by the Court relating to arrest. 
      • At the same time, wrong-doers need to be punished departmentally.
    • Strong legislation is vital for holding the perpetrators accountable. Legislation is also essential for addressing structural gender discrimination as well as cultural and social legitimisation of violence against women. 
      • Increased funding and strengthened infrastructure are also required.
    • Engage with local communities and develop education programmes on women’s rights.
    • There are people who complain about misuse of dowry related provisions and plead for their abrogation. 
      • The government should come up with laws and safeguards to stop misuse of such harsh provisions.