LATEST JUDGEMENT OF THE SUPREME COURT
- The Supreme Court in a recent judgment held that the offence of dowry death under Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code cannot be made out if the cause of death has not been established as unnatural.
- The Court in this case settled that for a conviction under Section 304B, it is necessary to be shown that he deceased was subjected to harassment and or cruelty in connection with demand for dowry.
SO WHAT IS SECTION 304B OF IPC?
- Section 304B criminalizes dowry death, i.e. a death caused which is in relation demand for dowry, by the husband and/or the relatives.
- Section 304B reads, “Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, such death shall be called "dowry death", and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.”
- The section also provides for a punishment of imprisonment for not less than 7 years, which may extend to life imprisonment.
THE PRESENT CASE
- Sandeep Kumar and others v State of Uttarakhand and others (SLP(Crl) No.1512-1513 of 2017)
- In the present case, the husband accused of causing dowry death of his wife was acquitted by a trial court in Uttarakhand, for the offence did not satisfy conditions under Section 304B.
- However, the Uttarakhand High Court reversed the judgment and convicted the accused husband of causing the dowry death.
- Later the Supreme Court finally settled the matter by acquitting the accused husband, holding that the present case does not satisfy the conditions of dowry death.
- The Supreme Court also held that the death in the present case is not unnatural, while rejecting the prosecution’s contention that the woman was poisoned saying that the autopsy did not conclude so.
- The Court also noticed that the oral testimony of the father and the brother regarding dowry were contradictory.
WHAT SUPREME COURT OBSERVED ABOUT SECTION 304B?
- While holding that the present case was not that of dowry death, the Supreme Court make the following observations about the section.
- Marriage should have been performed seven years before the death of the wife,
- The death must be unnatural,
- Soon before the death, the wife must have been subjected to cruelty in relation with demand for dowry, and
- Section 113B of Evidence Act will apply only if the prosecution shows that the harassment was relation with demand for dowry.
What do you think about this? Let us know in the comments section below!