Author: Esha Jain (Kalinga School of Law, Bhubaneshwara)
Dowry is considered as one of the traditional customs of the marriage and the evil associated with the marriage is dowry system. Marriage is not a formal contract but rather a sacred relationship in Hindu culture. However, it appears that the dowry custom runs counter to what was said above. Despite the fact that there are laws against it, dowry is nearly always required for marriage. Unfortunately, some weddings simply take place for dowry.
It is a system where relatives of the bride offer gifts to the bridegroom and the bride at the time of the wedding in the form of cash, a car, a piece of land, etc., which is burdensome for the bride’s family. It occasionally escalates into a significant problem because it causes violence. Families torment the bride after the wedding in order to get dowry out of a “desire for money.” It is the main factor in deadly violence against married women. Consequently, the marital system’s purity is destroyed. Due to the fact that women did not have property inheritance rights in ancient times, the father would give the bridegroom a dowry in order to protect his daughter, which is how the custom came to be.This dowry system is still in place mostly due to a man’s insatiable desire for wealth. The government should implement numerous initiatives to ethically educate the populace in order to abolish the dowry system. Furthermore, the judicial system needs to move swiftly and guarantee that the verdict is just.
According to the Indian National Crime Record Bureau, dowry-related fatalities occur in India at a rate that is by far the highest in the world. 8,233 incidents of dowry-related fatalities were reported in India in 2012, which equates to one bride being burnt every 90 minutes or 1.4 deaths per 100,000 women in India. Indian authorities received almost 2,500 allegations of bride-burning per year, according to a 1996 investigation. The National Crime Records Bureau reports that 8,331 dowry deaths occurred in India in 2011. (NCRB). While India’s population rose at a rate of 17.6% during the preceding ten years, the number of dowry fatalities in 2008 (8,172) climbed by 14.4% over the level of (7,146) in 1998. The veracity of these numbers has come under intense scrutiny from those who contend that dowry fatalities are routinely underreported.
The “Dowry Prohibition Act” of 1961 the request for, payment for, or acceptance of a dowry “in consideration for the marriage,” where “dowry” is defined as a “gift” that must be provided or required as a necessity of marriage. Unconditional gifts are not regarded as dowry and are thus permissible. A fine of up to 63US$ or up to six months in jail are the possible penalties for soliciting or offering dowry. Many anti-dowry laws that had been passed by various Indian states were replaced by it. India’s criminal penal code addresses compelled suicide and murder.
Dowry death has been discussed and mentioned under Section. 304B of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860). It is defined as: “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.”
DOWRY DEATH CASES IN STATES OF INDIA: A COMPARATIVE STUDY:
- STATES WITH HIGHEST NUMBER OF DOWRY DEATH CASES:
In spite of several administrations conducting anti-dowry programmes, dowry murders and homicides are a routine occurrence in Bihar and UP.
The state of Uttar Pradesh, followed by Bihar, has reported the greatest number of dowry fatalities for the past three years in a row. According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Uttar Pradesh reported the greatest number of dowry fatalities in the nation that year with 2469 in 2014 (provisional), up from 2244 in 2012, 2335 in 2013, and 2244 in 2012. With 1275 dowry deaths recorded in 2012, 1182 in 2013, and 1373 in 2014, Bihar has consistently ranked second in the number of dowry death cases over the past three years (Provisional).
Data from the National Crime Records Bureau from 2020 show that UP had more than 2000 dowry deaths, while Bihar recorded more than 1,000—the second-highest number in the nation. The reason behind these states having high cases of dowry death is because of the rigid patriarchy system they follow where they consider the male superior to the females. Education also lacks in these areas. Due to not being educated enough, they support such absurd practice which has been followed for generations.
The most horrifying, aspect is that, frequently, a girl’s parents are aware of the torture and ongoing demand for dowry after marriage. As parents urge their daughters to “adapt” and strive to be decent wives, they often do their best to satisfy the standards. They continue to disregard several warning flags because they believe that saving the daughter’s marriage is more essential than saving her life.
If we never accept or offer dowry, both in these states and globally, dowry may be regulated. Both individuals who donate and those who receive dowries are subject to penalties and prison time under Indian law.
- STATES WITH LEAST NUMBER OF DOWRY DEATH CASES:
According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, the states of North-Eastern India have shown very less to no cases of dowry death over the years. Nagaland, Sikkim, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and few more states top the list with no to one case of dowry death over the years. [i]
In 2014, the states that registered merely one dowry death were Manipur, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. Since most of the North-Eastern states are dominated by tribes, their culture, respect and pride matters the most to them. They do not tend to do anything which would hurt their principles. One of the most important principle of these tribal people are equality of people. Therefore, they do not let any sex whether a girl or a boy go through any sort of injustice or discrimination from their own people or others from the society. The concept of being able to choose your life partner without any restriction in these states also explains and gives this theory another angle. As the choice is given to choose their life-partner, the concept of demanding for dowry does not come up and hence justifies less number of dowry-death cases. Another reason as to why the cases in these area is equal to none is because the women in their culture are not someone who are looked down at, rather they are respected and given equal treatment just like the men. Therefore, they do not let the women to get exploited on any grounds.
In the North-Eastern states, the parents give gifts to their daughter out of love and care and not to the groom. This gifting is not considered dowry. There is no pressure from the groom’s side too to give dowry. In fact, the groom’s family respects and treats the bride and her family with utmost respect and pride. Since majority of them are educated they know about the evil practice of dowry system, its effect on the society and the women.
Lack of action has caused dowry death to be a major issue in Bihar and UP. Even though dowry is prohibited in India, virtually little has been done to prevent the extensive exchange of money and other assets during marriages. All socioeconomic classes engage in it on a regular basis. The states with the highest number of dowry deaths may actually need to engage in serious self-reflection and learn from the North-eastern experience of treating women equally and not the other, even though North East India experiences almost zero incidents of dowry death due to its matriarch society and exhibits the most tolerance for its women. For the sake of upholding the pride, honour, and reputation of their families, women are under tremendous pressure from society and their families to live their lives inside the confines of the home without speaking out and to put up with all manner of violence from spouses and in-laws. It is considerably more challenging for the victims of abuse and torture to speak up, raise their voices, or forward their thoughts because of the general ignorance and lack of compassion displayed by society.
The Government of India periodically holds workshops, fairs, cultural events, seminars, training programmes, and other events to raise awareness of different laws pertaining to women, such as the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961. The print and electronic media frequently run advertisements to raise awareness of the legislation pertaining to women’s rights but despite all this, dowry has been a practice
- Kunhiabdulla v. State of Kerala, (2004) 4 SCC 13:
Dowry abuse affects people of all castes, religions, and locations. In the following case, the victim was a resident of a small village in Kerala. The two defendants were accused of committing an offence that was punishable under Sections 304B and 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (commonly known as “the IPC”). The Trial Court ordered their acquittal after concluding that the prosecution had failed to prove its case.
- State of A.P. v. Raj Gopal Asawa, (2004) 4 SCC 470:
In this case, the appellant was married to Jaikali Devi (deceased). The appleant demanded a dowry of 40,000 at the time of his wedding, and the same amount was given to him. Later, after getting married, he made a demand for a buffalo, but it was not granted. The deceased was tortured as a result of this. He insulted the brother of the deceased when he arrived to meet her. When the deceased’s brother arrived on the day of her death, he observed injuries all over her body. Her brother questioned whether it was a case of dowry death, despite the defendant’s claim that she died as a result of an illness. Later, the SC held that they were liable for offences under Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code.
 Dowry death https://en.wikipedia.org/ June 2018 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dowry_death
 Highest Dowry Deaths in UP and Bihar in 2012, 2013 & 2014 https://www.punekarnews.in/ https://www.punekarnews.in/highest-dowry-deaths-in-up-and-bihar-in-2012-2013-2014/#:~:text=Bihar%20is%20placed%20second%20in,1373%20in%202014(Provisional)
 Why is North East India a ‘dowry-free’ zone? old.indiatomorrow.net 08 Sep 2015 12:09 AM, IST https://old.indiatomorrow.net/eng/why-north-east-india-is-dowry-free-zone
 Dowry and dowry death https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/ APR 15, 2022, 18:18 IST https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/readersblog/politiclaw/dowry-and-dowry-death-42574/
 Kunhiabdulla And Anr vs State Of Kerala on 9 March, 2004 https://indiankanoon.org/ https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1567224/
 The State of Andhra Pradesh v/s Raj Gopal Asawa and Another https://www.lawyerservices.in/ https://www.lawyerservices.in/The-State-of-Andhra-Pradesh-Versus-Raj-Gopal-Asawa-and-Another-2004-03-17