Dowry Harassment

UPSC Syllabus

  • The Supreme Court has called dowry harassment a “pestiferous” crime where women are subjected to cruelty by “covetous” husbands and in-laws.
  • The Court indicated in a judgment that a straitjacket and literal interpretation of Section 304-B, a penal provision on dowry death may have blunted the battle against the “long-standing social evil”.

Section 304-B

  • According to Section 304-B, to make out a case of dowry death, a woman should have died of burns or other bodily injuries or “otherwise than under normal circumstances” within seven years of her marriage. 
  • She should have suffered cruelty or harassment from her husband or in-laws “soon before her death” in connection with demand for dowry.

Issues with Section 304-B:

  • The courts have mostly resorted to the narrow view of Section 304-B. Courts had interpreted the phrase 'soon before' in Section 304-B as 'immediately before'. This interpretation would make it necessary for a woman to have been harassed moments before she died.
  • The phrase “otherwise than under normal circumstances” in the Section also calls for a liberal interpretation.


Statistics on dowry related deaths 

  • Dowry deaths accounted for 40% to 50% homicides in the country for almost a decade from 1999 to 2018.
  • In 2019 alone, 7,115 cases of dowry death were registered under Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code.



Source : The Hindu

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