NV Ramana on dowry: The Indian Chief Justice expressed his views regarding the social evil on May 28, cautioning trial courts to not act casually while handling cases involving dowry.
Taking into consideration the persistence of dowry harassment and deaths despite years of laws against them, the Indian Apex Court Judge warned trial courts to act particularly while handling cases of dowry and change the “casual approach” while at it. At the same time, special care must be taken to not implicate innocent relatives who may have had no role in the offence.
The statements were made while passing judgement for a case from Haryana, together with Aniruddha Bose.
The Dowry Prohibition Act was enacted by the Indian Parliament back in 1961, making it the first-ever step to eradicate the practice. Following it, various laws were further amended to tighten the grip on it.
However, the issue of dowry harassment is still prevalent, majorly in rural areas.
“Additionally, there was a growing trend of deaths of young brides in suspicious circumstances following demands of dowry,” the Chief Justice said.
He referred to a report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime that reveals that dowry deaths in India in 2018 “alone estimated for up to 50 per cent of the before-mentioned fatalities for the period 1999-2016”.
The bench also released guidelines for the trial courts dealing with dowry death cases.
“Trial courts should not record statements of the accused and others in a casual way,” the guidelines read, “They must be cautious not to rope in family members of the husband who do not have an active role in the crime.”
Moreover, the trial courts need to balance other important considerations, including the right to a speedy trial while handling cases under Section 313, Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). In this regard, special measures are to be taken to ensure the above provisions should not be allowed to be misused as delay tactics, according to the guidelines.
The prosecution must prove the existence of a “proximate and live link” between the dowry death and harassment for dowry demand by the husband or his relatives, the guidelines added.
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