The Delhi High Court, taking note of the alarming rise in the number of cases of harassment of newly-wed women for dowry, said their dreams were shattered and refused relief to a 60-year-old woman accused in such a case.
Justice Sunit Gupta said: “In-laws are characterised to be out-laws for perpetrating terrorism, which destroys the matrimonial home.” He described the practice of receiving a dowry as a “terrorist”, spreading his tentacles in every possible direction.
“‘Marriages are made in heaven’ is an adage. A bride leaves her parental home for the matrimonial home, leaving behind sweet memories, with the hope that she will see a new world full of love in her groom’s house. She leaves behind not only her memories, but also her surname, gotra and maidenhood. She expects not only to be a daughter-in-law, but a daughter, in fact,” the court said.
“Alas! The alarming rise in the number of cases involving harassment to the newly wed girls for dowry shatters those dreams. In-laws are characterized to be out-laws for perpetrating terrorism which destroys the matrimonial home. The terrorist is dowry, and it is its spreading tentacles in every possible direction,” the court said.
The court’s observations came while hearing an appeal filed by 60-year-old Bhateri Devi, challenging the seven-year jail term she received from a trial court for killing her daughter-in-law over dowry.
The trial court, March 11, 2003 had handed down seven years in jail to Devi and her son (the husband of the deceased) for killing Kiran after she failed to bring Rs.50,000 in dowry, as her husband demanded.
Kiran was married to Rajesh Dec 13, 1998. The prosecution said that Kiran had been harassed for dowry since her marriage. On Oct 26, 1999, she was brought to the hospital after her mother-in-law burnt her with kerosene. She later died.
Justice Gupta relied on the dying declaration of Kiran, in which she said that her mother-in-law burnt her for the dowry amount that her husband had demanded.
“As per this dying declaration, her husband and mother-in-law were responsible for burning her. It was her mother-in-law who had set her on fire. There was no reason to disbelieve this dying declaration,” the court said in its judgement.
“This dying declaration is sufficient to implicate both the appellants. However, other ample evidence is available on record to prove that the deceased was being subjected to harassment and cruelty on account of constant demands of dowry,” the court said.
The court also refused to take a lenient view in the case as pleaded in the appeal, keeping in view the age of Devi.
The judge said: “In view of the aforesaid, keeping in view the fact that a young bride was done to death within one year of her marriage out of greed of dowry, there is no ground for taking a liberal view.”
The ruling also pointed out that Section 304 B of the Indian Penal Code (pertaining to dowry death) lays down a minimum punishment of seven years in jail, which may extend to imprisonment for life.
“The learned Additional Sessions Judge has already taken a lenient view by imposing minimum sentence of seven years,” the court held.