Asking monetary help for construction amounts to dowry:Supreme Court

The apex court clarified as to whether seeking monetary help from the daughter in law for construction for house would fall under the purview of demand for dowry.A  bench  consisting of Chief Justice  of India NV Ramana , Justices Hima Kohli and Justice AS Bopanna heard the appeal in the matter of  State of Madhya Pradesh vs Jogendra and Anr. Criminal Appeal no.- 190 of 2012 decided on 11.1.2022.

The facts of the case are that within four years of marriage,the deceased, Geeta Bai committed suicide at her matrimonial home while being five months pregnant with the child of the accused  husband due to constant cruelty and harassment towards her.She committed suicide by pouring kerosene over her body set herself on fire which led to the death of the child as well as herself.The trial court convicted the accused husband and father in law for offences under sections 304B, 306 and 498A of IPC and awarded a sentenced of life  imprisonment.The accused appealed to the Madhya Pradesh High Court which held that demanding money to construct a house cannot be treated a demand for dowry.Aggrieved the high court judgement, the appellant appealed before this court.

The counsel on behalf of the Appellants contended that the deceased was forced to commit the suicide as she was fed up of the constant harassment for money and would always complain about the assault on her for bringing the money whenever she would visit her mother and parental home.This was clearly a case of abetment to suicide and the trial court rightly convicted the accused for their crime however, the high court failed to appreciate the same and set aside the conviction.

The counsel on behalf of the respondent contended that the deceased was also a party to such a demand as she was the one who herself asked her mother and maternal uncle for money to construct the house.

The Supreme Court held that asking for constructing house does fall under the purview of demand of dowry and the death of the deceased is certainly a dowry death.It ruled that any demand from a woman with respect to property or valuables of any nature will be considered dowry.The court said that such provisions persist to create a deterrent effect upon the society and minds of people committing such crime and a liberal approach should be adopted by courts to eradicate this deep rooted evil from the society.It overturned the high court’s order of acquittal of the accused for dowry death under Section 304B and imposed a sentence of seven years for which the respondent should surrender within  four weeks to undergo the remaining sentence.

Judgement reviewed by Bhaswati Goldar



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