Libertatem Magazine

Husband & Parents Should Be Distinctly Treated From Other Family Members In Cases of Demand of Dowry & Domestic Violence  

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In the case of Monju Roy v. State of West Bengal decided by the apex court on 17 April 2015, the bench was headed by Hon’ble Justices the bench of T.S. Thakur and A.K. Goel; stated that in cases of dowry death it is a general tendency of naming all the family members as accused and hence while dealing with such matters the court has to adopt a pragmatic view. The court referred to Kans Raj v. State of Punjab & Ors. citing concerns that a tendency of naming all the family members in-order to get an order passed against the maximum family members of the accused in such cases to make the case stronger in effect affects the prosecution case against the real culprits which is clearly seen in the present case. The court observing the same suggested that, when a girl dies an unnatural death the allegations for demand of dowry or harassment which follows cannot be weighed in golden scales. In the present case the woman as a result of harassment and for the demand of dowry of Rs.5000 by her in-laws committed suicide while she was pregnant. In the present case the court stated that brother, sister and other relatives cannot be taken on the same footing as that of the husband and parents. Citing this as a matter of grave concern the court stipulated that in such cases of dowry or harassment, apart from general allegation court has to be satisfied that harassment was caused by all the named members. It is only the husband and the parents who will be directly benefiting out of the dowry received and they are in a position to harass the woman and thus excluding brother, sister and other relatives. The court while deciding the case on merits found that names of all the family members was included by way of exaggeration and hence allegations against brother, sister and other relatives do not stand on the same footing as that of husband and parents. The practice of naming all the family members with the husband who were not involved in the act, has an effect on the victim’s case as well. As naming such members weakens the position of the victim by wrongfully including such members and hence failing to build a strong case against the accused and the same was reflective in the present case. Thus setting up guidelines the court affirmed that only when there are material evidences to show that brother, sister and other family members have a role in the same then in such circumstance they can be called in the court. The Trial Court has convicted the accused and sentenced them for life imprisonment whereby an appeal was filed in high court and the high court upheld the conviction whereas modified the punishment to rigorous life imprisonment of 10 years. The Supreme Court has set aside the conviction order against the brother-in-law and sisters-in-law of the deceased women stating that the family members usually doesn’t disclose the demands of dowry because this being a private matter and to safeguard the relationship between the couple and hence their name were included by way of exaggeration. Thus, husband and parents should be distinctly treated from other family members in cases of demand of dowry and harassment.

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