You are on page 1of 9

INVESTIGATION OF DOWRY DEATH CASES

Nature created woman different from man to her disadvantage to

bear male atrocities unless and until society in an enlightened mood

comes to her rescue. Atrocities against women are covered under

various sections of Indian Penal Code and a few special laws. Of

these, dowry death cases have become sensational topical issues with

public being highly sensitised to the menance. Investigation of dowry

death cases has special links with the science of forensic medicine

because of the special nature of the investigation taking place within the

family circle without eye witnesses or even nonpartisan witnesses.

Inexact definitions and certain anomalies of Acts and Rules concerning

Dowry death investigation render investigation difficile. The loopholes

Need to be corrected. Marriage as the second birth in a girl’s life brings

Adaptation problems with it. An integrated approach to these problems

Alone can bring deliverance to the fairer sex of the human genre.

Nature created women different from men with a definite purpose. Balance is

stillness and stagnation; imbalance is motion and progress. Nature designed life and

action by means of the imbalance brought about in the traits of men and women. In the

process, women find themselves at the receiving end. They ended up as the weaker half
of society by their very nature and are naturally handicapped in a world of men, by men,

for men. In a world where strength commands charity and weakness receives cruelty, a

woman is at a great disadvantage. She has suffered all types of cruelty and humiliation

all along centuries with patience and in silence. This part of woman is symbolised in

tradition by calling her as the Mother Earth who bears all sufferings. The cardinal

principle of the survival of the fittest applies to the weak, natural attributes of woman

which renders her less fit for survival than man. She must live at his mercy and on his

charity, silently bearing all his atrocities unless and until society in an enlightened mood

comes to her rescue.

The immane approach of the stronger world to its weaker counterparts has to be

countered with strong arm methods of the state power. In an enlightened age such as this

people in public life are sufficiently sensitized to this issue and more and more

legislation come up to stop stronger people from riding over the weak and meek. India

too has several legislations that have become Acts to protect its women folk.

Atrocities against women in India are mainly rape and unnatural offences, dowry

deaths, abduction and kidnapping for various purposes and outraging their modesty apart

from minor acts like various marriage offences, dowry and other harassments, insulting

the modesty, causing miscarriage without consent and prostitution. Most of these

offences are punishable under the Indian Penal Code : in sections from 375 to 377, for

rape and unnatural, offences, abduction and kidnapping girls for various purposes being
punishable in sections from 364 to 369, offences related to marriage being subjected to

penal provisions in sections from 493 to 498, outraging the modesty of a woman in

section 354 and insulting the modesty in section 509 being offences. Section 314

makes causing miscarriage without women’s consent, a punishable act. The Criminal

Law (Amendment) Act 1983 (No.43/83) provided for in camera trial of rape cases and

also enlarged the scope of rape cases by placing the burden of proving innocence on the

accused persons apart from making penal sections more mordant, particularly in cases of

custodial rapes by public servants. The Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and

girls Act 1956 with the Suppression on Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls

(Amendment) Act, 1986 and rules framed by states u/s 23 of the Act deal with offences

relating to immoral traffic in women and girls.

Dowry death cases have become sensational topical issues these days with the

public being highly sensitised to the menace of the offences with the unfortunate

swelchie of cruel practices and circumstances deliver an innocent girl at death’s door. All

institutions of society including the government, press, women’s organisations, judiciary

and police handle dowry death cases on a special footing. Each such case outrages the

patience of thinking people and rouses passion and outcry against the perpetrators of the

offence. The police too give special importance to the investigation of these cases and

closely supervises the investigation process. In the circumstances, an insight into the

investigation of dowry death cases and proper understanding of the spectrum of

challenges posed and how they are met is in the interests of both the public and

investigating officers. It must be borne in mind that no investigation can succeed without
public cooperation. And the public, particularly people aggrieved by such unfortunate

incidents, can contribute to the progress of investigation of they have knowledge of its

due process. With this in view, salient features and parameters of dowry death

investigation are outlined in this work.

Investigation of dowry death cases has special links with the science of forensic

medicine because of the special nature of the investigation. Dowry deaths are

figuratively called bedroom deaths. In most cases, no outsider including the

investigating officer can have any knowledge about the circumstances and events that led

to the death. Secondly, the offencers being the custodians of the dead body and the scene

for many hours after the death till they volunteer to make its occurrence known, have all

the time in the world to eliminate or tamper with any clues. In the circumstances, the

investigating officer is completely at the mercy of medical experts to interpret the cause

of death.

Often, the mode of death noticed, be it asphyxia, drowning, or burning, may prove

to be post-mortal ;ipso facto suggesting homicide in place of suicide. Only forensic

medicine can provide decisive proof to the investigating officer.

The success of the investigating officer in investigating dowry death cases largely

depends upon forensic medicine experts. Sans proper briefing from the latter, the

investigating officer may not realise the importance of noting the profusion of bleeding or

marks of inflammation in deciding whether wound is antemortal or not. Again, in a


poisoning case, the investigating officer may overlook the importance of recording the

time when the deceased ate last, how many hours thereafter the first symptoms of

poisoning were noticed, what were those symptoms and how many hours thereafter

death occurred. Thus, the interaction between the investigating officer and forensic

medicine experts is crucial to give the investigation a direction.

Dowry death investigation has to address certain problems in the field in

collecting evidence and examining witnesses.

These offences take place within the family circle. Sometimes, though blood

relatives of the deceased volunteer evidence in the heat of trauma, a gradual

reconciliation would be the normal tendency. Therefore, sound evidence is rarely

forthcoming and difficult to sustain. Dowry death being an offshoot of the relationship of

wife and husband and veiled in a shroud of secrecy, even the parents of the deceased

may be unaware of the hardships the deceased underwent at the hands of her husband and

his relatives in the process of the dowry death.

If the investigating officer is lucky, he may succeed in collecting some, evidence

of cruelty. The next stage at which he would find himself would be the girl’s death.

There would be an absolute void in-between with no clues or evidence of what happened

or no eyewitnesses to vouch for that , Clues on the dead body and surroundings are likely

to be tampered with by the offenders.


Investigations are witness-oriented. A dowry death case being primarily a family

affair, independent witnesses refuse to involve themselves. And partisan witnesses are too

polarised to be credible.

It is in these circumstances that investigating officers have to trace witnesses,

conduct purposive examinations and undertake directional recording of statements after

proper analysis of the offence and likely charges.

The dowry death cases are offences primarily under central Acts namely the

Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 with its amendments of 1984 and 1986 and certain sections

of the Criminal Procedure code, 1973 as amended by Criminal Law ( 2nd Amendment)

Act, 1983. In spite of attempts during amendments to avoid ambiguities in some

sections of the earlier Acts, it is patent that there are still several louche terms that need

interpretation by the court. The term ‘ in connection with the marriage’ while defining

dowry in section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act is unspecific about the flexibility of the

word ‘ connection’ and gives way for its subjective interpretations as well as that of the

term dowry. ‘ The same word ‘ connection’ brings in a similar impression while defining

‘ dowry death’ in Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code and Section 113B of the Indian

Evidence Act while declaring ‘ in connection with demand of dowry’ ipso facto rendering

the incatenation between the offence of dowry death and dowry’ demand uncertain and

open for discussion. In the same sections, the phrase ‘ soon before her death’ raises the

question, how soon before? Similarly, the words ‘ relative of her husband’ that figure in

Section 498A of the Criminal Procedure Code, Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code
and Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act in no way provide exactly what is intended

to be defined; the scope of the words there is too vast and includes even the blood

relatives of the deceased as they are also relatives of the husband after the marriage.

Another important term that defies full comprehension is ‘ likely to drive’ in Section

498A of the Indian Penal Code, where the word ‘like’ by its very meaning is indefinitive

and open for subjective interpretation. The scope for divergent interpretations of these

terms in the comparatively new acts do create problems during investigation of the cases

until convention assigns them definite meanings.

Law by sections 113 (A) and 113(B) of the Indian Evidence Act relieves the

investigation of cases of death of girls within seven years of their marriage from the

special nature of difficulties by the reason of the crime being committed in the intimate

circle of the offenders. The law provides that the court trying the case may presume that

the accused persons committed the offence if it is proved that the victim was subjected to

cruelty by the accused persons inter alia. The presumptions made easy the investigation

of these otherwise impossible cases.

While the presumptions under section 113(B) of the Indian Evidence Act is

applicable to prove dowry death cases u/s 304 (B) IPC, section 113 (A) is applicable to

prove abetment to commit suicide u/s 306 IPC within seven years of the marriage. The

latter presumption benefits investigation of cases while a girl commits suicide under

harassment for reason other than dowry also by her husband or in-laws within seven

years of the marriage while the benefit is available for cases of suicide under the same
circumstances and homicide for dowry reasons under the same circumstances. This

renders investigation of cases of homicide of girls by husband and in-laws within seven

years of marriage which poses the same difficulties as suicide cases under the same

circumstances an impossible task and there are any number of such homicide cases that

were acquitted which would have been convicted by the benefit of the presumptions u/s

113(A) of the Indian Evidence Act if they were suicide cases. Amendment of concerned

laws may be necessary to avoid this loophole in law.

If the investigating officer adequately employs his common sense and

intelligence during the preliminary stage of the investigation while examining the dead

body and the scene and collects all incriminating clues and evidences without restricting

himself to the apparent cause of the death, no criminal can fool him and deflect him from

the right line of investigation.

Marriage is often called the second birth in a girl’s life; it brings an entire

metamorphosis in the form and contents of her life and in the process exposes her to

inopinate adaptation problems. It is an irony of nature and social customs that it is the

girl who is delicate in nature rather than the man who is selected for this difficile gauntlet

of transformation in the process of familial socialising. Per case, the gentle and

amenable character of the female breed expose her to the natural selection for the

purpose. In the process, death of the most unfortunate of them by felo de se or homicide

because of the grind of the circumstances has become an unfortunate phenomenon.

Dowry is only one though primus interpares among various immane manifestations of
adjustment problems to which the tender psyche of a young girl is exposed after her

marriage. An integrated approach to all these symptoms of adjustment problems to

which a girl is suddenly exposed while her persona is yet unprepared to meet the

gauntlets alone can bring deliverance to the fairer sex of the human genre. The entire

process of social legislations and their enforcement is only a distant link in the whole

catena of luctation warranted to achieve this end.