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Section 304 B of IPC (Dowry Deaths)

Section 304 B

The Supreme Court in India has expanded the reach of section 304B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). They’ve suggested that there isn’t a fixed rule to decide what qualifies as cruelty against women.

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  • Dowry deaths accountedfor 40% to 50% of homicides in the country for almost a decade from 1999 to 2018.
  • In 2019 alone, 7,115 cases of dowry death were registered under Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code.

About Section 304-B

  • In November 1986, Section 304-B was added to the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • For a case to be considered as dowry death under this section:
    a. A woman must have died within seven years of her marriage due to burns, bodily injuries, or in circumstances not normal.
    b. The woman should have experienced cruelty or harassment related to dowry demand from her husband or in-laws shortly before her death.
  • The punishment for those convicted under this section is a minimum of seven years in prison, which can extend up to a life term.

Supreme Court Guidelines on Section 304-B

Clarifying ‘Soon Before’ in Section 304-B:
  • In the past, courts considered ‘soon before’ in Section 304-B to mean ‘immediately before.’ This meant that harassment had to happen right before a woman’s death.
  • However, the Supreme Court now emphasizes a broader interpretation, stating that there only needs to be a “proximate and live link” between harassment and the woman’s death for a dowry death case.
A Call for a Broader Reading of Section 304-B:
  • Courts are urged not to narrowly classify deaths as homicidal, suicidal, or accidental.
  • The phrase “otherwise than under normal circumstances” in Section 304-B should be interpreted liberally, not strictly.
Proper Examination of the Accused:
  • The Supreme Court expressed concern about how trial courts handle accused individuals in dowry death cases during Section 313 examination.
  • The court stresses a fair examination, ensuring that the accused is presented with incriminating evidence and given a sufficient chance to provide their side of the story.

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