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Section 304B IPC- Demand Of Money For Construction Of A House Is A 'Dowry Demand': Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
11 Jan 2022 12:50 PM GMT
Section 304B IPC- Demand Of Money For Construction Of A House Is A Dowry Demand: Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court observed that demand of money for construction of a house is a 'dowry demand' to attract offence under Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code.The word "Dowry" ought to be ascribed an expansive meaning so as to encompass any demand made on a woman, whether in respect of a property or a valuable security of any nature, the bench of CJI NV Ramana, Justice AS Bopanna and Hima...

The Supreme Court observed that demand of money for construction of a house is a 'dowry demand' to attract offence under Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code.

The word "Dowry" ought to be ascribed an expansive meaning so as to encompass any demand made on a woman, whether in respect of a property or a valuable security of any nature, the bench of CJI NV Ramana, Justice AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli said.

In this case, the Trial Court convicted  husband and father-in-law of the deceased under Sections 304-B, 306 and 498-A IPC. It was found that the accused had been demanding money from the deceased for constructing a house which her family members were unable to give and as a result, she was constantly harassed and subjected to cruelty, finally leading to her committing suicide. In appeal, the High Court held that held that the demand of money for construction of a house cannot be treated as a demand for dowry. The court observed that the offence under Section 304-B was not established against them as the demand allegedly made on the deceased was for money to construct a house, which cannot be treated as a dowry demand for connecting her death to the said cause. 

The Apex Court bench, in its judgment delivered appeal filed by the State, listed four pre-requisites for convicting an accused for the offence punishable under Section 304- B as follows:

(i) that the death of a woman must have been caused by burns or bodily injury or occurred otherwise than under normal circumstance;

(ii) that such a death must have occurred within a period of seven years of her marriage;

(iii) that the woman must have been subjected to cruelty or harassment at the hands of her husband, soon before her death; and

(iv) that such a cruelty or harassment must have been for or related to any demand for dowry

Disagreeing with the view adopted by the High Court, the bench observed:

"13. The Latin maxim "Ut Res Magis Valeat Quam Pereat" i.e, a liberal construction should be put up on written instruments, so as to uphold them, if possible, and carry into effect, the intention of the parties, sums it up. Interpretation of a provision of law that will defeat the very intention of the legislature must be shunned in favour of an interpretation that will promote the object sought to be achieved through the legislation meant to uproot a social evil like dowry demand. In this context the word "Dowry" ought to be ascribed an expansive meaning so as to encompass any demand made on a woman, whether in respect of a property or a valuable security of any nature. When dealing with cases under Section 304-B IPC, a provision legislated to act as a deterrent in the society and curb the heinous crime of dowry demands, the shift in the approach of the courts ought to be from strict to liberal, from constricted to dilated. Any rigid meaning would tend to bring to naught, the real object of the provision. Therefore, a push in the right direction is required to accomplish the task of eradicating this evil which has become deeply entrenched in our society"

The bench said that the trial Court has correctly interpreted the demand for money raised by the respondents on the deceased for construction of a house as falling within the definition of the word "dowry".

"The submission made by learned counsel for the respondents that the deceased was also a party to such a demand as she had on her own asked her mother and maternal uncle to contribute to the construction of the house, must be understood in the correct perspective. It cannot be lost sight of that the respondents had been constantly tormenting the deceased and asking her to approach her family members for money to build a house and it was only on their persistence and insistence that she was compelled to ask them to contribute some amount for constructing a house. The Court must be sensitive to the social milieu from which the parties hail.", the court said.

Holding thus, the bench restored the conviction of the accused under Section 304B IPC.

Case name: State of Madhya Pradesh vs Jogendra

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 37

Case no. : CrA 190 OF 2012 | 11 Jan 2022

Coram: CJI NV Ramana, Justices AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli

Click here to Read/Download Judgment



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