The Delhi High Court has recently raised concerns on the “distressing pattern” of dowry death cases which reinforce the notion that women are seen as a financial burden in many parts of the country, with their marriage prospects taking precedence since birth, overshadowing their education and career aspirations.
A single-judge bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma in its October 31 order made the observations while upholding a trial court order convicting a man under sections 498A (subjecting wife to cruelty) and 304B (dowry death) of the Indian Penal Code and sentencing him to rigorous imprisonment for 10 years.
Justice Sharma further observed, “What adds to the distress is that such cases are not simply about male dominance and gender-based hostility; they often reveal complex dynamics where women themselves participate in perpetuating this hostility towards their counterparts”.
The court also said that the psychological stress and emotional trauma of a woman’s in-laws repeatedly asking for dowry and subjecting her to a life “akin to a slave” can be more damaging than physical violence.
“This trauma can be so overwhelming that, for some, death may tragically appear to be a lesser agony than the relentless torment caused by the demands for dowry and compulsion and pressure to ask their parents to keep on giving money and gifts to the in-laws,” the court added.
The high court noted that the deceased woman – the man’s wife – was made to endure relentless torment and was not even permitted to call her parents or visit them.
Justice Sharma underscored that the deceased taking her own life “speaks volumes about the deafening cry in the silence of death” and serves as a reminder that, in her absence, the courts should step in to become the voice of those who can no longer speak for themselves.
Terming the woman’s demise as dowry death, the court directed the man who had been on bail for more than 14 years surrender in 30 days to serve the unexpired portion of his sentence.