SC widens the scope of dowry death under Section 304B of IPC

Case- Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana

As per Section 304B of IPC, it is considered as a case of dowry death, if a woman dies of burns or other bodily injuries or “otherwise than under normal circumstances” within seven years of her marriage and should have suffered cruelty or harassment from her husband or in-laws “soon before her death” in connection with demand for dowry.

The Bench of the Supreme Court consisting of CJI N.V. Ramana and Justice Aniruddha Bose stated that courts should interpret the provisions of dowry death liberally, keeping in mind the law’s intention to punish dowry and bride-burning.

The judgement authored by the CJI, stated that the legislation has allowed the discretion of the courts while interpreting this provision.

It was further stated that it is absurd to interpret the term “soon before death” as “immediately before death”.
Instead it should be interpreted as any harassment which has a “proximate and live link to death”.

The Bench was also of the opinion that the
straitjacket and literal interpretation of these provisions has blunted the battle against the long-standing social evil.

The Bench also laid down certain guidelines to trial courts:

  1. While conducting the examination of accused under Section 313 of the Crpc, any incriminating material should be examined in a fair manner.
  2. The Court must seek response from the accused regarding incriminating material.
  3. Courts should question the accused fairly, with care and caution.
  4. Courts should be careful during the conduction of the trial as the crime is of precarious nature.

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