Tuesday, September 7, 2010

‘Can’t presume all suicides by women are dowry-related’-Delhi High court

‘Can’t presume all suicides by women are dowry-related’-Delhi High court

Truth losing significance because of ego of litigants, says Delhi High Court

The Delhi High Court, ruling on a case involving the death of a married woman at the house of her in-laws, has said “truth is losing significance because of the ego of the litigants to see that in-laws should be hanged”.

Justice S N Dhingra ruled that it was unfair to presume that a woman, who ends her life within seven years of marriage, must have been subjected to harassment for dowry. “Suicide is a complex phenomenon. One who commits suicide is not alive to disclose what was going on in his or her mind when he or she committed suicide. There is no presumption that every suicide committed by a married woman in her in-laws’ house or at her parents’ house has to be because she was suffering harassment at the hands of her husband or her in-laws,” he said in the ruling on September 1.

Justice Dhingra made these remarks while dismissing a revision petition filed by the father of a woman who had committed suicide at her in-laws’ house in November 1988. The father got a case registered against her husband and in-laws under sections relating to murder, causing death for dowry and cruelty for dowry. In 2003, the trial court acquitted the husband and in-laws of all charges and held there was no evidence to suggest the woman had been tortured for dowry.

The father challenged this in the High Court but Justice Dhingra concurred with the view of the trial court, noting that several letters written by the woman to her father narrated every happening in her life but disclosed no sign of harassment for dowry. Moreover, medical evidence showed nothing to suggest homicide.

Justice Dhingra said every suicide had to be tested on the basis of evidence available on records and the mental conditions of the victim. The court also censured the growing practice among the deceased's family of slapping dowry cases as a matter of ego. The court said that normally the in-laws are convicted on the testimonies of parents of the girl who, in a fit of anger, are not prepared to believe that their daughter could commit suicide for any other reason.

‘No arrest without thorough probe’
Last August, the High Court had put a curb on registration of dowry cases as a “routine affair” and held that no arrest can be made unless there is a thorough investigation and prior approval of the DCP concerned. The court issued these directions to “salvage and save the institution of marriage” after noticing that trivial fights, ego clashes, “heat of the moment” decisions, were largely behind most of the dowry complaints.


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