Mumbai: The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court recently held that demanding a cooker from parents of a bride cannot be considered a dowry demand. The court also observed that in-laws of a bride cannot be convicted for dowry demand or dowry death only because she died an unnatural death and within seven years of her marriage.
A division bench of Justice Ravi Deshpande and Justice Murlidhar Giratkar said, “It is alleged that the accused mother-in-law of the deceased bride told a prosecution witness that articles like cookers were not given by the parents in marriage. We believe a cooker is not such an article, which can be taken into consideration as dowry.”
The ruling was made while hearing an appeal filed by the Maharashtra Police against acquittal of a 58-year-old woman, accused of harassing her daughter-in-law for dowry. The police also challenged acquittal of the bride’s sister-in-law and brother-in-law. The police claimed that the mother-in-law and the other two accused continuously harassed the deceased over dowry and kept on demanding a fridge, motorcycle, etc.
The case of the police relied upon testimonies of the deceased bride’s parents and brother, who claimed that their daughter informed them of the demand for dowry. On the other hand, the accused relied on testimonies of defence witnesses who stated that on the fateful day, the father of the deceased bride had come to the matrimonial house to take her along for Diwali festival. The refusal of the bride to go along with her father enraged him and he assaulted his own daughter in front of everyone after which the bride locked herself in a bathroom and set herself ablaze.
Prosecution had argued that the bride died within seven years of her marriage, so her in-laws can be presumed to have abetted her suicide over dowry. The judges, while upholding the trial court’s ruling, relied on the post-mortem report which specifically said that she died due to burn injuries. The judges thus ruled, “Mere factum of unnatural death in matrimonial home within seven years of marriage is not sufficient to bring home the guilt under provisions penalising dowry demand and dowry death. The in-laws thus cannot be penalised only because she died within seven years of marriage and in the matrimonial house.