The Delhi High Court has emphatically stated that it cannot allow the financial circumstances of a girl's parents to become a death sentence for their daughters in cases involving dowry death. In a significant judgment, Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma highlighted the need to celebrate women's empowerment not just on paper but in the minds of society. The court expressed its strong disapproval of treating women as slaves simply due to their marital status, emphasizing the injustice of such a situation.
Furthermore, the court pointed out that this case highlights a significant failure in society's mindset. It revealed the excruciating psychological trauma that victims of dowry death endure when faced with dowry demands. Even after marriage, women are often expected to continue fulfilling these demands. The court underscored that this practice reinforces the view of women as financial burdens, with their marriage prospects and associated expenses taking precedence from birth and overshadowing their educational and career aspirations, particularly in financially weaker sections of society.
Observing that the case denotes a “significant failure in the societal mindset” and that courts cannot side by people who perpetuate this failure, Justice Sharma said:
“…the distressing narrative in this case serves as a reminder that educational and women empowerment should be celebrated in its true form, not on paper alone but also in the mindsets of people. It is high time that our society acknowledged the critical importance of treating women with respect, dignity, and empathy within the institution of marriage, ensuring their emotional and psychological well-being is protected with the same vigor as their physical safety and they and their families not being treated as source of their financial enrichment only because they marry a woman.”
The court also said that the collective experience of victims of dowry death lays bare the “excruciating psychological trauma” that they endure when subjected to dowry demands.
The court acknowledged the vital role that courts have played in combating social issues like these by effectively enforcing the law and safeguarding women against gender-based crimes. Justice Sharma's observations were made while upholding the conviction of a husband for causing the dowry death of his wife, who tragically took her own life a year after their marriage. The court also upheld the associated sentence, including rigorous imprisonment and a fine.
“The Courts have consistently played a pivotal role in combating these social evils by effectively enforcing the law and safeguarding women against gender-based crimes, thus contributing positively to the ongoing battle against violence inflicted upon married women,” the court said.
Given that the appeal was filed in 2009 and the husband had been on bail for over 14 years, the court directed the husband to surrender and serve the remainder of his sentence within 30 days. The court firmly asserted that the judicial system cannot stand by and allow the economic circumstances of a girl's parents to condemn their daughters in their marital homes. The judgment reflects the anguish of a married woman who found herself trapped in her marital home, enduring relentless torment akin to custodial violence, where she was denied contact with her parents, both through visits and phone calls.
“The present case reminds one of the long history of struggle against patriarchy, sexism and misogyny. This struggle is tragically mirrored in the context of dowry deaths, which can be more accurately described as deaths caused by the burdensome dowry system,” the court said.
The court concluded that women should not become targets facing the threat of violence or deprivation simply because their parents cannot meet the insatiable demands of their in-laws. The judgment serves as a strong reminder that the judicial system must stand against this practice, ensuring that a girl's parents' financial status does not become a death sentence for their daughters in their matrimonial homes.
Link to the Judgment: