J. Venkatesan in THE HINDU
The hallmark of a healthy society is the respect it shows to women, says Bench
New Delhi: Expressing serious concern over dowry death cases where young women are being killed, the Supreme Court has said that such offences are to be treated as the ‘rarest of rare’ ones and extreme punishment of death should be awarded to offenders. A Bench consisting of Justices Markandey Katju and T.S. Thakur said: “Although bride-burning or bride-hanging cases have become common in our country, in our opinion, the expression ‘rarest of rare’ does not mean that the act is uncommon, it means that the act is brutal and barbaric. Bride killing is certainly barbaric.”
Writing the judgment, Justice Katju said, “Crimes against women are not ordinary crimes committed in a fit of anger or for property; they are social crimes. They disrupt the entire social fabric. Hence, they call for harsh punishment. Unfortunately, what is happening in our society is that out of lust for money people are often demanding dowry and after extracting as much money as they can they kill the wife and marry again and then again they commit the murder of their wife for the same purpose. This is because of total commercialisation of our society, and lust for money which induces people to commit murder of the wife. The time has come when we have to stamp out this evil from our society, with an iron hand.”
The Bench said: “The hallmark of a healthy society is the respect it shows to women. Indian society has become a sick society. This is evident from the large number of cases coming up in this court (and also in almost all courts in the country) in which young women are being killed by their husbands or by their in-laws by pouring kerosene on them and setting them on fire or by hanging/strangulating them. What is the level of civilisation of a society in which a large number of women are treated in this horrendous and barbaric manner? What has our society become — this is illustrated by this case.”
High Court verdict
In the instant case, the deceased Geeta was married to Satya Narayan Tiwari in December 1997. On November 3, 2000 she died. The father of the deceased Surya Kant Dixit filed a complaint that his daughter was killed by the son-in-law and his mother, Bhuvaneswari Devi, as he could not meet the demand for a Maruti car as part of the dowry. The trial court acquitted Tiwari and his mother. On appeal, the Allahabad High Court convicted them under Sections 304B, 498-A of the Indian Penal Code and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act and awarded life sentence. The appeal by Tiwari and his mother is directed against this judgment.
Dismissing the appeal, the Supreme Court Bench said: “The manner in which the deceased was done to death, i.e., by first strangulating her and then setting her afire, needed at least two persons, because she [deceased] was also a young lady aged about 24 years. We have carefully perused the impugned judgment and order of the High Court and the judgment of the trial court and other evidence on record. We see no reason to disagree with the judgment and order of the High Court convicting the appellants. In fact, it was really a case under Section 302 IPC and death sentence should have been imposed in such a case, but since no charge under Section 302 IPC was levelled, we cannot do so, otherwise, such cases of bride burning, in our opinion, fall in the category of rarest of rare cases, and hence deserve death sentence.”
The Bench cancelled the bail bonds of the appellants and directed that they be taken into custody to serve the remaining period of sentence.
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