Husband of IIT-Delhi scholar, who committed suicide in May, arrested
A subdivisional magistrate had conducted an inquiry and a case of dowry death was registered nearly a month later, on June 1.delhi Updated: Oct 27, 2017 00:32 IST
“Agar ghar sambhalne ke liye, tum do baar maar kha bhi loge toh to kya problem” (In order to save your home, if you are beaten once in a while, then what is the problem) – 11.59 am, May 29, 2017.
Hours before she was found hanging inside her hostel room at the Indian Institute of Technology campus in Delhi, IIT scholar Manjula Devak, 28, had sent this message through WhatsApp to her friend detailing how her father-in-law told her that it was normal if her husband thrashed her to make their marriage work.
This message, among others, formed a crucial part of the evidence that led the police to arrest Manjula’s husband, Ritesh Virha last Thursday from Bhopal. He was arrested by a Delhi police team on alleged charges of dowry death. The team is in Bhopal to question his parents.
Chinmoy Biswal, additional deputy commissioner of police, south west district, confirmed Ritesh’s arrest from Bhopal.
On the evening of May 29, Manjula, a civil engineer pursuing PhD in IIT Delhi, was found hanging in her room. A topper of the water resources engineering master’s, she got married to her husband in 2013 but was living separately in the IIT hostel. Theirs was an arrange marriage.
Though the police did not find any suicide note, Manjula’s parents had accused Ritesh of harassing her for dowry forcing her to demand money from her parents to start a business.
A subdivisional magistrate had conducted an inquiry and a case of dowry death was registered nearly a month later, on June 1.
Standing outside the AIIMS mortuary a day after the suicide, Manoj Devak, Manjula’s father, told this correspondent: “It was a mistake to educate my daughter and send her to IIT. I should have saved all the money for her dowry.”
In the FIR, Devak, a railway employee, alleged that Manjula was regularly beaten and harassed by her husband for dowry. He alleged that after around 2 years of their marriage, Ritesh had quit his job and was staying with Manjula at her hostel in IIT. But, for the past one year she was staying separately in IIT.
According to his statement, Ritesh allegedly asked Manjula for around Rs 25 lakh to start a business and threatened divorce if the money was not paid.
The SDM and police team probing the case took statement of Manjula’s cousins and friends with whom she had shared the details of her alleged harassment over WhatsApp messages.
Another message that the police retrieved read, “bahut tang kardiya unlogo ne….woh log kamine hai salay (they have harassed me enough. hey are evil people).
“My daughter took her life because of the constant harassment by her husband and in-laws. She was troubled and wanted divorce. We have submitted all evidence to the police. We want the police to arrest her in-laws too,” Devak told Hindustan Times.
Till October 15, the Delhi police registered 104 cases of dowry deaths across the city. Dowry cases in Delhi have been on a rise over the years. Though crimes such as murder and robbery have been either decreasing or seeing a marginal rise each year, dowry cases have doubled in the last five years.
In 2012, there were 2,046 dowry cases while the figure rose to 3,053 last year.
From 2,046 cases in 2012 to 3,877 in 2016, dowry cases have almost doubled in the last 5 years.
On August 14, 2017 Hindustan Times published a special report about Delhi’s dowry-related cases. It analysed all the alleged dowry cases registered across Delhi in the first 6 months of 2017 and found that the tradition cuts across demographics. According to the statement of women in FIRs, their family’s were bullied for many types of dowry items - from an Audi to a buffalo, to a motorcycle or a house.
Between 2012 and October 15, 2017, at least 818 women died in dowry cases across the city. This year till October 15,103 women have died in alleged dowry death cases.
On October 13, 2017 the Supreme Court said it would re-consider its three-month-old ruling that restricted automatic arrests in dowry harassment cases, terming the judgment detrimental to women’s rights. The July order was passed in the backdrop of allegations that women and police were misuing the anti-dowry law.
In Delhi, the investigating officer can make arrests in a dowry harassment/dowry death case only after the direction of an officer of the rank of/ above a deputy commissioner of police. The order was issued by the Delhi police commissioner in 2008 after reports of many investigating officers misusing the law emerged.