SC adds murder charge to dowry cases
The Supreme Court on Monday virtually amended the anti-dowry law by making it mandatory for trial courts across the country to add murder charge against accused persons in all dowry death cases.delhi Updated: Nov 23, 2010 02:56 IST
The Supreme Court on Monday virtually amended the anti-dowry law by making it mandatory for trial courts across the country to add murder charge against accused persons in all dowry death cases.
“We…direct all trial courts in India to ordinarily add Section 302 (murder) to the charge of section 304B so that death sentence can be imposed in such heinous and barbaric crimes against women,” the court said.
It directed that the copy of the order be sent to registrar generals and registrars of all high courts for further circulation to all trial courts.
Under the existing provision, dowry death is registered under Section 304B IPC entailing a maximum punishment of life imprisonment (minimum seven years). After this order, a person convicted of dowry death would get either life imprisonment or capital punishment.
Strangely, the order came from a bench headed by Justice Markandey Katju, who had been emphasising that courts should only interpret the law and not supposed to legislate.
Even in the recent verdict on maintenance for women in live-in relationships under the Domestic Violence Act, Justice Katju had said the legislature did not intend to extend the benefit of maintenance to women in all such relations.
“No doubt the view we are taking would exclude many women who have had a live-in relationship from the benefit of the 2005 Act but then it is not for this court to legislate or amend the law,” it had said.
The order making the anti-dowry law harsher came in a case wherein accused Rajbir alias Raju had been convicted under Section 304B of IPC for killing his pregnant wife Sunita for dowry barely six months after their marriage. The Punjab and Haryana high court had reduced his sentence to 10-year rigorous imprisonment. His mother was given two-year rigorous imprisonment.
Describing the case as “barbaric and brutal murder”, the bench said: “We fail to see why the high court has reduced the sentence of petitioner no. 1 Rajbir.” It issued notices to the convict and Haryana asking why life sentence should not be restored.