Daughter-in-law should be treated as a family member and not housemaid, and she cannot be "thrown out of her matrimonial home at any time", the Supreme Court has said, while expressing concern over instances of brides being burnt and tortured in the country.
The apex court said a bride must be respected in her matrimonial home as it "reflects the sensitivity of a civilised society."
"A daughter-in-law is to be treated as a member of the family with warmth and affection and not as a stranger with respectable and ignoble indifference. She should not be treated as a house maid. No impression should be given that she can be thrown out of her matrimonial home at any time," a bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra said.
"Respect of a bride in her matrimonial home glorifies the solemnity and sanctity of marriage, reflects the sensitivity of a civilised society and eventually epitomises her aspirations dreamt of in nuptial bliss.
"But the manner in which sometimes the bride is treated in many a home by the husband, in-law and the relatives creates a feeling of emotional numbness in society," it said.
The apex court made the observations while upholding the sentence of seven-year jail term to a man for torturing his wife, who committed suicide.
The bench said it was a matter of great concern that brides in several cases were being treated with total insensitivity, destroying their desire to live.
"It is a matter of grave concern and shame that brides are burned or otherwise their life-sparks are extinguished by torture, both physical and mental, because of demand of dowry and insatiable greed and sometimes, sans demand of dowry, because of cruelty and harassment meted out to the nascent brides, treating them with total insensitivity, destroying their desire to live and forcing them to commit suicide, a brutal self-humiliation of life," the bench said.
The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by Gurnaib Singh challenging his conviction and seven-year jail term awarded by a trial court in his wife's murder case.
Gurnaib married Amarjeet Kaur in 1996, but soon after marriage, he and his parents started torturing her for dowry.
Two years after marriage, Amarjeet committed suicide by consuming Organo Phosphorus, an insecticide.
A trial court in November, 2011, convicted Gurnaib, his mother and younger brother for killing Amarjeet.
The trio then approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court which upheld Gurnaib's conviction in the case but acquitted his younger brother. Gurnaib's mother died during the pendency of the appeal in the high court.
Gurnaib then approached the apex court which convicted him of abetment to suicide but acquitted him of murder charges.
"In the case at hand, the basic ingredients of the offence under Section 306 (abetment of suicide) have been established by the prosecution in as much as the death has occurred within seven years in an abnormal circumstance and the deceased was meted out with mental cruelty.
"Thus, we convert the conviction from one under Section 304B (dowry death) to that under Section 306," the apex court said, reducing his sentence to five-year jail term.