Saturday, August 02, 2008

SC ruling on suicide by married women : Do you Know?SC ruling on suicide by married women : Do you Know?

SC ruling on suicide by married women : Do you Know?
New Delhi, July 30
If a woman commits suicide within seven years of her marriage, it cannot automatically be inferred that the incident was abetted by her husband and in-laws who had ill-treated her earlier, the Supreme Court has held.

"The mere fact that a woman committed suicide within seven years of her marriage and that she had been subjected to cruelty by her husband or any relative of her husband, does not automatically give rise to the presumption that the suicide has been abetted by her husband or any relative of her husband," a bench of Justices R.V. Raveendran and Mukundakam Sharma said. The apex court passed the observation while acquitting a woman convicted for abetting the suicide of her daughter-in-law.

Under Section 113-A of the Indian Evidence Act, a court may presume, on proof of circumstances, if the victim had committed suicide within seven years of marriages that her husband or any other relative had subjected her to cruelty.

"One of the circumstances which has to be considered by the court is whether the alleged cruelty was of such nature as was likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health of the woman," the bench said.

In the instant case, the deceased Shanti Bai had committed suicide by setting herself ablaze. The prosecution claimed that Shanti Bai had resorted to the extreme step as she was unable to bear the harassment by her in-laws.

On the basis of the evidence the trial court in Madhya Pradesh convicted the deceased's mother-in-law Munni Bai for abetting the suicide and sentenced her to three years RI, which was affirmed by the High Court, upon which she appealed in the apex court.

The apex court after perusal of various evidence and records noted that there was nothing on record to prove the prosecution's claim that the mother-in-law abetted the suicide of her daughter-in-law. Accordingly, it ordered her acquittal. — PTI

For Further reference :

* NCW’s recommendations to address “unnatural deaths” of married women are Unreasonable

In the interest of justice, fairness and equality to both genders, we, the members of Save family Foundation, Delhi, make the following recommendations:

• Section 304(B) should not be retained in the law; IPC Section 302 already covers murder andIPC Section 306 covers abetment of suicide, and therefore Section 304(B) is only a duplicationof law, which is gender-biased.

• All cases of murder, including murder for dowry should be dealt with under IPC Section 302.

• All cases of abetment of suicide, including those allegedly done for dowry, should be dealt withunder IPC Section 306.

• If IPC Section 304(B) is not removed from Indian law, then it should be amended and madeapplicable to men and women equally. Specifically, the word “husband/wife” should bereplaced by the word spouse.

• Section 304(B) treats the accused as guilty until proven innocent, thus, violating the UniversalDeclaration of Human Rights which proclaims that “everyone charged with a penal offence hasthe right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty”. The law needs to be amended so that noarrests of any of the accused (man, woman or child) are made without proper investigation and Written approval of police officials of the rank of DCP or above.

• Those who misuse the section for settling personal scores should be heavily penalizedbecause false allegations and prosecution can cause irreparable damage to the accusedParties even if they are later declared not guilty.

Unnatural death “is a category used by coroners and vital statistics specialists for classifying all human deaths not properly describable as death by natural causes. Hence it would include events such as accident, execution, homicide, misadventure (being attacked by insects, reptiles, fishes, lions, tigers, bears, stingrays, or other wild animals), adverse outcome of surgery, suicide, terrorism, war.”

Any person, male or female, married or unmarried, may die an unnatural death due to any of the above causes. Among these, homicide (murder) is the only cause which unambiguously qualifies as crime that can be committed by one person on another, and is already covered under IPC Section 302. It is, therefore, obvious that having a section specifically to deal with dowry murder is redundant, and only reflects gender bias. In addition to murder, abetment of suicide is also a crime and punishable under IPC Section 306 which addresses both male and female victims.

Therefore, once again, it is unnecessary to have duplications and special provisions in law like Section 304(B) and Section 498(A) to address suicides of women. Most cases recorded as “dowry death” involve women who died by accident or by committing suicide. Data from the National Crime Records Bureau indicates that there is no difference between the rate of suicide of married women and never married women. However, radical organizations like NCW would have us believe that every death of a married woman is a dowry death, without providing any justification for such presumption.

Recent data from the National Crime Records Bureau indicate that nearly twice as many married men, compared to married women, commit suicide every year, unable to withstand verbal, emotional, economic and physical abuse and legal harassment by their wives. While every death of a young married woman is converted into a case of dowry death leading to immediate arrest of the husband and in-laws, followed by a prompt media trial, large-scale suicides of men do not cause any outrage.



Gender obsessed women’s activists also refuse to admit the fact that accidental deaths are also equally likely among men and women. Therefore, it has become routine for police to arrest the husband and his relatives and book them under several sections including, IPC 498A, 304B, and Dowry Prohibition Act, every time a woman’s relatives claim that the deceased woman had been killed or driven to death/suicide for dowry.

This is the case even when there are suicide notes or dying declarations absolving everyone including the husband of any responsibility for the woman’s suicide or death. There have even been instances where fake dowry death cases were registered and the “deceased” wife was found to be alive after the accused husband and in-laws were refused bail and imprisoned. While husbands and their relatives are under constant suspicion leading to frequent violation of their basic human rights, wives are rarely ever questioned leave alone prosecuted if a husband dies or ends his life under similar circumstances.

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