Lamenting the malignant persistence of dowry demands in this era, Delhi HC refuses to give bail to accused husband

The Delhi High Court, while refusing bail to a husband accused of causing the death of his wife due to dowry demands and inability to have a male offspring, expressed distress that such violence against women continues in this day and age. 

RECENTLY, the Delhi High Court denied bail to a petitioner accused of forcing his wife to commit suicide.

The allegation is that the man used to harass his wife for not fulfilling demands of dowry and not giving birth to a boy.

Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma held: “Prima facie at this stage, a woman has lost her life for giving birth to females which should be totally unacceptable to a conscientious society. Such offences have to be considered as grave and serious when the trial is yet to begin.”

Brief facts

A complaint was registered by the father stating that his daughter committed suicide on the intervening night of September 23–34, 2023 after being subjected to mental and physical torture on account of a dowry demanded by her husband and in-laws.

The father was informed by her husband that his daughter hanged herself to death at around 1 a.m. on September 24, 2023. As per the father, when he reached the house of the son-in-law, the police had already arrived.

The father was informed that his daughter was taken to Burari Hospital in Delhi.

In his complaint, the father told the police that the marriage of his daughter was solemnised on February 8, 2017, and he had given a car as dowry to the son-in-law. The father stated that the family had demanded ₹10 lakh but he could only afford a car. Because of their inability to pay the demanded dowry, the daughter used to receive taunts from her in-laws.

The father further told the police that his daughter was not happy with the marriage and used to frequently visit her maternal house after being “tortured” by her in-laws.

He also informed the police that his daughter was harassed on account of her giving birth to two girl children. Even the elder child was taunted time and again by the father-in-law.

The father had paid ₹2 lakh for fulfilling the demand of the son-in-law to buy a flat.

As per the father, on the night of the incident, the daughter had called her mother and told her while crying that her in-laws would soon kill her. Based on the father’s complaint, a first information report was registered.

The husband filed an application before the high court seeking a grant of regular bail.

During the proceedings before the court, the counsel for the husband told the court that the husband had been falsely implicated in the case and that he had no role in the alleged suicide of the deceased wife.

The husband has argued that neither he nor his family members made any dowry demands. The husband said that no complaint was filed on any previous occasion regarding the alleged torture and this shows that the present case is based on false accusations.

The husband countered the allegations that he was paid ₹2 lakh for buying a flat. He said that no flat can be purchased in Delhi for such a meagre amount. Based on this, bail was sought. 

However, the State opposed the granting of bail stating that the allegations against the husband are serious and specific.

The State referred to the statement of witnesses including one neighbour who had specifically testified that the deceased wife was in a distressed situation as she suffered from harassment at the hands of her in-laws for dowry.

Another person, who was a neighbour in the past, testified that the deceased had informed her that her husband and in-laws were subjecting her to severe harassment, primarily because of unfilled dowry demands.

The charges against the husband are yet to be framed and the material witnesses have not been examined.

As per the chargesheet, which was perused by the court, the mother of the deceased daughter alleged that her daughter was harassed for insufficient dowry. She was mocked by her husband for giving Maruti Swift which they derogatorily referred to as an “iron box”.

The mother claimed that the harassment escalated after her daughter gave birth to a second girl child in 2022.

The mother stated that on September 23, 2023, she had received a call from her daughter, informing her that the in-laws were pressuring her to bring them a sum of ₹10 lakh.

The daughter had urged the mother to initiate legal action against her in-laws and husband for the persistent harassment of the unmet dowry demands and failure to beget a son.

The court also looked at a subsequent opinion sought on the post-mortem of the deceased, which revealed that the death was caused by hanging using a chunni.

What did the Delhi High Court?

The Delhi High Court took note of the serious allegations levelled against the husband of the deceased and his family and declined to give bail to the husband.

In this regard, it observed: “In this court’s opinion, in a society that emphasises equality and strives for equal progress of women and women empowerment, incidents as the present one are etched as disheartening markers on the path of equal societal advancement for women.

The court remarked that the persistent prevalence of regressive mindset and instances exemplified by cases involving insatiable demands for dowry underscore a broader societal concern.

The court added: “It highlights the challenges faced by married women, whose intrinsic value and dignity should not be contingent upon their parents’ inability to meet the insatiable financial demands from their in-laws.

The court stated that in contemporary times, the idea of women’s worth being tied to material considerations, such as dowry, contradicts the constitutional principles of equality and dignity.

It said: “The notion that a woman’s value diminishes if her parents cannot fulfill dowry expectations of her husband and in-laws reflects a deep-seated bias and discrimination against women.

The court addressed the disturbing trend of new brides being met with greed and harassment in the matrimonial home which is supposed to provide her comfort, space, love, affection and support.

The consequences of harassment extend beyond the immediate victim and inflict profound emotional trauma upon the daughter’s family, the court said.

It added: “The trauma is multiplied and becomes lifelong when the victim of a matrimonial dowry-related offence gives up her life due to constant torture and harassment, especially when the two children she has procreated and loved, who are her daughters, also become a ground to nag, harass and traumatise her, as if she is solely responsible for giving birth to a daughter.

It remarked that the genetic science of the determination of the sex of a child is completely ignored in such cases.

The court explained that the genetic determination of the unborn child depends on the chromosomes of the father because while the females possess XX chromosomes, the males have XY chromosomes. When the child is conceived, it involves the combination of the chromosomes of both parents.

It said: “The court is constrained to observe that people need to be educated that it is their son and not their daughter-in-law whose chromosomes through the union of a married couple will decide the birth of a daughter or a son.

The court clarified that the opinion expressed above should not form the merit of the case.