Customary Gifts Given at the Time of Child Birth or Other Ceremonies are not Dowry
Narayanamurthy v. State of Karnataka [(2008) 16 SCC 512]
The facts of the case are as such that the appellant namely Narayanamurthy, who is husband of deceased, made an appeal to the Hon’ble Supreme Court against the order of High Court in which, the High Court have convicted Narayanamurthy for the offence of dowry death under section 498-A & 304-B of Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). The marriage between the accused narayanamurthy and the deceased was solemnized in the year 1989 and a girl child was born in the wedlock. It was alleged that after the marriage, the accused and his family members started harassing the deceased for dowry. After the daughter was born, the father of the deceased gifted some ornaments to the accused. But the accused was not satisfied and harassed the deceased to bring more dowry. The deceased because of this committed suicide by setting herself on fire. The issue of the case was that whether the gifts given at the time of child birth are dowry?
The High Court of Karnataka in the present case convicted the appellant ignoring the fact that there is no evidence proving that at any point of time the appellant had made a demand of dowry or the deceased was subjected to dowry. The appellant stated that performing the customary thread changing ceremony of the child is a ritual that all the members of society follow and that is what he and his family have done. It was proved in the case that the father of the deceased had given silver panchapatre and silver plate to the appellant at the time of performing customary thread changing ceremony in connection with the birth of girl child and these types of ceremonies are prevalent in their society. It is nothing new. Other than this there is no evidence that can prove that the appellant and his family were demanding or harassing the deceased for dowry. But the High Court have ignored this and convicted the appellant for the offence of dowry death of his wife and sentenced him under this offence accordingly
The Hon’ble Supreme Court have observed that it’s true that the High Court have ignored the prevalent practice of giving gifts at the customary thread changing ceremony in connection with the birth of girl child in their society and did not bother itself whether the gifts given at such ceremony would come within the ambit of the term ‘Dowry’ or not. The Supreme Court of India has observed that the High Court has made an error while deciding the case as there is improper appreciation of evidence on record. When the customary gifts given at the time of child birth or other ceremonies do not come within the ambit of dowry. Then how can one be made guilty of causing dowry death. The basic ingredients to attract the provision of section 304-B of Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) was not fulfilled. It says that the cruelty or harassment of the wife in connection with the dowry. But in the present case it is noted that there was no dowry demand in the first place. So, the appellant could not be convicted of section 304-B of IPC i.e, Dowry Death.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in present case held that the appellant is not guilty of the offence of Dowry Death. The customary gifts given at the time of child birth or other ceremonies do not come within the ambit of dowry. This is the practice prevalent in their society and could not be termed as demand for dowry or dowry.
Authored By: Adv. Anant Sharma & Anjali Swami