Death penalty should be given to those killing for dowry: SC



New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday said that death sentence should be awarded in dowry death and bride burning cases as they fall under the "rarest of rarest" category while observing the Indian society has become totally sick and commercial.

A bench of Justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra in an order said time has come to stamp out the evil of bride killing cases with an iron hand so that it acts as a deterrent.

"We see no reason to disagree with the judgement and order of the (Allahabad) High Court convicting the appellants. In fact, it was really a case under Section 302 IPC (murder) and death sentence should have been imposed in such a case, but since no charge under Section 302 IPC was levelled, we cannot do so.

"Otherwise such cases of bride burning, in our opinion, fall in the category of rarest of rare cases, and hence deserve death sentence," the judges said.

"Although bride burning or bride hanging cases have become common in our country, in our opinion, the expression 'rarest of rare' as referred to in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab(1980) does not mean that the act is uncommon, it means that the act is brutal and barbaric. Bride killing is certainly barbaric," the bench said.

The apex court passed the order while upholding the life sentence imposed on Satyanarayan Tiwari and his mother for strangulating and setting ablaze the former's wife Geeta in pursuit of their demand for dowry in UP on November 3, 2000.

Though the Sessions Court had acquitted the mother and the son, the Allahabad High Court on an appeal from the State had reversed the acquittal and awarded life imprisonment to the duo under Section 304B(dowry death) which carried a maximum sentenced of life imprisonment, 498-A (harassment) and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

Aggrieved, the convicts appealed in the apex court.

However, the apex court took strong exception to the manner in which the victim was strangulated and burnt to death which, it said, revealed the growing commercialisation and scant respect for women in the country.

"The hallmark of a healthy society is the respect it shows to women. Indian society has become a sick society. This is evident from the large number of cases coming up in this court (and also in almost all courts in the country) in which young women are being killed by their husbands or by their in-laws by pouring kerosene on them and setting them on fire or by hanging/strangulating them.

"What is the level of civilisation of a society in which a large number of women are treated in this horrendeous and barbaric manner? What has our society become. This is illustrated by this case," the bench said.

PTI