S. Gopal Reddy v. State of Andhra Pradesh
Citation: AIR 1996 SC 2185
The system of dowry, a legacy of a no longer relevant historical practice, indelibly shapes the pervasiveness of gender inequity in Indian society, where women have been devalued as simply objects and goods to be monetarily valued.
Women’s commoditization is one of the leading causes of violence against them, with many men treating women as objects to be owned and disposed of rather than human beings who must be respected. While dowry was formerly thought to be a way to help newlyweds set up their houses, it has now been transformed into a basic commodity.
Thousands of women have died in India as a result of this avarice, as they have been unable to pay their husband’s family’s ever-increasing demands for dowry. The same can be seen in NCRB data, which shows that India had a total of 7166 dowry fatalities in 2018, with Uttar Pradesh topping the list of states.
Facts of the Case
- The appellant (hereinafter the first accused) is the younger brother of the petitioner (hereinafter the second accused) in S.L.P. (Crl.) No. 2336 of 1990, which has already noticed was dismissed on 15-2-1991 by this Court.
- The first accused was recruited for the Indian Police Service and began training in 1985, after which he was sent to the Jammu and Kashmir Police Force as an Assistant Superintendent of Police. His brother, the second accused, was working at Osmania University in Hyderabad at the time. The complainant, PW-1, Shri G. Narayana Reddy, was a practicing lawyer.
- PW 1 is the father of four daughters. The eldest of the four girls, Ms. Vani, is the eldest. She was employed at the State Bank of India in Hyderabad as a cashier. PW 1 was on the lookout for a suitable match for his daughter, Ms. Vani. PW 2, Shri Lakshmana Reddy, a common acquaintance of the appellant and PW 1, proposed that Ms. Vani marry the first accused.
- PW-2 later introduced the second accused to PW-1, who later met Ms. Vani and authorized the match as well. After some time had passed, the first accused saw Ms. Vani at the Institute of Public Enterprises, and the two of them agreed to marry.
- PW-1 committed to provide his daughter (1) a property in Hyderabad, (2) diamonds, cash, and clothes worth roughly one lakh rupees, and (3) a cash payment of Rs. 50, 000/- for the purchase of a car. The first accused wrote many letters accompanying bank draughts in relation to dowry settlements.
- The prosecution claims that when PW-1 approached the second accused about setting the wedding date, the second accused requested Rs. 1 lakh instead of Rs. 50, 000/- for the automobile purchase. The second defendant similarly demanded that the money be paid before the wedding. They later settled at 75000.
- The first accused recommended that PW-1 pay Rs. 50, 000/- immediately toward the car’s purchase and the remainder of Rs. 25, 000/- within a year following the marriage, but PW-1 refused.
- Later they said that they wanted a double- storied building but the appellant gave them a single storied building. If they won’t give, then the marriage would be cancelled. PW-1, enraged by the failure of the marriage negotiations, filed a complaint with the Director of the National Police Academy, where the first accused was undergoing training, on January 22, 1986. Following that, the first accused and his brother, the second accused, were both charged. They were convicted and punished for offences punishable under Section 420, IPC, read with an offence punishable under Section 4 of the Act.
The Supreme Court held in S. Gopal Reddy vs. State of Andhra Pradesh1 that the word “demand for dowry” should be read narrowly. This meant that any ‘demand’ of money, property, or valuable security made by the bridegroom or his parents or other relatives from the bride or her parents or other relatives, or vice versa, would be considered ‘dowry’ under the Act, even if the demand is not properly referable to any legally recognized claim and is made in consideration of marriage. A proposed marriage was included in this context, as well as cases when the non-fulfillment of the dowry requirement resulted in the marriage not taking place at all.
Legislations to curb the Menace:
- In order to abolish this social scourge from Indian society, the Indian Parliament passed the Dowry Prohibition Act in 1961, which was the first-ever law to outlaw the giving, taking, and demanding of dowry in Indian language. The purpose of Section 4 of the Act is to discourage the mere “demand” of “dowry,” and even if the demand for dowry is not properly referable to any legally recognized claim but is made in consideration of marriage, it will be considered an infraction. Any individual who “demands” from the parents or guardians of a ‘bride’ or ‘bridegroom’, either directly or indirectly, shall be punished by imprisonment for up to six months or a fine of up to Rs.5,000/-, or both.
- Whoever commits dowry death shall be liable to a punishment with a minimum sentence of imprisonment for seven years and a maximum term of imprisonment for life, according to Section 304B (2) of the Indian Penal Code.
- Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code states that if a woman’s husband or a relative of her husband treats her to cruelty, he or she faces a punishment of imprisonment for a term up to three years, as well as a fine.
Dowry was not a demand of the bridegroom or any of his relatives in ancient India’s marriage system. The bride’s father gave it to her as a present. However, dowry has become a demand of bridegrooms in the modern educated class, and they are asking such a large dowry that it is hard for parents to give their daughters in marriage.
The government has now passed legislation to regulate the dowry system in our country. Demanding dowry has been made a criminal offence. A groom who demands dowry may face criminal charges. However, this is insufficient. A man who demands a large dowry, like a man who has more than one wife, should be prevented from holding a government post.