Dowry continues to be a social evil, legislature needs to step in: SC

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Dowry continues to be a social evil, legislature needs to step in: SC
© Provided by The Times of India

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday said legislative intervention may be needed to give teeth to existing anti-dowry laws in line with the stringent Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to counter the rising menace of dowry-related harassments and deaths of women.

Agreeing with advocate V K Biju, who appeared for petitioners – two social activists and a woman lawyer who said she was a victim of dowry harassment, a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and A S Bopanna said, “It is a field requiring legislative action after debate on social situation and remedial measures. The court orders may have serious consequences.”

“Legislative action too may have limited success as we have seen in other social issues. Respect for women must come from within and be developed as a core social value,” the bench said after Biju pointed out the recent cases of dowry deaths and the rising number of dowry harassment cases in Kerala requiring the Governor to visit the women victimised for dowry.

“We will refer it to the Law Commission for a comprehensive review of the existing laws against dowry harassment. The matter requires a fresh look to engage in crafting a suitable remedy,” the bench said.

Biju highlighted that while, on the one hand, Parliament has stepped in by enacting penal provisions, such as Sections 304B and Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 and the National Commission for Women has also been constituted, the wide prevalence of the social evil requires a fresh look so as to give more teeth to the legislation.

The petitioners sought a direction from the government to designate in every government/public office, a Dowry Prohibition Officer, (as similar to Public Information Officer, under RTI Act, 2005) to implement the Dowry Prohibition Act in letter and spirit. They also had sought a direction for registration of all dowry articles in the name of the woman for at least seven years of marriage.

The bench said the reliefs sought are in the realm of legislative policy. “Hence, there are restraints on the jurisdiction of this Court under Article 32 of the Constitution to craft remedies which essentially require legislative reforms,” it said.

“At the same time, a dialogue on considering what measures would support the existing legislation on the subject can be initiated. It is in this backdrop that we are of the view that it may be appropriate if the Law Commission of India considers the issue from all its perspectives. The petitioners are at liberty to submit a note of research and on all relevant aspects for the benefit of the Law Commission,” the SC said and disposed of the petition.

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