By – Illa Dwivedi

In the Supreme Court of India



Sec 304-B of IPC deals with the dowry death and punishments related to this.  Dowry deaths are deaths of married women within the 7 years of their marriage by continuous harassment or torture by the husband and in-laws. Punishment according to this sec is imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but may extend to imprisonment for life.  Kuldip Singh and Anr. V state of Punjab case highlights the misuse of sec 304-B of IPC  by the family of deceased women.


Dowry deaths are very common in India. Dowry death and dowry-related harassment and cruelty are largely found in India. In India dowry is treated as a ritual, not as a crime for so long. The man-woman, the husband-wife relationship has been subject to many psychological, sociological, and philosophical debates and studies. From marriage to dowry death, there would usually be a well-chronicled account of the events touching of the husband-wife relationship or the wife and parent-in-law’s relationship.  Dowry death is the ultimate tragedy and it usually occurs when the parties have failed to reconcile their differences and have also failed in sorting each other out in the divorce /criminal courts. There have been many laws and provisions in the Indian legal system for dowry death. The idea of having laws or provisions related to dowry arrived way back because of the increase in dowry deaths. The wife used to kill herself getting frustrated with the demand for dowry or get mistreated or harassed and even murdered, burnt by the husband and his family. Sections 304-B and 498A of the Indian penal code deal with the cases of dowry death.

 The dowry prohibition act 1961 proved to be inadequate to bring about a change concerning dowry deaths in India so parliament inserted Section 304-B in the IPC, 1860 making it a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but may extend to imprisonment to life.

Section 498-A of IPC was added to the code so that to make cruelty like torture or harassment imposed on the Woman about dowry demand a criminal offence and punishable with imprisonment for a term that may extend up to 3 years and also fine.


Dowry deaths relate to a bride’s suicide or killing committed by her husband and his family because of dissatisfaction with the dowry. It is typically the closing of the series of previous domestic abuses, mistreatment, and cruelty by the husband and his family. Most of the dowry deaths occur when the woman is unable to withstand the harassment and torture and commits suicide. India is a country that reports one of the highest numbers of dowry deaths in the world.

The dowry prohibition act of 1961 prohibits the request, payment, or acceptance of a dowry as consideration of the marriage. This act replaces several pieces of anti-dowry legislation that had been enacted by various states. Murder and suicide under compulsion are addressed by the Indian criminal penal code. As a result, the legislature added section 304-B to the IPC,1860, which made dowry a specific offence punishable with a minimum sentence of imprisonment for seven years and a maximum sentence of imprisonment for life.

The legislature had also introduced another offence at section 498-Aof the IPC in 1983, thereby making cruelty inflicted on a woman about coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security a non-bailable and non-compoundable offence.

In doing this, the legislature attempted to demonstrate its intention to come down heavily on the increasing graph of dowry-related crimes against women.


  • Resham Kaur alias Paramjit Kaur was married to Kuldip Singh of lachowal.  They had a son together.
  • She had earlier complained to her father, Niranjan Dass that she was being mistreated and harassed on account of bringing insufficient dowry.
  • Six months after her marriage the husband Kuldip Singh demanded Rs 1000 from Niranjan Dass for going abroad to which he only gave him Rs 800.
  • After 6 months Kuldip Singh again demanded money from Niranjan Dass and was paid Rs 5000 /-.
  • Resham Kaur died on Jan 6, 1992. She was married three years before her death which means she married in the winter of 1988-89.
  • On Jan 7, 1992, Niranjan Dass came to know that Resham Kaur had died. Niranjan Dass went to Lachowal and found his daughter’s dead body lying in the Baithak but the appellants were absconding from the house.
  • Niranjan Dass suspected foul play and reported the matter to the police.
  • After the medical investigation, it was found that the death was out of aluminum phosphide poisoning.
  • Husband Kuldip Singh and parents-in-law of the deceased were arrested a d after the completion of the investigation, they were sent up for a trial.


  • Is the order given by the learned trial judge was based on a lack of evidence and needs to be revised?
  • Is criminal revision no 156 of 1993 to enhance the sentence of the punishment is maintained or not?
  • The prosecution is to classify whether it was a dowry death or a suicide?



  • Kuldip Singh never approached his father in law for money to go abroad nor any money was delivered to him.
  • Kuldip Singh claimed that his wife was suffering from depression and took her own life to make it a case of suicide and not of dowry death.
  • Niranjan Das being the only witness to the statement of maltreatment and harassment of his daughter received is doubtful, could be made up so cannot be accepted entirely.
  • The lack of evidence available against Balwant Singh and Gurmit Singh is being neglected by the prosecution.
  • The prosecution is more drawn towards the death of the deceased that is within the three years of her marriage and is ignoring the factum of soon  before her death as the statement of maltreatment was made two years before her death.
  • Kuldip Singh claimed that I had advised my father-in-law to report the incident to the police and even had accompanied him.


  • The appellants were fleeing from their house when Niranjan Das came to see the corpse of his daughter which incited a doubt of ill play and their involvement in the death of the deceased.
  • The deceased had complained about the maltreatment for bringing insufficient dowry so there were instances of dowry demands.
  • Niranjan das stated that after 6 months of marriage Kuldip Singh demanded Rs 1000 for going abroad, to which Niranjan das paid him Rs 800.
  • After another 6 months, Kuldip Singh again demanded Rs 5000, Niranjan das paid that too so there were instances of dowry demand.


Section 304B of  the Indian penal code


  • Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or har­assment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, such death shall be called “dowry death”, and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.

Explanation:- For this sub-section, “dowry” shall have the same meaning as in section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

  • Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprison­ment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.

Section 498A in The Indian Penal Code

 Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty:- Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be pun­ished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanation:- For this section, “cruelty” means:-

  • any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or
  • harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.

Section 113B OF Evidence act

Presumption as to dowry death:-When the question is whether a person has committed the dowry death of a woman and it is shown that soon before her death such woman has been subjected by such person to cruelty or harassment for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, the Court shall presume that such person had caused the dowry death.

 Explanation:- For this section, “dowry death” shall have the same meaning as in section 304B, of the Indian Penal Code, (45 of 1860).

Section 302 of The Indian Penal Code

 Punishment for murder:- Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 406 of The Indian Penal Code

 Punishment for criminal breach of trust:- Whoever commits criminal breach of trust shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

Section 313 The Code Of Criminal Procedure

 Power to examine the accused.

  1. In every inquiry or trial, for the purpose of enabling the accused personally to explain any circumstances appearing in the evidence against him, the Court:-
  2. may at any stage, without previously warning the accused, put such questions to him as the Court considers necessary;
  3. shall, after the witnesses for the prosecution have been examined and before he is called on for his defence, question him generally on the case: Provided that in a summons- case, where the Court has dispensed with the personal attendance of the accused, it may also dispense with his examination under clause (b).
  4. No oath shall be administered to the accused when he is examined under sub- section (1).
  5.  The accused shall not render himself liable to punishment by refusing to answer such questions, or by giving false answers to them.
  6.  The answers given by the accused may be taken into consideration in such inquiry or trial, and put in evidence for or against him in any other inquiry into, or trial for, any other offence which such answers may tend to show he has committed.


 Justice k Garewal ultimately decided judgment in the appellant’s favour. It was mentioned that the present case was not the case of dowry death. The case is a suicide case and demonstrates the misrepresentation of a suicide case into a dowry death. The demand for money was false and irrelevant. There had been no demand for any money from the past two years, nothing has been demanded resembling dowry. There has been a lack of evidence that could show the demand for dowry hence it cannot be proved that the appellant Kuldip Singh and his parents had driven the deceased for suicide. The type mentioned under section 498-A of the IPC was not fulfilled. The court said that the harassment and cruelty should be accompanied by dowry demand to fulfil the conditions under sec 498 A of IPC.

To make the appellant guilty of sec 304-b of the IPC, harassment, and cruelty,  it is necessary to satisfy all the three elements of the IPC sec 304-b.  From the facts, two elements were proved but the third element soon before the death could not be proved as the dowry-related harassment has taken place two years before the death of the deceased. Unless all the ingredients are present and unless the harassment and cruelty were soon before the death,  the offence of dowry death punishment under sec 304-b of IPC cannot be made out.

In impressions of the above conclusions, the learned judge accepted the appeal of the appellants and acquitted them of charges, and also dismissed the criminal revision filed by the father of the deceased to increase the term of the punishment.


Cases involving dowry and dowry death have a strong presence in India and concern to this the statutes have provided excessive powers to women. The abuse of these powers weakens the case and the very purpose of Justice. Charges are even made up against the individuals who have no part in the offence committed which in return makes the proceeding complicated and the prosecution finds it difficult to prove it even against the real culprit. In this case Kuldip Singh and Ans. The Vs  State of Punjab it is highlighted how the relatives of the deceased woman are dragging the husband and in-laws of the deceased woman into dowry cases to seek maximum prosecution of individuals. In this case judge of, the high court reversed the judgment and discharged the appellants.

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