While laws are important, people also need to change from within and learn to treat women with respect to end the social evil of dowry, the Supreme Court said today. The court was hearing a petition that said that the menace of dowry persists despite several criminal law provisions in the Indian Penal Code and sought directions for the appointment of a Dowry Prohibition Officer equivalent to a Right To Information (RTI) officer.
"I am disturbed due to the situation in Kerala. A police officer was suspended for not taking action in the dowry case of an Ayurveda doctor. It's an evil practice in Kerala. So much gold and other things are demanded," Advocate VK Biju, appearing for petitioners from Kerala said.
He was referring to 24-year-old Vismaya, a medical student studying Ayurveda, who was found dead at her marital home in Kerala's Sasthamkotta. A day after her suspected suicide, the police arrested her husband on charges relating to dowry death.
The petitioners suggested compulsory "pre-marriage" courses for couples to warn them and create awareness against dowry. The courses should be made a mandatory pre-condition for a valid marriage, they requested.
"India does not just reside in the cities of Kochi, but also in small villages. Where will personnel and facilities be found for holding such sessions? Very serious consequences will follow if they do not take these pre-marriage courses," Justice DY Chandrachud, who was hearing the plea along with Justice AS Bopanna, observed.
Despite strict laws, dowry continues to ruin society and affect the lives of innocent young women, the petitioners' lawyer highlighted.
"Laws are important but the change also has to come from within and how we treat a woman who comes into the family and the social importance of a woman," Justice DY Chandrachud responded.
The court said that it could not step into the domain of crafting legislative reforms and asked the Law Commission of India to consider the issues of dowry deaths and domestic violence "in all its perspectives" and suggest measures to add more teeth to the existing laws in order to strengthen them.