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Dowry casualties take a high toll

Vishnu Sukumaran, Sept 14, 2013, DHNS : 2:11 IST

Large number of burn cases involving women reach hospitals

Burn injuries inflicted on women are frequent cases in Delhi.
Last year, according to National Crime Records Bureau, 134 women were allegedly killed by their husbands and in-laws in the city. Many of them were burn victims, possibly harassed over dowry.

On August 30, a 22-year-old pregnant woman died after being set on fire at her in-laws’ house in east Delhi’s Pandav Nagar. Savita succumbed to severe burn injuries on the same day.

Her family members alleged that she was burnt to death by her husband Pramod and in-laws for dowry. Her in-laws, however, refuted the allegations claiming that she committed suicide. They said even Pramod suffered minor burn injuries while “trying to save her”.

Savita’s sister Anita alleged that Savita’s in-laws poured petrol on her and set her on fire. “Savita called me on August 30 to tell me that her life was in danger, but I did not take her seriously,” says Anita.

A case was filed with Mandawali police station, and a sub-divisional magistrate is conducting a probe into the death.

All these atrocities are reported despite the government prohibiting dowry through the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. Women’s rights activists, however, say that the act was never properly implemented. “Prohibition officers were supposed to have been appointed, but nothing happened and young women continue to be killed,” says Ranjana Kumari, director of Centre for Social Research.

In 1986, the Indian Penal Code was amended to include section 304-B over murders following harassment for dowry. Section 498-A was also added to define harassment and cruelty by husband and his relatives. Despite stringent laws, 8,233 women were killed in dowry related crimes across the country in 2012.

Taking stock of the issue, the Supreme Court ruled in June 2012 that a sentence lesser than life term cannot be awarded to convicts for heinous offences such as dowry death where the victim is killed in a brutal manner.

The Union Women and Child Development ministry has also been seeking life term for those convicted in dowry death cases.

In one of the most infamous cases, 25-year-old Pravartika Gupta and her 13-month-old daughter Idika were set on fire at their house in south Delhi’s Sarojini Nagar in October 2012.

Pravartika died at Safdarjung Hospital eight days after the attack, which also left her daughter with 55 per cent burns. It was alleged that Pravartika’s husband Ashutosh Gupta and father-in-law Ram Mohan Gupta set them on fire while they were sleeping.

She managed to make a statement to a magistrate shortly before she succumbed to her injuries. Her father Shamveer told police that her in-laws were torturing her mentally and physically over a dowry demand of Rs 10 lakh.

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