The Supreme Court has said a daughter-in-law should be treated with respect as a member of the family and not as a housemaid.
The court has also expressed concern over insensitive treatment of brides, at times leading them to end their lives.
A bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra also said a daughter-in-law is an inseparable part of a family and cannot be thrown out of home at any time. “A daughter-in-law is to be treated as a member of the family with warmth and affection and not as a stranger with ignoble indifference. She should not be treated as a housemaid. No impression should be given that she can be thrown out of her matrimonial home at any time,” the court said.
"Respecting a bride in her matrimonial home glorifies the solemnity and sanctity of marriage, reflects the sensitivity of a civilised society and eventually epitomises her aspirations and dreams of nuptial bliss. But the manner in which sometimes the bride is treated in many a home by the husband, in-laws and relatives, creates a feeling of emotional numbness in society,” Justice Misra, writing on behalf of the bench, said.
Awarding a five-year jail term to a man for torturing his wife, forcing her to commit suicide, the court said it is a matter of great concern that brides in many cases are being treated with total insensitivity.
“It is a matter of grave concern and shame that brides are burned or their life sparks extinguished by torture, both physical and mental, because of demand for dowry and insatiable greed; sometimes, sans demand of dowry, because of cruelty and harassment meted out to the nascent brides, treating them with total insensitivity, destroying their desire to live and forcing them to commit suicide, a brutal self-humiliation of life,” the bench said.
On an appeal filed by Gurnaib Singh against a seven-year jail term, the court, however, converted his conviction under Section 304 B (dowry death) to 306 (abetment to suicide) of the Indian Penal Code. Gurnaib had married Amarjeet Kaur in 1996. Unable to bear persistent torture for dowry, Amarjeet committed suicide.
A trial court in November 2001 convicted Gurnaib, his mother and younger brother for killing Amarjeet and sentenced them to seven-year imprisonment for dowry death.
All the three approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court which upheld Gurnaib’s conviction but acquitted his younger brother. His mother died during the pendency of the appeal in the high court.