‘Soon before her death’ not synonymous with ‘immediately before’: SC

In an important ruling, the Supreme Court of India clarified that the expression “soon before her death” as used under Section 304B of Indian Penal Code is a relative expression and is not synonymous with “immediately before”.

Section 304B of Indian Penal Code deals with the dowry death of a woman within seven years of her marriage and was “soon before her death” subjected to cruelty or harassment.

“Days or months are not what is to be seen. What must be borne in mind is that the word “soon” does not mean “immediate”. A fair and pragmatic construction keeping in mind the great social evil that has led to the enactment of Section 304B would make it clear that the expression is a relative expression”, a Large Bench of the Court said, adding further that “Time lags may differ from case to case. All that is necessary is that the demand for dowry should not be stale but should be the continuing cause for the death of the married woman under Section 304B.”

The Court also said that any money or property or valuable security demanded by any of the persons mentioned in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, at or before or at any time after the marriage which is reasonably connected to the death of a married woman, would necessarily be in connection with or in relation to the marriage unless, the facts of a given case clearly and unequivocally point otherwise.

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