Conviction rate low in dowry harassment cases filed in Kerala

A top police officer told TNIE that the verdict in Vismaya case would be a reference for the similar cases in the future which will prevent such atrocities.
Vismaya and Kiran
Vismaya and Kiran

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: While the Kollam additional sessions court has sentenced Kiran Kumar to 10 years imprisonment and Rs 12.5 lakh fine in the Vismaya dowry harassment and abetment to suicide case, many husbands in the state have gone scot free in similar cases. As per the statistics tabled by the government in the assembly on February 22 this year, the conviction rate in cases registered under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, is too low. According to the statistics from 2014 to February 10 this year, only one case registered in 2018 led to conviction.

The maximum number of dowry harassment cases of 71 was registered last year after the Vismaya case came to light. However, the investigators have submitted the chargesheets only in 45 cases while the probe is still going on in 24 others. In 2018, 11 cases were registered while the police submitted chargesheets in seven of them and one person was convicted. Till February 10 this year, nine cases were registered. The chargesheet was filed only in one case.

The state police have registered 223 dowry harassment cases from 2011 to February 10, 2022. While the chargesheets had been submitted in 79% (176) of these cases, the conviction rate was at a low 4% -- in seven cases. On the contrary, the accused were acquitted in 32 cases. A top police officer told TNIE that the verdict in Vismaya case would be a reference for the similar cases in the future which will prevent such atrocities.

“It is true that the conviction rate in such cases is very low. It is mainly due to the compromise arrived at by both families. However, Vismaya case has come as a turning point and a big boost for the police and prosecution. Since the Vismaya case was registered, there has been a significant increase in dowry harassment complaints lodged. All these cases will be considered with utmost importance by the police,” said the officer who requested anonymity. Recently, the state government amended the rules and created a new post -- the district dowry prohibition officer. Earlier, there were only three regional dowry prohibition officers in the three zones -- south, central and north.

As per the amendments brought in July 2021, the women and child development officer of each district would also function as the dowry prohibition officer. It has also been made compulsory for government servants to submit affidavits that they would not take or give dowry.

Criminologist James Vadakumchery said the Vismaya case is an eye-opener for all. However, it cannot be made a reference in other similar cases in the state or country. “This case has got a lot of hype due to media intervention. Several key officers investigated it. Hence, the court convicted Kiran Kumar and gave 10 years of imprisonment. Hadn’t the media intervened, this case also would have ended like other cases in the past.

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