Dowry is a very common word used in Indian households especially during the wedding season. Dowry is a practice that has always been a social evil in Indian society and which has diminished the beauty of marriage. It is not new and has been followed for ages, and it has spread so wide and is deep-rooted that it cannot be eradicated from our society even with a lot of effort. Several laws have been passed to abolish the practice of dowry, but the legal clutches are weaker than the ambit of the practice of dowry.
What is Dowry?
Section 2 of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, provides the term “dowry” as any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly.
(a) By one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage, or
(b) By the parent of either party to a marriage or by any other person, to either party to the marriage or to any other person, at or before [or anytime after the marriage] [in connection with the marriage of the said parties, but does not include] dower or mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat).
The court in Arjun Dhondiba Kamble v. the State of Maharashtra, held, “Dowry” as expression considered by Dowry Prohibition Act is a demand for property or valuable security having an inextricable nexus with the wedding, i.e., it is a gift from the side of the bride’s parents to the groom or his parents and/or guardian. But where the demand for property or valuable security has no connection with the consideration for the marriage, it will not amount to a demand for dowry.
The legal framework in India for prohibiting dowry
Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
Section 3 of Act provides if any person after the commencement of the Act gives or takes, abets the giving or taking of dowry shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not less than five years along with fine which of not less than fifteen thousand rupees or the amount of the value of dowry, whichever is more.
And Section 4 provides if any person directly or indirectly demands dowry from the parents, relatives, or guardians of the bride or the bridegroom shall be punished with an imprisonment of not less than six months and shall extend to two years and with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees.
Hon’ble Supreme Court in Pandurang Shivram Kawathkar v. the State of Maharashtra held the mere demand of dowry before marriage is an offense.
Indian Penal Code, 1860
Section 304(B) provides, Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, such death will be called as “dowry death” and such man or relatives shall be deemed to have caused her death.
Hon’ble High Court in Vemuri Venkateshwara Rao v. State of Andhra Pradesh laid down the guidelines
- That there is a demand of dowry and harassment by the accused,
- That the deceased had died,
- That the if the death is under unnatural circumstances. There was a demand for dowry and harassment and death within 7 years of marriage, the other things automatically follow, and an offense under section 304-B is proved.
Indian Evidence Act, 1872
Section 113 B of the act provides Presumption as to dowry death, When the question is whether a person has committed the dowry death of a woman and it is shown that before her death such woman must face cruelty or harassment by such person to for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, the court shall presume that such person had caused the dowry death.
Is there any misuse of dowry laws by women in India
As every great thing can also be used for something bad similarly, every law can be misused. The dowry prohibition laws have provided women leverage which they have also proved to use as a weapon. 40% of the cases filed by the women are not true and the allegations made by women are false.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau statistics, about 200,000 people, including 47,951 women, were arrested in dowry offenses in 2012, and 15% of the accused were convicted.
Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the simplest way to harass the husband is to get him and his relatives arrested. The judges reminded the authorities that they must follow a so-called nine-point checklist that has been part of the anti-dowry law before noting down a dowry-related complaint.