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What is Dowry?

             


Rahul Srivastava

Definition of Dowry:

Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 defines dowry.

Definition of ‘dowry'. — In this Act, “dowry” means 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 any time 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) applies.

Explanation II- The expression “valuable security” has the same meaning as in Section 30 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).”

Ingredients of Dowry:

  • An amount of money or property that a bride’s parents give to the bride or her husband.

  • An amount of money or securities are given either directly or indirectly.

  • Such amount or security or property is given by one party to another at the time of marriage or after the marriage.

There are several legislations which contains penal provisions with respect to dowry, such as, Indian Penal Code, the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, etc.

Section 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 provides for penalty on give and take of dowry and penalty on demand of dowry.

Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 states—

Penalty for giving or taking dowry.—(1) If any person, after the commencement of this Act, gives or takes or abets the giving or taking of dowry, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years, and with fine which shall not be less than fifteen thousand rupees or the amount of the value of such dowry, whichever is more:

Provided that the Court may, for adequate and special reasons to be recorded in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than five years.

(2) Nothing in sub-section (1) shall apply to, or in relation to,—

(a) presents which are given at the time of a marriage to the bride (without any demand having been made in that behalf): Provided that such presents are entered in a list maintained in accordance with the rules made under this Act;

(b) presents which are given at the time of a marriage to the bridegroom (without any demand having been made in that behalf):

Provided that such presents are entered in a list maintained in accordance with the rules made under this Act.

Provided further that where such presents are made by or on behalf of the bride or any person related to the bride, such presents are of a customary nature and the value thereof is not excessive having regard to the financial status of the person by whom, or on whose behalf, such presents are given.”

Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 states—

Penalty for demanding dowry.—If any person demands, directly or indirectly, from the parents or other relatives or guardian of a bride or bridegroom, as the case may be, any dowry, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months, but which may extend to two years and with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees: Provided that the Court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than six months.”

Section 304B of Indian Penal Code defines the Dowry death

Dowry death.—(1) 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 shall be called “dowry death”, and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.

 Explanation.—For the purposes of this sub-section, “dowry” shall have the same meaning as in section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of 1961).

(2) Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.”

Section 498 A of Indian Penal Code also makes provisions for women who face cruelty and torture by their husband and in-laws in case of dowry. It says—

“Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.— Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanation- For the purposes of this section, “cruelty” means-

(a) anywilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or

(b) harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.”

Landmark cases:

  1. Pawan Kumar vs State of Haryana, AIR 1998 SC 958

In this case the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that agreement is not always necessary. Continuous demand for T.V. and scooter were held to be demand in connection with marriage, hence such demand would fall within the definition of dowry.

  1. Vinod Kumar vs State of Punjab, 1982 P. & H. 372 (F.B.)

In this case the Court held that dowry and traditional presents made to the wife at the time of the marriage constitute her Stridhan.

  1. Kashi Prasad v. State of Bihar,1980 BBCJ 612

In this case the Patna High Court held that mere demand for dowry would not constitute any offence under the Section 3 and 4, unless it was shown that the other party consented to pay it.

  1. V. Jadav v. Shankar Rao, AIR 1983 SC 1219

In this case it was held that demand for dowry should be related to some property or valuable security to be given or agreed to be given at or before or after marriage.


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