Meaning of Dowry
Dowry means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given by the bride to the groom or by the groom to the bride or
- By the parents of either the bride or the groom or by any other person
- At or before or any time after marriage.
- Giving , Taking , demanding or even advertising for dowry is an offence
- Any person who takes or gives dowry at his or her son's or daughter's or relatives wedding, commits an offence
However, the law permits some presents which are given at the time of marriage to the bride or to the bridegroom but requires that:
- Maintain a written list of presents
- Made at the time of wedding or soon after the wedding
- Brief description of each of the presents with approximate value
- Name of the person giving the present should be mentioned
- Relationship with the bride or groom
- List to be signed by the bride and bridegroom
- Such presents should be customary and its value should not be excessive with regard to the financial status of the person by whom such presents are given
- There should be no demand or compulsion for such gifts! Presents if the above conditions are fulfilled then the penal provisions of the dowry Act would not be attracted.
If any dowry has been received by any party the law provides that the dowry shall be for the benefit of the wife and be transferred to her or her heirs Punishments for giving or taking dowry is:
- Punishments for giving or taking dowry is: Imprisonment for not less than 5 years and Rs.15, 000 fine at least If the dowry amount is more than Rs.15, 000, then amount of fine will be equal to the amount of dowry.
- Section 498A of IPC deals with the offence of cruelty.
- Cruelty means and includes the following: If the husband or the relative of husband of a woman subjects her to cruelty, he or that relative shall be punished with imprisonment for a term that may extend to 3 years or with fine.
- To beat or torture a woman to such an extent as to cause injury or danger to her life, limbs or health or likely to drive the woman to commit suicide
Mental arid physical cruelty - torture, threatening, forcing or harassing the woman to get some money or property , harassment to woman on account of non-fulfillment of such demands by her relatives, taunting on not bearing a child or a boy child, etc.
The Victim, her relatives or any recognized welfare organization can lodge complaint of cruelty to a married woman under Section 498A IPC or under dowry Prohibition Act.
Dowry Death - Section 304B IPC
A case of dowry death is made out if the following conditions are satisfied:
- If a woman's death is caused by burns, bodily injury or occurs under unnatural circumstances and the death occurs within 7 years of marriage.
- In such a case her husband and in-laws will be held responsible and if found guilty, the punishment is at least 7 years of imprisonment which may extend to life imprisonment.
- If it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband, In connection with any demand for dowry, Then such a death is "dowry death".
- The Act provides that every state Government appoints a Dowry Prohibition Officer (DPO)
- Duty of the DPO to see that provisions of the Act are complied with
Dowry is an evil that needs to be uprooted. And this is possible only if each one of us stands against it. There are many girls who are tortured, burnt and killed for dowry. Law exists, but it has to be put to use.
Important Court Decisions
In Re: Enforcement and Implementation of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 Writ Petition (Civil) No. 499 of 1997
- The Supreme Court observed in the case "The conscience of the society needs to be fully awakened to the evils of the dowry system so that the demand for dowry itself should lead to loss of face in the society for those who demand it. We have no doubt that our young arid enlightened women would rise to the occasion to fight the evil which tends to make them articles of commerce. We also hope that our educated young males would refuse to be sold in the marriage market and come forward to choose their partners in life in a fair manner".
Source: National Commission for Women