Dowry Prohibition Legal Rules

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Dowry Prohibition Act, Indian law, enacted on May 1, 1961, intended to prevent the offering or receiving of a dowry. Under the Dowry Prohibition Act, dowry involves property, goods, or money given by either party to the marriage, by the parents of either party or by anyone else in connection with the marriage. The Dowry Prohibition Act applies to persons of all religions/custom in India.

The original text of the Dowry Prohibition Act was widely judged to be ineffective in controlling the practice of dowry. Moreover, particular forms of violence upon women continued to be linked to a failure to meet dowry requirements. As a result, the legislation underwent the following amendments. In 1984, for example, it was changed to define that presents given to a bride or a groom at the time of a wedding are provided. The law required, however, that a list be maintained describing each gift, its value, the identity of the person giving it, and the person’s connection to either party to the marriage. The act and relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code were further amended to preserve female victims of dowry-related violence. Another lawyer of legal protection was given in 2005 under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.


Types of dowry crimes

Newly married women can be a target for dowry relevant violence because she is tied economically and socially to her new husband. In some cases, dowry is accepted as a threat or pledge type situation, to extract more property from the bride's family. This can be seen in new brides, who are most vulnerable in the state. Dowry crimes can happen with the threat or experience of violence so that the bride's family is left with no choice but to give more dowry to protect their daughter. The northern and eastern states of India show higher percentages of dowry-related violence.

Dowry is deemed a major contributor to observed violence upon women in India. Some of these offences involve physical violence, emotional abuse, and even murder of brides and young girls prior to marriage. The predominant types of dowry crimes relate to cruelty (which involves torture and harassment), domestic violence (including physical, emotional and sexual assault), abetment to death and dowry death (including, issues of bride burning and murder).


  • Cruelty

Cruelty in the form of torture or harassment of a woman with the objective of forcing her to meet a demand for property or important surety is a form of dowry crime. The cruelty could be in the form of oral attacks or may be followed by defeat or harassment in order to force the woman or her family to yield to dowry demands. In many instances, the cruelty may even force the woman to commit suicide and it has been expressly criminalized by the anti-dowry legislation in India.


  • Domestic violence

Domestic violence covers a broad spectrum of abusive and threatening behaviour which involves physical, emotional, economic and sexual violence as well as intimidation, isolation, and coercion. There are laws like the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 that help to defeat domestic violence and to defend women's rights.


  • Abetment to suicide

Continuing abuse by the husband and his family with warnings of harm could point to a woman committing suicide. In such situations, the dowry crime even continues to abetment of suicide, which includes all acts and attempts to intentionally advise, encourage, or assist in doing suicide. The impact of dowry can leave a woman helpless and desperate, which can cumulate emotional trauma and abuse. Dowry related abuse causes emotional trauma, depression, and suicide. The offence of abetment to suicide is important because in many cases, the accused persons often bring up a defence that the victim committed suicide at her own volition, even though this may not be right in real.



  • Dowry murder

Dowry deaths and dowry murder link to a bride's suicide or a killing done by her husband and his family soon after the marriage because of their displeasure with the dowry. It is typically the conclusion of a series of prior domestic abuses by the husband's family. Most dowry deaths happen when the young woman, unable to bear the harassment and torture, commits suicide by hanging herself or using poison. Dowry deaths also carry bride burning where brides are doused in kerosene and set ablaze by the husband or his family. Seldom, due to their abetment to do suicide, the bride may end up setting herself on fire. Bride burnings are often covered as accidents or suicide tries. Bride burnings are the most common forms of dowry deaths for a wide variety of purposes like kerosene being inexpensive, there being inadequate evidence after the murder and low probabilities of survival rate. Apart from bride burning, there are some instances of poisoning, strangulation, acid attacks, etc., as a consequence of which brides are murdered by the groom's family.

India, with its large population, reports the highest number of dowry-related deaths in the world according to the Indian National Crime Record Bureau. In 2012, 8,233 dowry death cases were noted in India, while in 2013, 8,083 dowry deaths were reported. This means a dowry-related crime makes the death of a woman every 90 minutes or 1.4 deaths per year per 100,000 women in India.

Dowry deaths can also include sex-selective abnormalities and female foeticide by parents who do not want to pay for their daughter's dowry when she comes of age. Daughters are usually seen as economic liabilities due to the dowry system.


Laws against dowry

The first all-India legislative enactment relating to dowry to be placed on the statute book was The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and this law came into force from 1 July 1961. It signalled the beginning of a new legal structure of dowry harassment laws completely prohibiting the demanding, giving and receiving of dowry. Although giving dowry is illegal, it is still common in many parts of India for a husband to seek a dowry from the wife's family and in some cases, this results in a form of extortion and violence upon the wife.

To further strengthen the anti-dowry law and to prevent offences of cruelty by the husband or his siblings against the wife, new provisions were added to the Indian criminal law – section 498A to Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 198A to the Criminal Procedure Code (CRPC) in 1983. In 2005, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was enacted, which added an extra layer of protection from dowry harassment. Although the changes in Indian criminal law show a serious effort by legislators to put an end to dowry-related crimes, and although they have been in force for many years now, they have been widely criticised as being ineffective.


Sec.3. Penalty for giving or taking dowry.-

  1. (1) If any person, after the start of this Act, gives or receives 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 the fine which shall not be less than 15000 rupees or the amount of the value of such dowry, whichever is more.
  2. Provided that the Court may, for fair and special reasons to be listed in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of fewer than 5 years.
  3. * * * Explanation I omitted by Sec.2 w.e.f 2nd October 1985
  4. (2)Nothing in sub-section (1) shall refer to or, about,-
  5. presents which are given at the time of a marriage to the bride (without any request having been made in that behalf):
  6. Provided that such presents are entered in a list prepared by a rule made under this Act;
  7. presents which are given at the time of marriage to the bridegroom (without any request having been made in that behalf):
  8. Given that such presents are entered in a list prepared following rules made under this Act;
  9. Given further that where such presents are made by or on account of the bride or any person related to the bride, such presents are customary and the value thereof is not unreasonable having respect to the financial status of the person by whom, or on whose behalf, such grants are given.


Sec 4. Penalty for requiring dowry.-

(1)If any person demands straight 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 guilty with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 6 months but which may extend to 2 years and with fine which may continue to 10000 rupees:

Provided that the Court may, for fair and special reasons to be considered in the judgment, require a sentence of imprisonment for a term of fewer than 6 months.


4-A. Ban on the advertisement. If any person-

  1. offers, through any publication in any newspaper, periodical, journal or through any other media any share in his property or of any money or both as a share in any business or other benefits as consideration for the marriage of his son or daughter or any other family,
  2. prints or publishes or circulates any advertisement related to Cl. (a), he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 6 months, but which may extend to 5 years, or with fine which may extend to 15000 rupees:

Provided that the Court may, for fit and special reasons to be listed in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of fewer than 6 months.





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