Dowry System in India

Any young man, who makes dowry a condition to marriage, discredits his education and his country and dishonours womanhood

Mahatma Gandhi


In India, dowry has its roots in medieval times when a gift in cash or kind was given to a bride by her family to maintain her independence after marriage. During the colonial period, it became the only legal way to get married, with the British making the practice of dowry mandatory.

Dowry is illegal in India under the anti-dowry law.

The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 enacted on May 1, 1961 was introduced to curb dowry in India. dowry includes 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 in India. It intended to prevent the giving or receiving of a dowry and includes penalty for giving or taking dowry and penalty for demanding dowry or advertising offers of money or property in connection with a marriage. This act was widely judged in curbing the practise of dowry. A failure to meet the dowry demands there was an increase in violence against women.

Section 304B was added to the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (“IPC”), which made dowry death a specific offence punishable with a minimum sentence of imprisonment for 7 years and a maximum imprisonment for life. It provided that if the death of a woman is caused by burns or bodily injury or occurs in suspicious circumstances within 7 years of her marriage, and there’s evidence to show that before her death, she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or his relative regarding the demand for dowry, then the husband or the relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.

Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was also passed as a civil law remedy to protect women from domestic violence in India. The act includes remedies such as prohibiting a person from committing domestic violence, granting custody of a child to his/her mother and directing payment of compensation.

DOWRY LAW LOOPHOLES: India’s statutory laws to prevent dowry & to punish the evil doer have been ineffective due to the following reasons:

1. Non enforcement of Existing Laws:  The continuing problem of dowry death is the non-enforcement of laws by the police and the state authorities. The police officials rarely follow these guidelines and frequently fail to investigate properly although specific instructions as to how to investigate dowry deaths have been specified.

2. Cultural Attitudes toward Women: In India women have been taught since their childhood that she only has to marry the man her family chooses and win over her family which she marries. She must she must serve her husband selflessly, devote herself to him and his family and bear everything without any complain. Social mores dictate that a woman must never speak out against her husband, and a broken marriage is viewed as a disgrace both to the woman’s family and to her own honour. As a result of these cultural attitudes, parents and neighbours rarely offer to help the new bride. Even when a bride has the courage to seek help, her parents almost always refuse to allow her to return home out of fear of public humiliation.

3.Economic Discrimination against Women: In some parts of India womenare prohibited from heading households or to inherit ancestral property. Although in theory the Hindu Succession Act gives Hindu women equal inheritance, married daughters are still not given a share in parental property. Discriminated in the area of employment still prevails in various rural parts of our country. It prevents women from becoming economically independent and compels them t continue to remain in an abusive relationship.

Case Law: Sunil Bajaj v. State of M.P

In one of those land mark cases which points out towards the drawbacks of the section 304-B I.P.C the sense of its misinterpretation by the lower courts and use of it as a weapon of revenge against the innocent persons. In this case Sunil Bajaj married Suman (deceased) in 1991. He was asking her wife to bring money from her parents and parents were giving money to her from time to time. In June 1995 Suman told her mother that her husband was demanding an amount of Rs. 20,000 and that he had illegal relations with some girls of doubtful character and used to bring those girls to his house. Those girls have beaten her also. That the appellant was ill-treating and harassing her. The prosecution says that all that cruelty of the appellant led her to commit suicide by burning herself on August 28, 1995.

The trial court did not properly and objectively consider the evidence to reach a conclusion that the appellant was guilty of the offence under section 304-B I.P.C. the High Court also did not appreciate the evidences as being the first court of appeal.

As per the above stated facts we learn that both court error in not looking that the crucial ingredient of the offence under section 304-B was not established that the deceased was subjected to cruelty or harassment by the appellant soon before her death in the connection of the demand of dowry.

So, the judgment of the High Court suffers from infirmity and illegality.

The above case proves that there are loopholes still prevailing as concerning the Dowry Laws.


Aishwarya Says:

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