Dowry under Dowry Prevention Act, 1961

The dowry is an ancient tradition found across cultures, religions, and time periods. It is not certain where dowries originated, but the custom takes place in wedding ceremonies even today.

History And meaning of  Dowry

A dowry is a gift of considerable monetary value given from either the bride or groom to their future spouse upon marriage.

During the Roman Empire, the bride’s family would provide a dowry to the groom or his family to offset the cost of her living expenses. While it is commonly thought that a dowry is always given by a woman to her future husband, it is the reverse in other cultures, where the groom offers a gift to the bride or her family upon marriage. The dowry can serve as a gift to in-laws or insurance for the bride should she choose to leave her husband. It is something she can take with her in the event of divorce to ensure her financial security. Other  terms for this exchange may be “bride price” or “bridewealth.” But It is Not  Stree-Dhan, (Hindi: “woman’s wealth”) in Indian society, material assets given to a woman by her parents at the time of her marriage. It may include money, jewelry, land, and utensils. Stree-Dhan is different from a dowry in that it remains a woman’s exclusive property; her husband and his family have no rights over it.

Over time, it became common practice for families to exploit the dowry system all over the world in some cases. What was meant to be a gift and promise of security from one partner to another soon became a financial demand that resulted in broken engagements or divorce, violence, and even death for unpaid dowries? It is for this reason that countries like India, Pakistan, Nepal, Greece, and Kenya passed laws making dowries illegal in any capacity.

Dowry Prevention Act,1961

Dowry Prohibition Act, Indian law, enacted on May 1, 1961, intended to prevent the giving or receiving of a dowry. Under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 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.

The original text of the Dowry Prohibition Act was widely judged to be ineffective in curbing the practice of dowry. Moreover, specific forms of violence against women continued to be linked to a failure to meet dowry demands. As a result, the legislation underwent subsequent amendments. In 1984, for example, it was changed to specify that presents given to a bride or a groom at the time of a wedding are allowed. 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 relation to either party to the marriage. The act and relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code were further amended to protect female victims of dowry-related violence. Another layer of legal protection was provided in 2005 under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.

Amendments to the original Dowry Prohibition Act also established minimum and maximum punishments for giving and receiving dowry and created a penalty for demanding dowry or advertising offers of money or property in connection with a marriage. The Indian Penal Code was also modified in 1983 to establish specific crimes of dowry-related cruelty, dowry death, and abetment of suicide. These enactments punished violence against women by their husbands or their relatives when proof of dowry demands or dowry harassment could be shown.

According to Section 2 Definition of `dowry’ Under  Dowry Prohibition Act,1961 read as follow:-

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 parents 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 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 Sec. 30 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).

In the case of Arjun Dhondiba Kamble  v. the State of Maharashtra, 1995 AIHC 273, The Bombay High Court Extended The Meaning of ‘Dowry’ as “Dowry” in the sense of the expression contemplated by Dowry Prohibition Act in a demand for property or valuable security having an inextricable nexus with the marriage i.e. it is a consideration from the side of the bride’s parents or relatives to the groom or his parents and/or guardian for the agreement to wed the bride-to-be. 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 demand for valuable presents made by the appellants on the occasions of festivals like Deepavali is not connected with the wedding or marriage and these demands will not constitute dowry as defined in section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

Again In, Rajeev v. Ram Kishan Jaiswal, 1994 Cri L.J. NOC 255, the court opined that Any property given by the parents of the bride needs to be in consideration of the marriage, it can even be in connection with the marriage and would constitute dowry.

Aims & Objective of Dowry Prevention Act,1961

In Soni Devraj Bhai Baber Bhai vs. State of Gujarat 1991 AIR 2173, 1991 SCR (3) 812:

The Supreme Court observed that the social immorality of dowry has been the bane of Indian Society and continues to persist despite women’s liberation. Even though for eradication of this social wrong, constructive steps can be taken by the community itself and the social sanctions of the Community can be more deterrent. Yet legal sanctions in the form of its prohibition and punishment are some steps in that direction. Thus, the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 was passed to achieve this objective.

Objectives of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961:

  1. To promote harmony of marital and family.
  2. To establishing a dowry free society.
  3. To provide a platform to fight against the abuse of dowry laws.
  4. To create awareness about the present cruelty/dowry/harassment related laws and their damaging effects on the family.
  5. To provide emotional, legal and social support to the innocent persons who are affected by the vengeful implication of the dowry laws. To provide legal aid to indigent section of the community.
  6. To safeguard children welfare and integrity of Indian families.
  7. To safeguard interests of Elderly people of the family and their respect in society and to discourage their abuse through dowry related laws.
  8. To promote stopple against malicious complaints and arrests without investigation. To discourage malicious prosecutions in matrimonial cases.

Penalty for taking dowry under Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

Penalty for giving or taking Dowry: Section 3 of the Act states that giving as well as taking dowry is an offense and its abatement is punishable with imprisonment which shall not be less than 5 years and with fine which shall not be less than 15,000/- or the amount of value of such dowry whichever is more.

Penalty for demanding Dowry: Section 4 of the Act states that if any person demands, directly or indirectly, from the parents or other relatives or guardian of a bride or bridegroom, any dowry, he shall be punishable 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 extend to Rs, 10,000/-.

In Shankarrao Abasheb Pawar vs. L.V. Zadhav 1983 AIR 1219, 1983 SCR (3) 762, Anita got engaged to Pradeep, who was working in the U.S. During the wedding ceremony, Pradeep and his family allegedly demanded a sum of Rs.60,000/- for the travel tickets of the parties. They further told the bride’s family that the marriage ceremony would not be completed unless the demands are fulfilled. However, after pressure, the wedding formalities were completed. Pradeep left for the U.S. meanwhile Anita was living with her father-in-law and the demand for money and other things continued. A complaint was filed against her in-laws for the amount demanded but not given by Anita’s father. It was held by the Bombay High Court that to bring a case under Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, there must be a demand for dowry. A demand by one party from the opposite party to pay a certain amount isn’t a dowry.

Misuse of Section 498-A IPC and Dowry Prohibition Act,1961

An increasing number of false cases of Dowry harassment against the husbands has now become so serious that the Government of India is proposing to amend Sec 498A to make the offense ‘compoundable’. It may also be necessary to make it ‘bailable’. There is no denial of the fact that women require special protection in enjoying the human rights being enforced as an integral part of Fundamental Rights guaranteed in Part III of the Constitution of India. Sec 498A of  IPC & Dowry Prohibition Act,1961 was enacted by the legislature to provide special safeguards to protect their rights. There is no denial of the fact that they were denied of their rightful and just place and position in society for centuries. Section 498A was enacted with the object to prevent torture to women by her husband or his relatives in connection with the demand for dowry, as the dowry harassment was on the side of increase and required a strong penal measure to deal with it very effectively.

It has been reported (Times of India dated 22/3/2015 at P.1) that more than 10,000 cases are found to be false. In other words, Sec 498A is being misused by the women to harass their husbands and in-laws, and even the Dowry Prohibition Act is also misused as a weapon in the hands of wives and they are found to be threatening their husbands if they fail to carry out the wishes or demands of the wives. Where such false complaints are filed, the husband and his relatives are subjected to arrest, bail being denied and even to enter into an understanding with the wife to withdraw such cases is not available, as the offenses under Sec 498A are cognizable non-bailable, and non-compoundable. Serious violation of human rights takes place of the person who is subjected to such false complaints. Among the persons so involved are a large number of women like husband’s sister, mother, and other female relatives. It is now used as a weapon by a woman against other women resulting in ‘cruelty’ to those who are the victims of false complaints. It is understood that women’s organizations are agitating against any step being taken to make the offense under Sec 498A bailable and compoundable.

 The judiciary is well aware of the misuse of Section 498A. Supreme Court called it legal terrorism. But even the judiciary is helpless due to tremendous pressures from feminist groups. There is a bill pending in Rajya Sabha for the amendment to Section 498A.

Justice Malimath, former Chief Justice of Karnataka and Kerala High courts headed a committee that gave its report on comprehensive amendments to Criminal Laws. This committee recommended that 498A should be made bailable and compoundable. Listening to the recommendation of the committee Feminist groups and their contacts inside Amnesty International threatened for agitation on this issue.

In Akula Ravinder v. State of A.P  AIR 1991 SC 1142, II (1991) DMC 53 SC, 1991 Supp (2) SCC 99. a sort of relief came against the possible misuse of section 304-B IPC when it was held that death must be proved to be one out of the course of nature and the mere fact that the deceased was young and death was not accidental is not sufficient to establish that death must have occurred otherwise than under normal circumstances. Thus, there are still many inconsistencies in law related to dowry, which should be corrected to ensure its effective and fair implementation.

  • Important steps to eliminate Dowry culture & false dowry cases:

(1) We will have to change the ancient culture of the male dominant society and need to provide equal respect and opportunity to women like men.

(2) The women of our country must need to be educated and economically independent at the various levels of society. The socially marginalized women must need to educate that equal right and opportunity is the basic fundamental right of society the concept of ‘Pati Parameswara’(Husband is God) has no longer stand in this civilized era.

(3) In dowry death cases the police investigation should be rapid and impartial instead of being corrupt, and careless.

(4) As recommended by the Supreme Court in the case of Bhagwant Singh v. Commissioner of police 1985 AIR 1285, 1985 SCR (3) 942, more women police officers should be involved in the proper investigation of crime against women.

(5) Moreover, there should need to be speedy disposal of dowry death cases. Guilty should be punished while events are still fresh in the public mind so that it can work as a lesson for society. For this purpose, special courts may also be established.

(6) Registration of marriage together with the list of gifts should be made compulsory according to the law. Provision must be included that any gifts given after the marriage should also be included in the list.

(7) Dowry is a social problem and public opinion has to be mobilized against this dangerous practice. It cannot be contained by only legal and police action. The memorable words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Acceptance of dowry is a disgrace for the young man who accepts it as well as perhaps dishonor for the woman folk should ring in the ears of every unmarried young man or woman”.

(8) The educated youth can contribute tremendously in eradicating this evil if they try to implement and practice the education, which they are given.

(9) Besides general literacy, a legal literacy program should also be started to make the women of the underprivileged class aware of their legal rights. All these voluntary organizations can play an important role.

(11) Besides all the above there must also be a law made where if any false case is filed regarding dowry or domestic violence then the person must be Punished as same as the provision of 498A.


Dowry is basically a cultural and social problem that cannot be eradicated by law alone. For its eradication, society will need to fight from the grassroots level. The rapid increase in dowry deaths among newly married females has drawn the eye of the masses and various socio-welfare organizations. This has forced the government of India to adopt certain anti-dowry measures but they are not sufficient to fight this social devil whose roots are very deeply set in the country. Besides, old socio-cultural sanctions for the dowry system and near-complete dependence of Hindu women on their husbands and in-laws in all matters create further problems.

In Vikas vs. State of Rajasthan (2002 (6) SCC 728), the Supreme Court held that “society has to find out ways and means of controlling and combating this menace of receipt and payment of dowry. It appears that instead of controlling payment and receipt of dowry in one or other form, it is increasing even in educated class.” On the other hand, it would not be ignored that The false complaint against men is increasing every day, it’s a serious issue as it violates basic human rights. The problem is not unknown to anybody, everybody knows how women misuse the provisions of the law to fulfill their unlawful demands against their husbands. Moreover, Sec 498A is non-compoundable which makes it more severe for men. Though the government recently has given some guidelines to amend the existing laws, making the same provisions for men and women. The Supreme Court is also working hard on making things better for Indian men as a result of which, in a judgment, the court gave some guidelines against the arbitrary arrest of men in 498A cases. Also, with the tremendous misuse of Section 489A, there are landmark judgments in favor of the male. A recent Civil Appeal No. 1213 of 2006. Case: K. Srinivas Vs K. Sunita. Supreme Court (India) judgment states that if a false allegation is made against a husband by the female that would constitute grounds for divorce.

Aishwarya Says:

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