Dowry Prohibition Act – All you need to know


This write up intends to make you aware of the Dowry Prohibition Act and the details pertaining to it.

The article explains the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 its legal definition, the Act, penalties and punishments, and misuse of dowry laws by women.

Also, the article covers details on other laws that have provisions against the dowry system in India.

What is Dowry in the words of Law?

In Indian culture, dowry holds immense importance during marriages. It has been performed as a ritual since ages.

In our culture, dowry intends to help the newly married couple settle down their household.

Dowry is the transfer of gifts, any form of parental property or money at the time of marriage of the daughter.

It was the gift of wealth transferred to the groom or his family from the bride’s side.

It was considered as a gift from the bride’s parent’s side but over time it developed as a demand from the groom’s side.

The groom or his parents demanded dowry and if not met, broke the tie or led to abuse or torturing the bride.

Owing to these consequences, laws on dowry were made to restrict the practice.

Several laws have been ruled out and state provisions and punishments against the demand or giving away dowry.

Definition of ‘Dowry’

According to Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, ‘dowry’ is any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly:

  • by one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage; or
  • 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.”

What is the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961?

Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

Enacted on 1st May 1961, the Dowry Prohibition Act was ruled out to prevent the prevailing practice of giving or receiving dowry.

As per the Act, dowry is anything given in connection to marriage which includes but is not limited to property, money or goods.

The Act extends to the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir.

The objective of the Act is to prohibit this evil practice and states punishable laws for carrying out the same.

However, the Act does not apply to the gifts or presents which are given at the time or marriage as a gesture instead of a demand.

The value to the gifts given is capped to a limit of Rs. 2000.

The Act also has penalty provisions for advertisements which promotes dowry and agreements for giving or taking dowry.

What Penalty is imposed for giving or taking Dowry?

The Act imposes penalty and punishment provisions for those who will give or take dowry.

After the commencement of the Act, is any person is accused of being involved in giving or taking dowry, s/he shall be:

  • Punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than 5 years
  • Imposed with a fine which shall not be less than fifteen thousand rupees or the value of the dowry, whichever is more

The above punishment and penalty are imposed provided that the Court may impose an imprisonment sentence of fewer than five years where adequate or special reasons are recorded.

The provisions in sections and sub-sections relating to dowry do not apply to or read concerning the following:

  • Gifts or presents given to the bride as a gesture at the time or marriage which have not been demanded
  • A list of such presents shall be maintained as per the rules laid out by the Act
  • Gifts or presents given to the bridegroom as a gesture at the time or marriage which have not been demanded
  • A list of such presents shall be maintained as per the rules laid out by the Act

The Act states that any present given to the bride by any person related to her, the value of the gift does not exceed the value in regards to the financial status of the person who has given the present.

What is the Punishment for demanding Dowry?

The Dowry Prohibition Act lays out provisions for penalty and punishment for those who demand dowry.

According to the provisions stated in the Act, if any person is accused of demanding dowry from the parents or relatives of the bride or bridegroom, either directly or indirectly, s/he shall face:

  • Imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months and might extend to a term of two years
  • Fine which shall extend to ten thousand Rupees

The term for the imprisonment can be less than six months, provided that adequate and special reasons have been mentioned in the judgment.

What are the laws prohibiting dowry in India?

Apart from the Dowry Prohibition Act, there are laws which prohibit the practice of dowry which are as follows:

Indian Penal Code, 1860

Section 304 B of the Indian Penal Code deals with dowry death.

The Section state about of the death of a woman is caused by burns of injury or otherwise than under normal circumstances. This should be within seven years of marriage.

Also, it should be noted that soon before her death, she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or in-laws.

Such death is deemed to be “dowry death” and the husband or relatives will be accused of her death.

The imprisonment imposed shall not be less than seven years which may extend to life imprisonment.

Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Section 113 B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 deals with presumption as to dowry death.

When a person is questioned of committing dowry death of a woman and it is noticed that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by that person in connection with the dowry, the person is presumed as the accused.

What are the provisions for misuse of dowry prohibition law by women?

Laws against dowry were made to protect women and secure their life and status.

However, in recent times, it has come to notice that women have been misusing the laws made for their welfare.

The provisions of law provide for the arrest of the accused, i.e. husband or in-laws, based on a written complaint in the nearby police station.

The accused are arrested without investigation and locked up on non-bailable terms. As per the law, they are guilty unless proved innocent.

IPC 498A governs the provisions which have faced a lot of misuse on the women’s part.

Cases of Omnibus allegations have been reported where the police arrest the relatives along with the husband.

Proposal for amendment to the law has been made to prevent the misuse of laws made to safeguard women.

The proposed amendments include the following:-

  • Making it a bailable offence
  • Increasing the penalty of a wrongly filed case to Rs. 15000 which was Rs. 1000 previously
  • Not to arrest the accused until the laid down parameters (Section 41, CrPC) have been satisfied

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