Law Relating To Dowry
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What is 'dowry'?
Dowry means 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 or by any other person to either party to the marriage. It may be
given at or before or any time after the marriage in connection with the
marriage of the said parties. But it does not include dower or 'mahr' in case of
person to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies (Section
The Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act 1984 has
amended the definition of dowry by substituting the words, "in connection with
the marriage' (for the original words as 'consideration of marriage'). The
effect of the amendment is now easier to prove the giving or taking of dowry so
long as presents were made in connection with marriage. Another significant
change which has been brought under the Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act 1986
in the definition of dowry is that it now includes the property given at any
time after the marriage.
Whether the Dowry Prohibition Act applies to a
particular community or religion? No. This Act applies to all communities
irrespective of the religion. There is a misconception among some that it
applies only to Hindus. But in fact it equally applies to Muslims, Christians,
Parsis, Jews or to any and every person who performs his marriage in India and
is found guilty by dowry offence.
Penalty for Giving or Receiving
Is giving or accepting dowry punishable?
Yes, because it is a
criminal offence. The person or persons guilty of giving, taking or abetting the
giving or taking of dowry may be imprisoned for a minimum of five years and
fined not less than Rs. 15,000 or the amount of the value of the dowry whichever
is more. For adequate and special reasons the court has the power to grant
lesser punishment but the reasons must be recorded in the judgement. (Section
Under the Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act 1984 the
punishment was enhanced and a minimum and maximum punishment limits were laid
down. It was increased from Six months to two years imprisonment and the fine
from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 10,000. However, the Amending Act 1986 further enhanced
the punishment which may extend to five years and fine which may not be less
than Rs. 15,000 or the amount of the value of such dowry whichever is
The main loophole in the present Act is that it holds the giver as
well as the acceptor of dowry equally guilty. The provision of the Act prevent
the parents of the girl to come forward and make a complaint about the fact that
they have been compelled to give dowry. So the giver of the dowry should he
exempted from the clutches of law.
Is giving of presents to the bride or
bridegroom at the time of marriage punishable? No. If the gifts are given freely
and voluntarily. All the same, the presents must be listed (see below under
Dowry Prohibition Rules 1985 for details of the list). Also, the giving to such
presents should be a part of local custom and their value must be proportional
to the financial capacity of the giver.
section of the Act does not specify the value of the gifts. It only states that
this value should not be "excessive" in comparison with the financial status of
the giver. But such vagueness opens scope for endless disputes and litigation.
It is a loophole in the Act that allows dowry by the backdoor. This loophole
needs to be plugged by placing a limit on the value of the gifts.
demanding dowry punishable?
Yes. For demanding dowry, directly or
indirectly, the punishment is imprisonment for a minimum six months or maximum
two years and a fine up to Rs.10,000. If there are adequate and special reasons,
which the court must record in the judgement, the period of imprisonment may be
reduced to below six months.
Is an agreement or contract to give or
receive dowry valid in law?
No. Such an agreement or contract is invalid and
cannot be legally enforced.
Maintenance of Lists
What are the
rules regarding the maintenance of the list of presents?
1. The bride must
maintain the list of presents given to her at the time of marriage.
bridegroom must maintain the list of presents received by him.
3. These lists
must be prepared at the time of marriage or as soon as possible
4. They must be in writing.
5. They must contain the
- a brief description of each
- the name of the
- its approximate
- his relationship to the receiver
of the gift.
- The signatures (or thumb
impression, if illiterate) of both the bride and the
Attesting this list by any of the relatives present at the
marriage is at the option of the
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