Definition of dowry

Section 2 of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 defines dowry as under:

“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 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 at any time after the marriage in connection with the marriage of the said parties, but does not include dower or mehar in case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies.
Explanation-I- (omitted by act 63 of 1984)
Explanation-II- The expression ‘valuable’ security’ has the same meaning as in Section 30 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).”




Under the Act the expression “Valuable security” has the same meaning as under section 30 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 30 of the Code ‘valuable security” is defined as follows- “The words “valuable security” denote a document which is, or purported to be , a document whereby any legal right is created, extended, transferred, restricted, extinguished or released, or whereby any person acknowledges that he lies under legal liability, or has not a certain legal right .
The Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 1984, has substituted the words “as
consideration for the marriage” with words “in connection with the marriage.” These words have widened the meaning of dowry but have retained the essential character of dowry. In case of Satvir Singh and others6it was rightly observed that “there are three occasions related to dowry.
One is before the marriage, second is at the time of marriage and the third occasion may appear to be an unending period. But the crucial words are’ in connection with the marriage of the said parties. This means that giving or agreeing to give any property or valuable security on any of the above three stages should have been in connection with the marriage of the parties.”
Section 3 provides penalty for giving or taking dowry. Section 3(1) lays down –“If any person, after the commencement of this act, gives or takes 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 fine which shall not be less than fifteen thousand rupees or the amount of value of such dowry which shall be more;
Provided that the court may, for adequate and special reasons to be recorded in the
judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than five years.”
Section 3(2) provides that “Nothing in sub section (1) shall apply to, or in relation to-
(a) Presents which are given at the time of marriage to the bride (without any demand having been made in that behalf); Provided that such presents are entered in a list maintained in accordance with the rules made under this Act.
(b) Presents which are given at the time of a marriage to the bridegroom (without any demand having been made ): Provided that such presents are entered in a list maintained in accordance with the rules made in this Act:
Provided further that where such presents are made by or on behalf of the bride or any person related to the bride, such presents are of a customary nature and the value thereof is not excessive having regard to the financial status of the person by whom, or on whose behalf, such presents are given.”
The definition of dowry not only prohibits the giving and taking of dowry but also tries to wipe out the practice of demanding dowry in any shape or from either before or after marriage. Though presents are allowed to be given to the bride or bridegroom at the time of marriage, they may be justified when they are given without any demand and they are required to be entered in a list made in accordance with the rules made under the act.
The nature of the presents given to the bridegroom, is prescribed by the Act. Such
presents given should be of customary nature and their value should not be excessive having regard to the financial status of the person by whom or on whose behalf such presents are given “one fails to understand what is meant by term excessive and who will determine this .What is the criterion to determine the customary nature of a gift and who will decide it- The Act is silent in this respect”.
The wedding presents by parents, relatives, friends and close acquaintances at or about the time of marriage do not come in the definition of dowry, unless there were demanded or agreed to be given in connection with the marriage. Voluntary and affectionate presents are not caught in the definition of dowry and giving and taking them do not constitute dowry offence. Moreover, gifts are required to be entered in a list made in accordance with the rules made under the act.
A complete ban on presents, it is submitted is neither possible nor desirable However, the display of any gifts made at or before marriage in the form of cash, ornaments, clothes or other articles can be prohibited. In fact, the state of Haryana has already taken this step. Going a step further it has even set a limit on aggregate wedding expenditure to not to exceed Rs.5000.

It is submitted that if states want that such kind of limits become acceptable then they have to set up some realistic limits otherwise any kind of limit setting would only be a mockery.
However the step of prohibiting vulgar display of marriage gifts is praiseworthy. Such kind of steps would reduce the tendency of show off and would ultimately be helpful in combating practice of dowry.
The act specifically declares that any agreement for the giving or taking of dowry shall be void. Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 provides that “If any person demands, directly 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 punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months, but which may extend to two years and with fine which may extend to ten thousands rupees:
Provided that the court may, for adequate and special reason to be mentioned in the
judgment impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than six months.”
Section 4 of the Act, prohibits and penalizes demand for dowry The Supreme Court in L.V. Jadav v. Shankarrao9 observed: “The object of Section 4 of the Act is to discourage the very demand for property of valuable security as consideration for
marriage between the parties thereto” Hence any demand is a complete offence at the time it is made irrespective of the fact whether it is accepted by the other party or not.


Other provisions of the Dowry

Let’s discuss some other provisions of the Dowry prohibition Act-

A.    Dowry for the benefit of the wife-A praise worthy provision is in form of section 6
which declares that Dowry to be for the benefit of the wife or her heirs. It provides that-
(1) “Where any dowry is received by any person other than the women in connection with whose marriage it is given, that person shall transfer it to the women—
  (a) if the dowry was received before marriage, within three months after the date of marriage, or

  (b) if the dowry was received at the time of or after the marriage, within three months after the date of its receipt: or
  (c) If the dowry was received when the women was a minor it should be returned within three months after she has attained the age of eighteen years:

And pending such transfer it shall be held in trust for the benefit of the women.
(2) If any person fails to transfer any property as required by sub-section (1) within the time limit specified therefore as required by sub-section (3), he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months, but which may extend to ten years or with fine which shall not be less than five thousands rupees, but which may extend to ten thousands rupees or with both.
(3) Where the women entitled to any property under sub-section (1) dies before receiving it, the heirs of the women shall be entitled to claim it from the person holding it for the time being.

Provided that where such woman dies within seven years of her marriage, otherwise than due to natural causes, such property shall-------
   (a) if she has no children, be transferred to her parents, or
   (b) if she has children, be transferred to such children and pending such transfer, be held in trust for such children.
(3A) Where a person convicted under sub-section (2) for failure to transfer any property as required by sub-section (1) or sub-section (3) has not, before his conviction under that sub section, transferred such property to the woman entitled thereto or, as the case may be, her heirs, parents or children ,the court shall, in addition to awarding punishment under that sub section, direct, by order in writing, that such person shall transfer the property to such women or, as the case may be, her heirs, parents or children within such period as many be specified in the order, and if such person fails to comply with the direction within the period so specified, an amount equal to the value of the property may be recovered from him as if it
were a fine imposed by such court and paid to such women or, as the case may be her heirs, parents or children.
(4) Nothing contained in this section shall affect the provisions of section 3 or section 4.” Section 6 is a salutary provision of the Act which provides dowry to be for the benefit of the wife and her heirs. The obligation imposed by this section is that, if any persons other than the bride has received dowry before or at the time of or after the marriage or of any such receipt as the case may be. Hence the property is to be held by any other person as a trustee for the wife; if he does not transfer it to her within the said limit, he shall commit the breach of trust. In case of such failure, the guilty person shall be punished with imprisonment of a term not less than six months but which may extend to two years or with fine which shall not be less than Rs.5,000/- but which may extend to Rs.10,000/- or with both.
This punishment has been provided to help in implementation of section 6 as its fear will compel the persons holding the property of the wife or transfer it within the limit of three months. Moreover, where a woman dies within seven years of her marriage, otherwise than due to natural causes, such property shall, if she has no children be transferred to her parents, or if she has children, to such children, and pending such transfer, it shall be held in trust for such children.
In order to see that section 6 really becomes effective, sub-section 3-A was inserted by the amending act of 1984 and it provides that, where a person is convicted for not returning the property under sub-section (2) the court shall make the order in writing to transfer that property to the woman or her heirs, as the case may be, if the person fails to comply with such directories, the value of the property maybe recovered from him as if it were a fine imposed by such court and paid to such woman or her heirs, parents or children, as the case may be.

Unfortunately section 6, despite the praiseworthy position contained in it, has not drawn much attention under anti dowry campaigns The courts have held in some cases, that if the property is in the hands of a husband or his parents, they shall hold it as trustees of the wife.
The Supreme Court in the case of Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar11 the court overruled the view( which was held in case of Vinod Kumar by Punjab and Haryana high court) that, upon entering the matrimonial home, the ownership of Stridhan property became joint with her husband or his relations. In this case the woman was turned out of the house. Her parents had given her as dowry some cash, gold ornaments, cloths and other things meant for her exclusive use. Her in-laws had refused to return her ornaments and cloths among other property. The High Court of Punjab and Haryana had quashed her complaint following its earlier full bench decision in Vinod Kumar. The apex court held that “with regard to the Stridhan property of a married woman, even if it is placed in the custody of her husband or in-laws, they would be deemed to be trustees and bound to return the same if and when demanded by her.”
In the instant case it was observed that the gifts and other presents made to the wife at the time of or before marriage by the parents or other person, will constitute her Stridhan. It was further observed that “the concept that the property of a married woman becomes joint property of both the spouses as soon as she enters her matrimonial home and continues to be so till she remains there or even if there is a break in the matrimonial alliance, is in direct contravention of Hindu law and is inspired by a spirit of male chauvinism so as to exclude husband from criminal
liability merely because his wife has refused to live in her matrimonial home”12.
To avoid any dispute regarding the property which belongs to the bride, Section 3(2)
provides that the presents made at the time of marriage should be entered in the list to be maintained in accordance with rules to be made under the Act. To make it more effective it is suggested that, whatever is given to the bride by her parents, relatives or otherwise in the form of gifts and presents, should be registered with the officer to be appointed by the State Government for this purpose. A proper register should be maintained as it is done in cases of birth and death.
Thus, whatever articles are registered in the presence of the bride or her parents, and her husband and his parents, should automatically be considered as her Stridhan. This way the husband and his parents will not be able to enjoy any of its benefits to the exclusion of the wife. This may also reduce the death rate of newly wedded brides.

B. Ban on advertisement - By amending Act of 1986 a new section 4-A was inserted in the Dowry prohibition act. It’s a forward looking provision and it declares a Ban on advertisement and it provides that: “If any person-

(a) offers through any advertisement 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 interest as consideration for the marriage of his son or daughter for any other relative,
(b) prints or publishes or circulates any advertisement referred to in clause (a),
he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months, but which may extend to five years, or with fine which may extend to fifteen thousand rupees:.
Provided that the court may; for adequate and special reasons to be recorded in the
judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than six months.”
Section 4-A of the Act prohibits any kind of advertisement which can be construed as
dowry. This is obviously to prohibit ‘open tenders’ for dowry through advertisement.

C. Nature of offences - Section 8 provides that Offences under the Act to be Cognizable for certain purposes and to be non-bailable and non-compoundable.
Section 7 of the Act provides provision relating to cognizance of offences. It lays down that:
(1) Not withstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

(2 of 1974), - No court inferior to that of a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the first class shall try any offence under this Act.
(b) No court shall take cognizance of an offence under this Act except upon-
  (i) Its own knowledge or a police report of the facts which constitute such offence, or
  (ii) A complaint by the person aggrieved by the offence or a parent or other relative of such person, or by any recognized welfare institution or organization.

(c) It shall be lawful for a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the first class to pass any sentence authorised by this Act on any person convicted of an offence under this Act.
Explanation - For the purpose of this sub section, "recognized welfare institution or organisation" means a social welfare institution or organisation recognized in this behalf by the Central or State Government.

(2) Nothing in Chapter XXXVI of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974) shall apply to any offence punishable under this Act.
(3) [(Note: Ins. by Act 43 of 1986, sec.6) Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, a statement made by the person aggrieved by the offence shall not subject such person to a prosecution under this Act.]”

D. Burden of proof - The Act also shifts burden of proof in certain cases. Section 8-A clearly provides that “Where any person is prosecuted for taking or abetting the taking of any dowry under section 3, or the demanding or dowry under section, the burden of proving that he had not committed an offence under those sections shall be on him”.
The 1986 amendment has added two new important sections 8-A and 8-B. Section 8-A provides that, where a person is prosecuted for taking or abetting the taking of dowry under section 3 or the demanding of dowry under section 4 the burden of proving that he did not commit an offence under these sections shall lie on him.

E. Dowry prohibition officers - Section 8-B provides for appointment of dowry
prohibition officers. In the past, one of the main reasons for the failure of the Act was the lack of proper and effective enforcement machinery which could intervene, whenever necessary, in averting dowry tragedies by helping the dowry victims. The joint committee had also suggested the appointment of dowry prohibition officers for different areas. Parliament provided for it through the 1986 amendment which inserted a new Section 8-B providing that:
(1) The “State Government may appoint or may dowry prohibition officers as it deems fit and specify the area in respect of which they shall exercise their jurisdiction, powers and functions.
(2) Every such officer shall have.
(a) To see that the provisions of this Act are complied with,
(b) To prevent, as far as possible, the taking or abetting the taking of, or the demanding of, dowry,
(c) To collect such evidences as may be necessary for the prosecution of persons
committing offences under the Act, and
(d) To perform such additional functions as may be assigned to him by the State
Government, or as may be specified in the rule made under this Act.
(3) The State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, confer such powers of a police officer as may be specified in the notification on the Dowry Prohibition Officer who shall exercise such powers subject to such limitations and conditions as may be specified by rules made under this Act.
(4) The State Government may, for the purpose of advising and assisting Dowry Prohibition Officers in the efficient performance of their functions under this Act, appoint an Advisory Board consisting of not more than five social welfare workers (out of whom at least two shall be women) from the area in respect of which such Dowry Prohibition Officer exercise jurisdiction under sub section (1).

It was hoped that all the changes would provide teeth to the Act because no law can be effective unless it is supported by an effective enforcement agency. However, despite all the changes the Act could not become a success because of poor implementation and lack of will on the part of people themselves who have internalized this condemnable practice. So much so that in 1986 a new section 304-B named dowry death had to be inserted in The Indian penal Code Section 113-B, which raised presumption of dowry death, and was also inserted in the Indian
Evidence Act. To avert the dowry tragedies and to protect the dowry victims, there is a need to educate people. Strict enforcement of the anti-dowry laws is the answer to the social menace.

Some shocking facts, some traditions and some stories about dowry
· National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)India figures state that 8,233 dowries deaths were reported in 2012 from various states. The statistics work out to one death per hour.

· Higher socio-economic strata are equally involved in such practices. Even the highly educated class of our society do not say no to dowry

· In Sudan, Africa, men will offer up to 100 animals for the hand of a woman in marriage. Once a bride has been selected, an engagement party is held, and the men try to impress the bride’s family by jumping as high as possible.

· Back in the day, girls in Eastern Europe would receive a bed on her twelfth birthday. This bed was known as a dowry bed. The next year, the girl would receive a wardrobe. She would continue to receive furniture, and she and her family would paint the furniture until she was married. She would then bring this furniture to the marriage, and that was used as her dowry.

· Many years ago, the tradition in Bangladesh was known as pawn. The groom’s family would typically pay the bride’s family for her hand in marriage. Today, though, most families in Bangladesh use the dowry system. The dowry is usually cash, but may also include jewelry or other extremely valuable items.

· Historically, Sephardic Jewish brides in the Middle East received gifts of jewelry both from their own and their husband's families. The sole property of the bride, this jewelry was an insurance policy in the event of a divorce or hard times. Well-off women were sometimes literally bedecked from head to toe with hair ornaments, bracelets, rings, toe rings, and pendants of gold and precious stones.

· One Yemeni father who, in 2013, demanded a million thumbs up to his Facebook page as a dowry for his daughter's hand. Salem Ayash, a poet from the city of Taiz, did not outline any deadline for his daughter's suitor to fulfil this strange (for the Yemeni traditional society) request of million Facebook "likes" for his profile page. However, that is a lot for a country with a population of about 24 million, and a far lower number of webs users.

Mayank Rai

Hi, My name is Mayank Rai. I found that Blogging is an easiest way to share your knowledge with everyone & learn something new from there. facebook telegram

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post