What are the laws related to dowry in India? What are rights available to women in dowry cases?
In India, the issue of dowry has prevailed for a very long time now. There are constant changes that are brought up in the laws. Many people work day and night to spread awareness among society. Though the situation has enhanced but has not yet been entirely resolved. There is a thin line difference between gifts given under pressure and gifts given out of good faith, and luckily, we don’t have to use the same word for both of them. Gifts given under pressure, abuse or in a form of agreement for wedding amounts to dowry but gifts given in good faith and without any undue-influence are treated as streedhan.
The dowry and the dowry related activities happens in different degrees within various communities and socio-economic groups of India.
According to Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, dowry means property, goods or money which is given by either party to the marriage, by the parents of either party, or by anyone who has connection with the marriage. In other words Dowry means any kind of money, goods, cash, jewellery, property, etc. which is given by one party to marriage other party as a condition to marriage.
The violence and deaths associated with dowry demands constitute domestic violence. Similar to acts of domestic violence, the acts used in dowry-related offenses include physical, emotional, and economic violence, as well as harassment as means to exact compliance or to punish the victim. Victims will be best served when protected by an expansive domestic violence legislative framework that encompasses dowry-related violence.
Is Dowry legal in India?
No, the following acts are illegal in India and punishable under the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961.
- Demand for dowry
- Taking Dowry
- Giving Dowry
- Helping someone to take or give dowry
LAWS GOVERNING DOWRY CASES
The following legal provisions grants protection against dowry:
- Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
- Section 498A of Indian Penal Code,1860
- Section 304B of Indian Penal Code,1860
- Section 113A of Indian Evidence Act,1872
- Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 defines the term dowry as “any property or valuable security given or agreed to give, directly or indirectly.” This can be given by a party to the other party of the marriage or by the parent of one party to other party or family of the other party of marriage, at or before or after marriage at any point. Dower or mahr is not included as dowry in case the person’s marriage falls under Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937.
Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 classifies accepting as well as giving dowry as an offence. This means if the bride’s family demands dowry and the bridegroom’s family agrees to it, then both parties will be held liable under this Act. The person may get imprisonment up to five years and a fine of not less than fifteen thousand or the amount of dowry whichever is more.
Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 deals with the punishment for demanding dowry. Any person who directly or indirectly demands dowry from parents, relatives or guardians of the bride or bridegroom shall be held liable and punished with imprisonment of a minimum of six months to a maximum of two years and the fine may extend to ten thousand rupees.
- Section 304(B) of IPC
This section deals with matters of dowry deaths. If a wife dies within seven years of the marriage with any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise under normal circumstances and it is shown that she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband or in connection with, for any demand of dowry, such death will be considered as ‘dowry death’ and such husband or relative or connection of her husband shall be deemed liable. They can be punished for imprisonment for seven years which may extend to imprisonment for life. The definition of “dowry” for this subsection shall be the same as given by Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
- Section 113(B) of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872
This section covers presumption with regards to dowry death. When it is questioned whether a person has committed the dowry death of a woman but it is shown that she was subjected to cruelty or harassment for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, soon before her death, the court shall presume that such person is the reason for her death.
- Section 498 (A) of IPC
This section deals with the following:
- Any wilful conduct which forces the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health of the woman; or
- Harassment of women with a view of coercing them to any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or any valuable security or is on account of her failure by her or any person related to her to meet any demands.
Under this Section, a married woman can file a complaint against her husband or in-laws or any person connected to them when she suffers cruelty at their hands.
Rights Available to Women in Domestic Violence
The protection of women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 is a shield against all forms of abuses and discrimination against the patriarchal mind-set. Under the Act, one can ask for protection orders by informing protection officers. Also, by filing an application one can seek government functions. The aggrieved person can also avail off medical facilities or counselling. Also, separate residence orders or maintenance orders can be guaranteed to the victim.
The aggrieved party (victim) can avail for some rights which are so guaranteed by the Act.
Some of them are:
- Right to reside in a shared household.
- Protection orders for victim’s safety.
- Maintenance or monetary relief.
- Custody of children.
- Penalty for not following orders.
- Penalty to protection officer for not taking an appropriate action.