Dowry means all those gifts, money, or estate that a woman brings with her to her husband’s house after their marriage has been solemnized. Not only in India the dowry system is practiced in some parts of Europe, Africa, Bangladesh, China and some other countries as well. The demand for dowry has become like a necessary consideration for marriage, from the bride’s family. This practice has, in turn, led to increasing abuse against women in the modern times.

The Parliament of India enacted the Dowry Prohibition Act in 1961 which has made the giving and taking of dowry illegal in India. It applies to all persons irrespective of their religion. Though the act has been revised many times, but still the dowry system and the violence related to it are common in Indian marriages.

The further challenge that has come up recently is the no. of false cases that are being filed by the women against their husbands and in-laws for malicious purposes. There is a dire need to completely remove this evil from our society and at the same time to ensure that no innocent is falsely imprisoned under our laws.


The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961[i]

It was enacted on May 1, 1961. This act has combined all the dowry forbidding laws that have been enacted in different states.

The objective of this act is to stop the practice of asking, giving and taking of dowry. Although the act prohibits the practice, but if a dowry has already been given to the bride then this act tries to ensure, that it used for the benefit of the bride.

Section 2[ii] of this act defines what constitutes dowry.

Arjun Dhondiba Kamble v. State of Maharashtra[iii]

In this case, the Bombay High Court explained the definition of dowry as provided in the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961. The court explained it as a consideration from the bride’s parents to the groom or his parents for their agreement to wed the wife-to-be. The court further said that any other demand which is not related to such consideration was not to be covered under the demand for dowry.

Sankar Prasad Shaw & ors. v. The State & Anr.[iv]

In this case, there was demand for refrigerator, T.V., 174.9 grams of gold, cash of Rs. 50,000 and a gas connection by the groom’s family. But, there had not been any agreement regarding this demand between the parties at or before or after marriage and that is why the Calcutta High Court didn’t consider it as a demand for dowry rather just a demand for valuable security.

Y.K. Bansal v. Anju[v]

In this case, the husband had demanded Rs.50,000 from his father-in-law, after some days of his marriage. When his demand was not fulfilled, he tortured his wife and threatened to marry someone else.

The Allahabad High Court held that though the demand was being made after the marriage but since it was in connection with the marriage, it constituted a demand for dowry.

Section 3[vi] of the act lays down the penalty of giving or taking of dowry.

Section 4[vii] of the act lays down the penalty for making any demand for dowry whether directly or indirectly.

Bhoora Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh[viii]

In this case, the deceased lady had written a letter to her father, stating that she was being threatened and tortured by her in-laws to make their dowry demands fulfilled, before she was set on fire by her in-laws.

The Allahabad High Court considered it as an offence of demanding dowry under section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

Indian Penal Code, 1860

Section 304B (1)[ix] defines ‘dowry death’ and Section 304B (2)[x] lays down the punishment for the husband or his relatives who caused such death, which can be from seven years to life imprisonment.

Vemuri Venkateshwara Rao v. State of Andhra Pradesh[xi]

In this case, the Andhra High Court laid down the essentials and guidelines for constituting a case under section 304B of IPC. The following are these guidelines:

There should be a demand for dowry and harassment related to such demand from the accused husband or relative. The deceased must have died.

The death of the deceased wife should be under unnatural circumstances. The demand and harassment related to dowry and the death should be within seven years of marriage to prove the offence under section 304-B.

Section 498A[xii] lays down the punishment for any husband or husband’s relative who subjects such woman to cruelty. Cruelty means-

Any deliberate act which is possibly leading a woman to commit suicide and causes her any grave injury.

Any harassment on women, which is done to make a demand for any valuable security or property or failure of such demand.

A.K. Deviah v. State of Karnataka[xiii]

In this case, the deceased had committed suicide after eleven months of her marriage. Before her suicide, she had told her brother and sister as well his brother-in-law about the ill-treatment that was meted out to her by her husband for the demand for balance of dowry. Even some ornaments of the deceased were found at a pawnbroker’s shop.

The Karnataka High Court held the husband guilty under sections 3,4 and 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act and 304 B and 468 A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Indian Evidence Act,1872

Section 113B[xiv] of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 lays down presumption for dowry death. If the court finds that soon before the death of such a woman she was subjected to cruelty for demanding dowry by such person, the presumption of dowry death, as defined under section 304B of IPC, is justified by the court.

Shiv Ram v. State of Delhi[xv]

In this case, where the death of the woman was caused by succumbing to injuries caused by accidental burning, the court found that the prosecution evidence had lacunae to establish a proximate link to give rise to such presumption of dowry death as laid down in section 113B.