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Dowry is the transfer of the property of woman’s parents to the bridegroom’s family. The roots of this practice is stemmed from medieval times, where a gift was given by the bride’s family. During the colonial period, Britishers made this practice mandatory. The dowry system in India put great financial stress on bride’s family. The dowry cases leads to crimes against women such as torturing them emotionally to injuries or in some cases deaths.[1] The offence of dowry-death is cognisable and non-bailable.[2]

CASE LAWS- In the case of Inder Sain vs. State,[3] the court held that “consideration” was restricted to motive or therefore compensation would exclude any property given after the marriage. The concept of gift in customary form would be the ones which would not put a financial burden on the family. A list of such presents shall be made and should be signed by both the bridegroom and the bride. In the case of Sanjay Kumar Jain v State of Delhi, the court said that “the dowry system is a big slur on our society , democracy and the country.”

ENACTMENT OF LEGISLATIONS The dowry system has been prohibited, and various legislations have been enacted such as the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and sections 304-B AND 498-A of the IPC.

THE DOWRY PROHIBITION ACT RELEVANT PROVISIONS- Section 2 of the Act defines the dowry, which defines it as any property or valuable security which is given or agreed to be given directly or indirectly, it does include dower or mahr in the cases of Mulims, to the persons to whom Muslim Personal Law(Shariat) applies. It is given by one party to the other. It can also be given by parents of both the parties. Valuable security here has the meaning as in section 30 of the IPC. Section 5 of the Act says that any provision for giving or taking of dowry shall be void. Section 3 of the Act says giving or taking the dowry or abetting in the same shall be punished with a minimum term of 5 years, or a fine of ruppees 15,000, whichever is more. Demanding of dowry is punishable for a term of minimum six months to maximum two years and a fine which may exceed to 10,00,00 ruppees. Section 6 of the Act says that when the dowry is given for the daughter or heirs , the same shall be transferred within three months, or otherwise, the person would invite punishment under this section.

IPC[4] The dowry legislation did not have significant impact on reducing the instances of violence for non-fulfillment of dowry. This led to the introduction of penal provisions in IPC for offences against dowry. Section 304-B and 498-A deals with the same which were added in the years 1983 and 1986 respectively.

304- B OF IPC: 304B. talks about dowry death. It says when the death of a woman is caused due to either burns or bodily injury and it could be shown that she was subjected to cruelty by her husband or relatives, for the demand of dowry, then such husband or that relative shall be deemed to have caused her death. Explanation says that here the term dowry as in DPA, 1961. The punishment for dowry death described is imprisonment for a minimum of seven years and maximum for a term of imprisonment for life. In the case of State of Punjab vs. Iqbal Singh[5] the court said that seven-year period is a turbulent one after which it would be assumed by legislature that the couple had settled in their life. In the case of Satbir Singh vs. State of Haryana,[6] the SC said that where the ingredients of section 304-B could be prooved, the burden of proof shifts on the defence to prove the innocence. In the case of Rajbir vs. State of Haryana,[7] the register Generals of High Courts was directed by SC to circulate to all the trial courts to add section 302 of IPC to charge section 304 B of IPC. Thus, a person convicted of dowry death could be charged under section 302 also.

SECTION 405- Many times ornaments and gifts are given to the daughter but they are taken by the bridegroom’s family. The Supreme Court in the case of Pratibha Rani vs. Suraj Kumar[8] said that taking in possession the articles of the brides would amount to criminal breach of trust and the same shall be punished under section 405 of the IPC.

SECTION 498 A – This section deals with cruelty against women by husband or relatives. Accordingly, when a woman is subjected to cruelty by her husband or his family members, then persons so responsible will be punished with a maximum of three years of imprisonment and fine. Here, the word ‘cruelty’ includes both physical and mental torture. It include any conduct which could drive the woman in a state where she would commit suicide or where there is a danger to her life or limb or physical or mental harassment for coercing her for dowry.

Those responsible for dowry death could also be convicted under section 302 and 306 of IPC. SECTION 302- This section talks about causing the death of a woman intentionally. Section 306- If the husband or the relative creates any situation where the woman is induced to commit suicide, those responsible could be held liable for abetment for the commission of suicide and could be punished for a maximum term of ten years and also for fine.

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973: Section 174 talks about the enquiry and reporting by police in cases of suicide.[9] Section 176 deals with investigation by magistrate in cases of unnatural death.[10] Also, in cases where the death of woman takes place within seven years of marriage, in a suicide case or a dubious case the body needs to be send for post-mortem.


Amendment Act of 1986 was inserted regarding section 113 B, in cases of dowry death, in which the court has to presume that a dowry death happened where certain fundamental facts could be prooved, thus making the case of the prosecution stronger.[11]