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Dowry - Rashmi Chauhan


A Hindu marriage is considered as Kanyadan, According to Dharmashastra the exemplary act of Kanyadan is not complete till the groom was awarded some Dakshina[1]. Whatever presents were given to daughter on her marriage by her parents, relatives, and friends was known as Stridhan. [2]Varadakshina included jewels, cash, and property and was present to the groom on marriage out of love and affection. They were given to the bride for her security during unwanted situations. So, the quantum was by the financial status of the bride’s family. Later on, these systems got entangled and got the frightening name of dowry where coercion, influence, and sometimes force also.

After all these years, now it has become an evil practice followed in every part of Indian society, a lot of cases now can be noticed where bride, in failure to bring promised dowry are tortured, beaten up, locked in rooms, burnt alive and after suffering from all the torture some of them, unfortunately, commit suicide. Dowry is a system where a property, valuable item, cash, etc. Is given or agreed to be given, directly or indirectly to one party (mostly groom) by the other party(mostly bride’s side)before or after the marriage.

In the case of Pawan Kumar v. the State of Haryana,[3] it was held that agreement is not always necessary in the dowry during the marriage.

The term dowry is always not in a sense what the bride’s parent gives the groom but, also the other way round, in other words, if the groom’s parent or groom himself gives property or valuable item to bride’s family then also it will be defined as Dowry. With the vision of eradication of this evil system of dowry parliament enacted the Dowry Prohibition Act in 1961 which applies to Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Christians, and Jews. But this Act was not proved beneficial, the dowry system continued to be followed like earlier, many states tried and amended the dowry prohibition act 1961. But those also failed .there were two reasons for the failure of these acts: First, section 2 of the same act excludes all the presents given, and it was impossible to prove those presents were given in consideration of marriage. The main reason is no giver will accept that they gave these present in consideration of marriage because taking as well as giving dowry is also an offense.[4] Secondly, the act did not have the effective enforceability .courts could take action only if the victim lodged the complaint within one year, and mostly the bride and her parents are the sufferer party and they don’t file the complaint.


Taking as well as giving dowry continues to be offenses in this Act also. Similarly, demanding dowry from the bride’s Parents and her guardians is also a dowry offense.[5] Earlier the punishments were too mild for this offense: six months imprisonment was the maximum punishment with a fine not more than Rs. 5000. But after the enactment of this amendment punishment has been changed for the better to imprisonment not less than 5 years with a fine of not less than Rs. 15,000 or the amount of the dowry. If the amount of dowry was more than 15,000 then the punishment will be more given based on the dowry.


Sometimes it happens that the dowry is received but the receiver is not the bride herself, instead of the bride the husband, or his family received it, about this situation the act lay that the dowry has to be transferred to the bride within 3 months.[6] If the bride received dowry when she is minor then the family can wait till she attains majority and can transfer it after she becomes an adult.[7]

Failure in transferring the dowry to the bride within the given time will lead to a dowry offense, for which the offender is liable to the same punishment as a taker of dowry. If the bride dies before the transfer of dowry then her successors will be entitled to it, if the women die within 7 years of marriage then her children and parents will be liable for her property.


We may think while being emotional on the fact that Dowry is not a cognizable offense [8] in India, they are cognizable for the purpose of investigation and there’s the reason behind it- the committee while making this act felt confusion between making this offense a cognizable or non-cognizable [9] offense because most of them were in favor of making it a cognizable offense, but then it would be very difficult for the parties, it may lead to harassment and exploitation and not good for solemnization [10]of marriage.

As this offense is non-cognizable police can investigate only when the complaint is being lodged, further, no accused will be arrested without a warrant from the magistrate. Once the case goes into court no party can compromise. Also, all the offenses related to the dowry are non-bailable.


The Dowry system in India is very complex and has spread in every part of our society for decades now, ever since then the situation is getting worst day by day from increasing demands of dowry to increasing crime rates with a woman because of dowry. The Dowry Prohibition Act came into existence in 1961, but it was not proved helpful and after this act, many Amendments were done in different states. Finally, things changed when the amendment of 1986 came. Earlier the punishments were too mild and offenders used to take it lightly but after The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1986 came punishments were enhanced to minimum imprisonment for not less than 5 years with a fine of not less than Rs. 15, 000. This act was made cognizable offense so that parties don’t have to go through harassment during the solemnization of marriage. Despite Acts, amendments, protests of women’s organization’s cases related to dowry, and crimes related to women are still increasing. Even after The Dowry Prohibition Act dowry is still the main part of marriage in Indian society earlier it was limited to Hindus but now it has spread to every corner of the society. It is a burden on the parents of a girl child, sometimes parents are not so financially stable but they have to take loans from others, mortgage their property just to fulfill the demands of the groom’s family. As we know both taking as well as giving of dowry is an offense, but police and courts can take action only after the complaint is being lodged. And most of the time complaint is not lodged by the victim and her family in fear of losing her in-laws and her husband and people take advantage of this and torture the girl for dowry which leads to suicide and other crimes against her.

Author(s) Name: Rashmi Chauhan (Amity University Jaipur)



[1] Dakshina means any donation, fees, reward, etc.
[2] It is a property that a girl gets during her marriage.
[3] AIR 1998 SC 958.
[4] Section 3
[5] Section 4
[6] Section 6
[7] Section 6(1) (c)
[8] Cases where a police officer in accordance with the first schedule can arrest the accused without a warrant.
[9] Offences where the warrant is required to arrest the accused.
[10] To celebrate or perform the ceremony of marriage.