Dowry system was followed in India since very long time, it started even before the British rule. The idea behind dowry was to ensure that the bride is financially stable after getting married. Hence, her parents started giving her money, financial assets, land, property, etc. to make sure that their daughter is happy and independent after getting married.
But when British rule came into India, they restricted woman to have any kind of property. Hence, all the kids that were being given to the bride by her parents was started being owned by her husband. The greed has been slowly and gradually started increasing, and they started harassing their wife for demanding more dowry. This system started creating problem in today's society. To curb this kind of system, these laws were introduced in India.
What does dowry exactly mean?
Not all gifts that have been given to the bride at her time of marriage is a dowry.
Dowry is being defined in Section-2 of Dowry Prohibition Act.
What kind of gifts are being considered as dowry?
Any property either it can be movable as well as immovable means AC,TV, refrigerator or any other thing, etc. or immoval means land, property, etc.. It refers to the durable goods, cash, and real or movable property that the bride's family gives to the bridegroom, his parents and his relatives as a condition of the marriage before the marriage or at any time of marriage. But it doesn't include dower or mahr in the case of persons to who are following the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat).
The practice of dowry has brough the beautiful institution of marriage to mere contract of giving and taking money, valuable assets in exchange of marriage.
A few social evils that dowry has brought along itself are like female feticide. One of the biggest reason behind this kind of practice is the thought that when a girl child is born, a lot has to be spent on a marriage. People find it easy to eradicate the root cause of the problem that they think is female, Many young girls commit suicide as at time the parents are not being able to marry off their child. The only reason is the heavy demand of Dowry. This creates a lot of mental frustration in the minds of parents as well as the young girl child, and she finds it easy to commit suicide to get rid of a mental problem. Also, many girls are being kept uneducated because the parents think that this money would be used in future for getting them married off and could be used in Dowry. Also, the rate of crimes such as prostitution, child trafficking has been increasing due to the demand of Dowry. Some parents don't support their girl for divorce and it leads to other crimes.
These are some of the social evils and there might be many more. The government of India has brought certain legal framework to stop this practice. First legal framework was passed by government of India called Dowry Prohibition Act in the 1961, making a dowry demand illegal in the marriages.
Section 2 of dowry prohibition act defines dowry. Now let us understand the remaining sections of Dowry Prohibition Act, Section 3 of Dowry Prohibition Act talks about the offender and its punishment. It states that it is an offence to ask or give dowry so the family of the bridegroom will be liable for taking dowry and the family of the bride will be liable for giving their consent to give dowry. Also, whoever takes or gives dowry will be punished, atleast for five years.
Next, Section 4 talks about penalties for demanding dowery, if any person directly or indirectly demands dowry from a parent's relative or guardian of bride or bridegroom, then that person shall be punished with that imprisonment, which is not less than six months and this could be extended to two years along with a fine of ten thousand rupees. The Supreme Court held that mere demand of Dowry before marriage is an offence.
Section 4A, which states that if there is any advertisment in the newspapers, or any other media which promotes the dowry, then such person will be punished with imprisonment, which is not less than six months and which may be extended to five years. Or he will be punished with a fine, which may be extended to fifteen thousand rupees.
Next legal framework is Indian Penal Code 1860. Here Section 304 (B) talks about dowry death and it stipulates that if the death of a woman is caused within seven years of a marriage by bodily burnes or injury with evidence of cruelty or harassment by her husband or his relative in connection with the demand of dowry, this is punishable with punishment not less than seven years, which may be extended to life imprisonment.
The court has laid down the following guidelines for establishing an offence under Section 304 (B), they are as follows.
A. There has to be demand of dowry and accused has been harassed.
B. The accused has been died.
C. The death is been caused under unnatural circumstances.
Next section under IPC is 498A, which talks about husband or relatives of the husband subjecting women to cruelty. If any woman is being harassed by her husband or by her in-laws, then the husband or in-laws shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years. And they shall also be liable to another legal framework i.e Indian Evidence Act 1872. Section 113 B of Indian Evidence Act talks about the presumption as to dowry. It states that whenever there is a question that if a person has committed dowry crime or not, and if it has been proved that the dead woman was being subjected to cruelty or harassment for demand of dowry, then the court will presume that that person has caused the dowry crime.
There are always two sides of a coin. Not all cases that are being filed under Dowry are true. And in nearly more than 40 percent of the cases, the allegation made by a woman are false. So whenever a law is being made for your protection, make sure you use it in a correct way and not destroy any person's life. Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code required the bridegroom and his family to be automatically arrested if a wife complains of dowry harassment. The law was widely abused, and in 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that arrests cannot be made without a magistrate's approval.
If any woman is facing this kind of problem, this kind of harassment for dowry demand by her husband or by in-laws, please do go and raise your voice. Register a complaint in your nearest police station and feel free to contact us for any help.