The practice of Dowry giving and taking was a prevailing practice in India. A ritual or a practice in which the parents of the bride were supposed to give goods, valuables, money, property, and security to the groom’s parents as per their demands. In ancient times the dowry was given by the bride’s parents to the groom or his parents to start a new household by newlyweds. The practice of dowry is known as Dehej in Hindi, Hunda in Marathi. However, it cannot be confused with Streedhan.
The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961
This is originally an Indian Legislation. The Act came into force on the 1st day of May 1961. The intention behind passing this enactment was to curb and prohibit all types of dowry-giving and taking activities by either or both the parties to the marriage and their families. This enactment applies to all individuals irrespective of their race, sex, religion, caste, etc. The Legislation has undergone amendments in the year 1984 and also in 2005 other corresponding enactments like The Criminal Procedure Code, Indian Evidence Act, Indian Penal Code, etc.
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What is called a Dowry?
- Section 02 of The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 defines the term ‘dowry’.
The term ‘dowry’ means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly.
- By one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage, or
- By the parent of either party to a marriage or by any other person, to either party to the marriage or to any other person, at or before (or any time after the marriage) (in connection with the marriage of the said parties, but does not include) dower or Mehr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat).
- Section 03 of the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961
Section 03 can be called the gist or crux of the enactment. It intends to cover almost all sorts of dowry giving and taking activities and almost all sorts of properties that could be exchanged in the name of the dowry in the marriage.
- Section 03 of the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 is read as follows-
Penalty for giving or taking dowry.-
1. If any person, after the commencement of this Act, gives or takes or abets the giving or taking of dowry, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years and with a fine which shall not be less than fifteen thousand rupees or the amount of the value of such dowry, whichever is more:
Provided that the Court may, for adequate and special reasons to be recorded in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than five years.
2. Nothing in sub-section (1) shall apply to or, in relation to,-
Presents which are given at the time of a marriage to the bride (without any demand having been made on that behalf):
Provided that such presents are entered in a list maintained in accordance with the rule made under this Act;
Presents which are given at the time of marriage to the bridegroom (without any demand having been made on that behalf):
Provided that such presents are entered in a list maintained in accordance with rules made under this Act;
Provided further that where such presents are made by or on behalf of the bride or any person related to the bride, such presents are of a customary nature, and the value thereof is not excessive having regard to the financial status of the person by whom, or on whose behalf, such presents are given.
Essential Elements of Section 03 of the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961
For the proper application of Section 03, there are some essential requirements that need to be fulfilled-
- There must be giving & taking of the dowry.
There must be giving or taking of dowry from either or both parties to the wedding. Before, at the time or any time after the wedding takes place. This has been laid down in section 03 as an essential element.
2. There must be abetment of giving and taking of the dowry.
There must be an abetment of giving or taking of dowry from either or both the parties to the wedding. Before, at the time or any time after the wedding takes place. Not only actual giving and taking but also abetting, instigating, and coercing to take or give the dowry is also an offence under Section 03.
Who can be punished u/Section 03 of the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961?
U/Section 03, whoever amongst the parties or their families to the marriage either provides, demands or abets to provide or demand the dowry to/from the other party to the marriage is punishable with an Imprisonment minimum of five years and a fine of either Rs.15,000/- or the amount of dowry. (Whichever is more). Section 03 of the Act is a penal section.
Nature of offence u/Section 03 of the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961
Section 08 of the Act gives more strength to the offences mentioned u/Section 03 and 04. Section 08 makes the offences Cognizable and Non-bailable. Therefore the consequences of demanding and providing dowry are harsher in its effect under Section 03. Moreover, Section 08(a) puts the burden of proof on the party who denies the offence carried out u/Section 03.
The curse attached to dowry has been a largely discussed topic in Indian society for a long period. It also brings along with it harassment, dowry deaths, cruelty, and abetment to suicide and other crimes against married women. Dowry practice has also eroded the beautiful institution of marriage. Women must keep their approach toward the problem logical, rational, and practical.
Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 is strict and stringent and is enacted for the protection of women who face the evil of dowry demand, for all those women who have been suffering any form of harassment or abuse can seek family law advice.