The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961; Important Questions

 

 

  • What is this law about?

The Act prohibits the practice of giving or taking of dowry by either parties to a marriage. This law also punishes demanding and advertising dowry.

It imposes a duty on parties getting married to make a list of gifts and presents.

If dowry has been exchanged at a wedding anyway, it imposes a duty on the person who is given dowry to give it to the bride.

Note that the more serious crimes in relation to dowry such as dowry death and cruelty from dowry demands are punishable under the general law on crimes – the Indian Penal Code, 1860.


  • Who can be punished under this Act?

The following persons can be punished if they are held liable for any offence under this act:-

  • Any person who gives or takes dowry (minimum punishment of five years);
  • Any person who helps someone to give or take dowry;
  • Anyone who in any way demands dowry;
  • Anyone who advertises and offers to give money or property in return for marrying his son, daughter or relative;
  • Anyone who publishes these advertisements;
  • Anyone who does not hand over the dowry to the bride within the specified time.

  • What can be defined as “dowry” under the act?
Dowry is Given by Given to
Anything of value including money and property Bride or groom, their parents or anyone else Bride or groom, their parents or anyone else
  • The dowry could be given at any time in connection with the marriage.
  • According to the personal laws for Muslims, the wife is entitled to either money or property from her husband when she gets married. This is known as dower or mahr and is not considered as dowry.
  • An agreement for dowry is punishable, even if the actual dowry has not been paid.

  • What is the punishment for giving or taking dowry?
Who can be punished Jail time Fine Exceptions
– Any person who gives or takes dowry- Any person who helps someone give or take dowry Minimum 5 years Amount of the dowry.If the amount is less than Rs. 15000, then the fine is Rs. 15000. Court can impose lesser jail time for special reasons

Example:Say Raj and Simran are getting married. Simran’s father, Sitapati gives Rs. 10 lakh and a car as dowry to Ram’s father Raja Bhoj. Both Sitapati and Raja Bhoj can be punished with 5 years’ jail time. They will also be asked to pay a fine of Rs. 10 lakh and the value of the car.


  • Is giving of gifts or presents a crime?
  • Giving gifts or presents by either the bride or groom at the wedding is not punishable when it has been done voluntarily.
  • The gifts should be entered in a list, according to the rules (Rule 2 of the Dowry Prohibition (Maintenance of Lists and Presents to the Bride and Bridegroom) Rules, 1985).
  • Gifts from the bride’s side should be according to custom and as per financial capacity of the person.

  • What is the punishment for demanding dowry?
Who can be punished Jail time Fine Exceptions
Anyone who in any way demands dowry from anyone related to the bride or the groom Between 6 months to 2 years Up to Rs. 10,000. Court can impose lesser jail time for special reasons

Example:On the day of the wedding, Raja Bhoj (groom’s father) asks the marriage broker Supandi to tell Sitapati (bride’s father) that he will not let the wedding happen if he is not given Rs. 10 lakh as dowry. Sitapati can go to the police station to make a complaint against Raja Bhoj and Supandi for demanding dowry from Sitapati.


  • What is the punishment for advertising giving of dowry?
Who can be punished Jail time Fine Exceptions
– Anyone who advertises and offers to give money, share in a business or property in return for marrying his son, daughter or relative- Anyone who publicizes this kind of advertisements. Between 6 months to 5 years Up to Rs. 15,000. Court can impose lesser jail time for special reasons

Example:Sitapati advertises in the newspaper that he will give half his estate to anyone who marries his daughter. Sitapati can be punished for advertising the offer for dowry and the newspaper publisher can be punished for sharing it with people.


  • Who should get the dowry, if it has been given at the time of the marriage?

If the dowry has passed hands at or after a wedding anyway, the person taking it has to hand it over to the woman. Example:

  • Say Raj and Simran get married on August 20th. Simran’s father has given a car as dowry to Raj’s uncle, Aman. Aman must give it to Simran.
  • If the property was received before the wedding, then Aman must give it to Simran within 3 months of the wedding (before 20th November).
  • If the property was received on the day of the wedding or after, then Aman must give it to Simran within 3 months of the date when he received it.
  • If Simran was below 18 at the time of her wedding, then Aman must give the car to Simran within 3 months of her turning 18. Aman must keep it in trust for her till she turns 18.

  • What is the punishment for not handing over the dowry?

Example:Continuing with the previous example, if Arun doesn’t hand over the car to Sonia on time, he can be punished with jail time of between 6 months and 2 years. He can also be asked to pay a fine of between Rs. 5000 and Rs. 10000.If by any chance Sonia dies before Arun gave her the car, her heirs can claim it from Arun.

  • An heir is a person who is legally entitled to your property on your death.

If Sonia dies due to unnatural causes within 7 years of her marriage, the property will be transferred to her children. It will be held in trust for them until they are 18. If she has no children, the property will go to her parents

Say a case has been filed against Arun for not handing over the car in any of the situations in this provision. The court has found him guilty and convicted him for violating the law. However, he still has not transferred the car to Sonia or her children/parents.

The court will then pass an order against Arun to hand over the property within a specific period. If Arun still does not hand over the car, the court will recover the amount as if it were a court fine.


  • In which courts can a trial under this law happen?

The trial of a crime under this law can only happen in:

  • Metropolitan Magistrate (urban areas with a large population usually have such courts)
  • Judicial Magistrate (First Class)
  • any higher court (e.g. Sessions Court)

  • What is the procedure of filing a case for any offence done under this act?

The judicial process in a court starts when it comes to know that a crime under this law has been committed from:

  • judge’s knowledge;
  • police have filed a charge-sheet (or a police report);
  • private complaint from a victim or relative of victim; or
  • complaint by a government recognized welfare organization.

  • Is there a time limit for filing a complaint?

Unlike the general law on criminal procedure which contains time limits on prosecuting certain crimes, there is no time limit on when you can file a complaint under this law.


  • Can a complaint be filed  even if the person filing complain has paid dowry?

Yes, if you have been a victim of dowry taking and have been forced to pay dowry, you can still file a complaint against the offenders. The statements you make to the police or before the Court cannot be used against you.


  • What is the Treatment of crimes under this law/ punishment under this law?

Crimes under this law are treated ‘cognizable’ (except for the purpose of arrest). The law on criminal procedure treats more serious crimes as ‘cognizable’ – the police can start investigation into such a crime without the permission of a Magistrate.Crimes under this law are also:

  • Non-bailable: A person arrested under this law cannot get bail as a matter of right. He or she will have to make an application to the Court – the Court has the power to decide if you can be granted bail after your arrest.
  • Non-compoundable: Certain less serious crimes can be settled by the victim and the accused. However, crimes under this law cannot be settled in this manner.

  • Explain Burden of proof in certain cases

Example:If Sonia makes a complaint that Raju has asked her family for dowry, then Raju has to prove that he had not asked for dowry.


  • Explain Section 8B. Dowry Prohibition Officers.—

This section talks about the appointment of Dowry Prohibition Officers, their powers and functions and ways in which the state Government can support them.It also talks about an advisory board which can be appointed by the State Government for advising and assisting the Dowry Prohibition Officers.


  • What are the powers in the hands of the central government to makes rules in regards of this act?

The powers which are lying in hands of the central government are stated in sec 9 of the act, which says:-

(1) The Central Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, make rules for carrying out the purposes of this Act.
(2) In particular, and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such rules may provide for

a. the form and manner in which, and the persons by whom, any list of presents referred to in sub-section (2) of Sec. 3 shall be maintained and all other matters connected therewith; and

b. the better co-ordination of policy and action with respect to the administration of this Act.

(3)Every rules made under this section shall be laid as soon as may be after it is made before each House of Parliament while it is in session for a total period of thirty days which may be comprised in one session or in two or more successive sessions, and if, before the expiry of the session immediately following the session or the successive sessions aforesaid both Houses agree in making any modification in the rule or both Houses agree that the rule should not be made, the rule shall thereafter have effect only in such modified form or be; of no effect, as the case may be, so, however, that any such modification or annulment shall be without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under that rule.


  • What are the powers with state government to make rules regarding this act?

This section talks about the power of the State Government to make rules with relation to functions of the Dowry Prohibition Officers and the limitations on those functions.  The powers are stated in section 10 of this act:-

(1) The State Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, make rules for carrying out the purposes of this Act.
(2) In particular, and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such rules may provide for all or any of the following matters, namely:

a. the additional functions to be performed by the Dowry Prohibition Officers under sub-section(2) of Sec. 8-B;

b. limitations and conditions subject to which a Dowry Prohibition Officer may exercise his functions under sub-section (3) of Sec. 8-B.

(3) Every rule made by the State Government under this section shall be laid as soon as may be after it is made before the State Legislature.


 

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