Dowry cruelty and Dowry Death


This article is submitted by:

  • Anis Ahmad

I want to become a doctor. I will not get married unless my MBBS complete. But now I don’t want to marry. This is a thinking of 21-year-old Maryam but nobody knows what happens in future with her accept god. Her dream to become a doctor will never become true because of her parents decided the marriage of Maryam in a very rich family. Maryam refuses to get married but her parents forced her so, she said yes.

The bride groom’s parent wants dowry from Maryam’s parents. 50 Lacks cash and one car Maryam’s parent said ok we will fulfil your demand. Maryam’s parents give the cash to bridegroom’s parents on the day of marriage. Bridegroom’s parents say what is this it is only Rupee 40 lacks where are other Rupee 10 lacks. Then Maryam’s parent says we are sorry we are not able to give you this huge amount of Rupee 50 lacks but we have collected this Rupee 40 lacks please accept this and don’t break this marriage we beg you please don’t do this. The bride groom’s parent says ok we will not break this marriage.

But after 3-4 days of marriage, her mother-in-law, father-in-law, and even her husband started torturing her. Her mother-in-law give a lot of work to her and if she does any mistake her mother-in-law pulls her hair or mash her hand with her foot when Maryam cleaning the flour. Her husband also beat her for a small-small mistake, not only for a big mistake. Her father-in-law also taunts her that no good habits are taught by her parents. She and her parent’s life become hell because of a dowry. And one day she hanged herself. Her dream of becoming a doctor has never become true.

In a patriarchal society such as ours, the above story is common. The position of a girl child is indeed vulnerable. In case of monetary difficulties, it’s the girl child whose education is sacrificed to manage the household and lookout of the opposite younger children reception. The dowry system, deeply rooted within the culture and customs of most communities in India, maybe explanation for harassment for many women. This has led to a situation where the girl child is treated as a guest in her house.

What is Dowry?

Dowry or Dahej is that the payment in cash or/and kind by the bride’s family to the bridegroom’s family in conjunction with the making a present off of the bride (called Kanyadaan) in Indian marriage. Kanyadaan is an important part of Hindu marital rites. Kanya means daughter, and Dana means gift.

Dowry originated in upper caste families because the wedding present to the bride from her family. The dowry was later given to assist with marriage expenses and have become a sort of insurance within the case that her in-laws mistreated her. The groom often demands a dowry consisting of a large sum of money, farm animals, furniture, and electronics.

Various Causes to demand dowry

We have seen the need for dowry from the past, but to eliminate dowry, the demand for it should be better recognized by society so that the occurrence can be avoided.

The various causes are-

  1. In the name of tradition – We must have seen people calling it a tradition or a custom to be followed in marriages taking place. In the name of tradition which has to be followed by the bride’s family give valuables to the groom’s family.
  2. The groom’s family ask for dowry – The groom’s family voluntarily ask for dowry by giving reasons that their son is placed in a good job and they have a lot of reputation etc. 
  3. Thinking that it will build a reputation in society – Earlier people had a preconceived notion that giving dowry will build up a good reputation in the society. With time it became a show-off concept in society and people started comparing it with others.
  4. Illiteracy – In underdeveloped areas, the literacy rate is very less and people are unaware of the laws relating to dowry, which led to the increased demand for dowry by the others. Though dowry is also practised by the literates in an underdeveloped area, it becomes a bit more difficult to make them understand the laws.

The law related to dowry deaths in India

The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 – Asking or giving of dowry can be punished by imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to RS. 15000

IPC Section 406 – This section, for offences related to Criminal Breach of Trust, is usually applied in the investigation of Sridhar recovery from the husband and his family and punished with 3-year imprisonment and fine.

IPC Section 304 B – If anyone commits dowry death he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.

IPC Section 498-A – Under this section one can be punished up to three years.

Domestic Violence Act (2005/2006) – For this act, Domestic Violence includes the demand for dowry.

Section 304B

According to sec 304B Dowry death is when the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it’s shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, such death shall be called “dowry death”, and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.

Explanation – For this sub-section, “dowry” shall have the same meaning as in section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. Section 2 Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.”

In the case of Sanjay Kumar Jain v State of Delhi[i] it was said that “The dowry system is a big slur and curse on our society, democracy and the country. It is incomprehensible how such unfortunate and condemnable instances of dowry deaths are frequently occurring in our society. All efforts must be made to combat and curb the increasing menace of dowry death.

A careful analysis of the above section brings to our notice that it has the following essentials:

  1. The death of a woman should be accused by burns or bodily injury or otherwise than under normal under circumstances;
  2. Such death should have occurred within seven years of her marriage;
  3. She must have been subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband;
  4. Such cruelty or harassment should before or in connection with the demand for dowry.

Burden of Proof

The prosecution under section 304B of Indian legal code cannot shake the burden of proof that the harassment to cruelty was associated with the demand for dowry and such was caused “soon before her death”. The word “dowry” has got to be understood because it is defined in section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. Thus, there are three occasions associated with the dowry, i.e., before marriage, at the time of marriage and an unending period. The customary payment about the birth of a kid or other ceremonies, aren’t involved within the ambit of “dowry”.

Is Dowry death a bailable and a cognizable offence?

Bailable Offences- Offences in which the permission from the court to release the arrested person is not required. The arrested person by fulfilling the requirements can be released and the police cannot refuse the person.

Cognizable Offences- Offence in which the police have the authority to arrest any person without any warrant and also has the authority to start an investigation with or without any permission of the magistrate by filing FIR.

Dowry death is a non-bailable and cognizable offence.

As per Section 41 of The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 the police officer while arresting any person without a warrant, be satisfied with the complaint registered against a person and fulfil all the provision of Section 41 of CrPC.


In Delhi, a lady is burned to death almost every twelve hours. The number of dowry murders is increasing. In 1988, 2,209 women have killed in dowry-related incidents and 1990, 4,835 were killed. It is important to reiterate that these are official records, which are immensely under-reported. The lack of official registration of this crime is clear in Delhi, where ninety per cent of cases of girls burnt were recorded as accidents, five per cent as suicide and only the remaining five per cent were shown as murder.

According to Government figures, there were a total of 5,377 dowry deaths in 1993, an increase of 12% from 1992. Despite the existence of rigorous laws to stop dowry-deaths under a 1986 amendment to the Indian legal code (IPC), convictions are rare, and judges (usual men) are often uninterested and susceptible to bribery. Recent newspaper reports have focused on the alarming rate of deaths of married women in Hamirpur, Mandi and Bilaspur districts within the state of Himachal Pradesh.

Misuse of the provision and its Constitutionality

Many fake cases have been filed in misusing of the provision for its motive or to give torture to the husband’s family. The women should not misuse the very own Section which is made to protect her. However, a mere possibility to misuse the provision should not invalidate the provision. Hence Section 498A is Constitutional.

Sushil Kumar Sharma v Union of India and Ors[ii]

In this case, the petitioner under Article 32 of the Constitution challenged the validity of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code to be Unconstitutional. The petitioner says that the offence is made to protect women against dowry and not for misusing it against the innocent family members as a weapon.

The issue, in this case, is what preventive measures should be taken if a woman misuses this provision. The petitioner says the investigating agencies and courts should analyse the case properly and should not start with a presumption that the accused persons are guilty. They should not use a restrictive approach in the matter relating to dowry.

He also says that the investigating agencies and courts should guard the laws made and should not allow an innocent person to suffer on baseless and evil allegations made by anyone. The court did not find any material in his appeal and dismissed the writpetition and said if he wants to prove his innocence for which he is accused of he may do it in a trial.

Case laws

Hans Raj v State of Punjab[iii]In this case Supreme Court held that the term normal circumstances means not the natural death.

Rameshwar Das v. State of Punja[iv]

In this Supreme Court held that Pregnant woman would not commit suicide unless the relationship with her husband comes to such a pass that she would be compelled to so, accused liable to be convicted on failure to prove his defence.

The State Of Punjab v Gurmit Singh[v]

It was held by the court that he cannot be charged under Section 304B as he is not the relative either by blood, adoption or by the marriage of the deceased’s husband. But the court said that he can be tried under other Section for the offence.

Pawan Kumar & Ors v State Of Haryana[vi]

It was held by the Court that Demand for dowry itself is an offence under Section 304B and to be an offence under this it does not requires that an agreement for it should be necessarily present. The court also held him guilty under Section 498A subjecting her to cruelty or harassment by passing comments on her looks and also taunting her to bring more dowry.


Practising in the name of a so-called tradition that is dowry is seen existing in every place in India whether rural or urban. The menace of dowry custom has reached far down in society. Despite making so many provisions practising of demand for dowry still not stopped. No matter how many laws the government makes it still can’t eradicate it from society. To fully eliminate it the people of the society has to understand that it is wrong. 

By enacting strict laws in society it can be controlled but can’t put an end to it because of the unawareness of the laws in the society and also no support from the families. Even if the girl complains to her parents about the torture she faces by the husband’s family the parents of the girl opt to compromise instead of bringing it to the light. The laws and support from society together can solve the issue.

“The views of the authors are personal


[i] Sanjay Kumar Jain v State of Delhi (2011) 11 SCC 733 (India).

[ii] Sushil Kumar Sharma v Union of India and Ors AIR 2005 SC (India).

[iii] Hans Raj v State of Punjab CRA-923-SB-2001 (India).

[iv] Rameshwar Das v State of Punja 2007 SCC AIR 2349(India).

[v] The State Of Punjab v Gurmit Singh 1996 AIR 1393 1996 SCC (India).

[vi] Pawan Kumar & Ors v State Of Haryana 1996 SCC (4) 17, JT 1996 (5) 155(India).

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