Decoding the dowry law in India: Here are 3 things that you should know

Does a gift constitute as dowry? Here are all the answers you have been looking for.

Dipannita Saha Dipannita Saha Jul 12, 2017
Being well-versed with the dowry law in India can save women a lot of hassle. Photo: Shutterstock/ IndiaPicture


Dowry. This five-letter-word social evil has claimed many live in India. Though, government and social bodies have been trying to eradicate this plague from the society, somehow it still persists. Yes, dowry is indeed a pertinent issue concerning Indian women, but not all of us are clear with the concept of it. Turns out, it's not that simple. The times have changed and so has the way of demanding a dowry. Now, people no longer use the word dahej. Thus, it gets a little difficult to draw the line between a dowry and a social protocol. Moreover, not all women in the country are well versed with the laws associated with it. 

If you think that dowry is just another word thrown around by married women for sympathy, you are wrong. In fact, according to Women and Child Development Ministry (WCD), there were a total of 24,771 dowry deaths in India between 2012-2015. Yes, the numbers are quite shocking.

So what really is a dowry? Does a gift constitute as dowry? What if the bride's family actually wishes to present a car to the groom, will it be still be a dowry? What can a woman do if she is tortured for dowry? These are some of the questions that women harbour in their hearts without actually trying to seek answers.

What Is A Dowry? According to the website of Ministry of Women And Child Development, it is any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given--directly or indirectly. It can be given in cash or kind to the groom and groom's family by the bride's side of the family before, during, or even after the marriage.

So, suppose your friend is getting married and you know that her family is giving the groom a Mercedes. Would that count as dowry? Well, according to the law, it definitely is. But, what happens if the car is really a gift--would it still be dowry? No, if the gifts are given and received voluntarily then it is not punishable. But, then they will have to be entered into a list according to the law. Any gift given willingly should be filed under Rule 2 of the Dowry Prohibition (Maintenance of Lists and Presents to the Bride and Bridegroom) Rules, 1985. Simple, isn't it?

Who Can Be Punished Under The Dowry Law?

Photo Courtesy: Shutterstock/IndiaPictures Photo Courtesy: Shutterstock/IndiaPictures
The person who is giving the dowry and the person who is taking the dowry can be punished for up to five years. And that's not all. The person will also be liable to pay Rs. 15,000 or the amount of the value of such dowry (whichever is higher).

If the dowry was passed on to someone else at or after a wedding, then it will have to be handed over to the bride. The dowry law doesn't just pertain to the groom's parents. It goes much deeper than that. Anybody who demands dowry or advocates it is punishable by law.

No Arrests Can Be Made Without A Magistrate's NodAs you may know, many laws in our country end up getting misused by the people. To make sure dowry laws do not meet the same fate, the Supreme Court of India had announced in 2014 that no arrest can be made without a magistrate's nod.

According to the court, the police cannot make an arrest if a woman files a domestic violence case (Section 498A) against her husband and in-laws under the dowry act, unless a magistrate had said so. The court also said that women are increasingly using the anti-dowry law to harass in-laws. In fact, it also asked the police to avoid making an arrest on mere lodging of a complaint under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.

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