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                                                                                         SASTRA DEEMED UNIVERSITY






Economic factors




Price of the groom


The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

Indian Penal Code

Code of Criminal Procedure

Indian Evidence Act



Since years, dowry death has been a contentious subject in Indian society. Every newspaper and television news programme often uses the headline, "Newlywed young woman dies unnaturally due to dowry." It is the duty of the government to protect newlyweds from dowry-related harassment and abuse. In India, there exist rules against this type of crime. The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, which prohibits the giving and receiving of dowries, is the one that has faced the most legal challenges since it was implemented nationwide. Sections 304-B (Dowry deaths) and 498-A (Cruelty by spouse or in-laws) were added to the Indian Penal Code in the middle of the 1980s to address this issue. This article will throw lights on the dowry issues in India and legal provisions to face and prevent the same.

Marriage is identified as a social institution that represents a cultured social order in which two adults who are capable of entering into a union have committed to upholding the institution's norms and values and have promised to one another a strong bond that will enable them to fulfil their marriage's obligations. It functions as a foundation for the survival of the human race. Despite all the commitments made during various stages of the wedding ceremony that the personal incompatibilities and philosophical differences for non-adjustment or refusal for adjustment may end, certain situations occurred where the husbands and his families demand, i.e. Dowry which is not fulfilled and occasionally a perverted sense of revenge occurred.

Understanding Dowry Deaths
Dowry is any type of present provided by the bride's family to the bridegroom's family in the form of cash or things, which might be decorations or commodities or home things needed by the newly married to begin their life. Dowry is defined as "any sort of property or valued security directly or indirectly agreed to be delivered by one person to a marriage to the other person in the relationship; or (ii) By either party's parent or any other person, to either party's parent or any other person, at or during or following the marriage in association with the said parties' marriage. Dowry has a complicated history in Asia.

 Dowry has been practised since time immemorial, according to some experts, although it did not exist in antiquity, according to others. According to historical eyewitness accounts, dowry was of minor importance in ancient India, although females of the family did have inheritance rights when they had no brothers, which were traditionally exercised at the time of their marriage.

Furthermore, evidence reveals that there was a system of "bride price," in which the family of the groom had to offer some presents to the family of the woman before marriage, but if the bride suffered from some form of imperfection, the family had to bestow some goods on her to be in-laws. However, this was not very common either. At the time, it was widely assumed that the girl had to be beautiful and pious, but there was little worry about the worldly presents she brought to her in-laws. The bride had to be lavishly decked as ceremonial presents, which gradually evolved into dowry. As of right now, the bride is being abused because of this by the groom's family. We have witnessed the desire for dowry for years. The desire for this practise has to be clearly recognised by society in order for it to be stopped.

Causes Of Prevelance Of Dowry System In India
The following are the prominent factors of existence of dowry in India:

Economic factors
According to certain theories, economics and poor legal systems concerning inheritance penalise women by only allowing sons to receive inheritances. Women become reliant on their spouses and in-laws as a result who retains her dowry after her marriage. Daughters and sons among Hindus had equal legal status in India in 1956. Families Sikh and Jain are covered under the Hindu succession Act. In principle, dowry provided women with economic protection throughout their marriages in the shape of Marble goods. This offered protection to the pride and helped stop the division of family riches. As soon as a woman receives moral gifts, she may be cut off from the family estate, hence the method can also be employed as a premortem inheritance.

People have the preconceived impression that the dowry practice has been in place for many years and that it is vital for the two families to adhere to by exchanging goods from the bride's family for the groom's.

In the twenty-first century, this is regarded as the most credible explanation for the presence of stealth-like dowry. People believe that dowry giving or getting brings a lot of merit in reputation within the community, and that the more costly the gifts are, the more honourable it is, which is why this practise is still prevalent in our culture.

It is our nation's dilemma, and it is the primary cause of the dowry problem. It has also played a significant role in impoverished communities, where literacy rates are low and many are uninformed of dowry regulations. Although dowry is practised even by our society's literates, it is extremely difficult to get them to grasp the regulations. Even if the rules are tough, they will not be enforced as long as the public is unaware of them. So, abuse for dowry demand can take the form of verbal abuse, and the most serious can take the form of victim or dowry death.

Price of the groom
There was a predominance of wedding price ages ago, but now there is a belief that the groom's family should be paid off by presents only for the sake of a myriad of trivial reasons like the groom having a respectable or white-collar work.

Legal Consequences
The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 was passed in 1961 as the first national legislation pertaining to dowry prohibition and dealing with the prevailing dowry system. The Act establishes a series of preventative and punitive actions against the present threat, but, although being widely publicised, the objectives have not been met. The failure was not largely due to flaws in the laws, but rather to poor government enforcement. This failure is also due to the fact that the dowry system is deeply embedded in our society, as well as a lack of adequate action taken by government authorities. In addition, there is a widespread lack of understanding among the general public. Although the public (mainly literates) approved the legislation, the situation has not altered since many segments of society are unaware of its existence. How good are severe rules if people are unaware of them? The Dowry Prohibition Act was revised twice in 1961 to broaden the definition or scope of the term "dowry" and to strengthen the penalties for various types of infractions of the Act's provisions.

Any property or valued security that is provided or promised to be given in the future directly or indirectly in connection with marriage constitutes dowry, according to Section 2 of this Act. In Inder Sain v. State of Punjab[1], it was determined that the phrase "consideration" was limited to a motivation, justification, or reward for marriage and did not apply to any commodities or property that were requested or provided after marriage. To avoid a narrow interpretation of the law, the phrase "any time after the marriage" has been included in place of "after marriage." In Indian weddings, presents are only allowed to be traditional items that do not place an undue financial strain on the family. A list of these gifts, together with their value and description, must be made and must be endorsed by both the groom and the bride.

"The dowry system is a tremendous stain and blight on our society, democracy, and the country," it was held in Sanjay Kumar Jain v. State of Delhi[2]. How dowry deaths, which are so regrettable and unacceptable, continue to plague our culture is inexplicable. The growing threat of dowry death must be combated and subdued using all possible means. The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 was passed as a result of the legislature's genuine concerns over this unpleasant reality of our society and its growing threat. To prevent dowry taking and demand, certain severe criminal rules have been passed or altered throughout time. According to section 3 of the law, receiving or providing dowry is punished by a minimum 5-year sentence and a fine of Rs 15,000 or the amount of the dowry, whichever is greater. Similarly, section 4 of the law also imposes a six-month to five-year prison sentence and a fine of up to Rs. 15,000 for dowry demand. After a few changes, the legislation aims to stop this societal blight.

The following individuals and organisations are listed in Section 7 as being able to start legal action: (a) police (b) a person who has been abused (c) parents and other family members (d) any recognised welfare institution or organisation. By including these offences under the definition of non-bailable and cognizable, Section 8 makes it more severe. The onus probandi is placed on the criminal or the person who rejects the offence, according to Section 8-A. In the case of Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar[3], the Supreme Court ruled that obtaining possession of bride items constituted a criminal breach of trust, which is punishable under Section 405 of the Indian Penal Code.

Indian Penal Code
Due to the failure of anti-dowry laws and a rise in dowry deaths, the Criminal Code was amended in 1983 and 1986 by adding sections 304-B and 498-A. We may sum up by saying that there are four circumstances in which married women are the targets of abuse and harassment that results in a crime being committed. To begin with, Dowry Death-Section 304-B IPC - When it is proven that a woman was harassed or treated cruelly by her husband or his relatives regarding dowry, the offence under section 304-B defines "Dowry Death" as the death of the woman from burns, physical harm, or unnatural circumstances within seven years of her marriage. This offence is punishable by a term of seven years to life in prison. Seven years would be regarded as the cut-off time since it takes seven steps for the bride and groom to complete the sacred nuptial fire, with each step being equal to one year. In the State of Punjab v. Iqbal Singh case[4], the Supreme Court characterised the seven-year term as being one that is seen as chaotic, following which the legislature presumed the couple would have settled down in life. The Indian Penal Code does not define the term "dowry," but section 304-B's explanation confirms that it has the same meaning as that given to it in section 2(1) of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

The conditions to be satisfied for Dowry deaths under Section 304-B are:

Burns, physical harm, or other causes other than those that would normally occur caused death.
Seven years after her wedding, she should have died.
Husband or his family must have mistreated or harassed the woman.
Cruelty or harassment should be related to dowry demands and occur just before death.
In Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana[5], the Supreme Court ruled that, because the prosecution had met the requirements of section 304-B of the IPC, it was the defense’s responsibility to show its client's innocence. Section 498A of the Penal Code's provisions are less severe than those under section 304B of the IPC. The offence is punishable by a court of sessions, is cognizable, and not subject to bail. In State of Maharashtra v. Mustafa Shahadal Shaikh[6] explains that the phrase "Soon before death" used in section 304-B signifies that neither the Penal Code nor section 113-B of the Indian Evidence Act provide a specific time frame.

 As a result, the definition of "Soon before death" is decided by the court based on the specific facts & circumstances of each case. However, it would suggest that the time between the alleged cruelty or harassment and the death in issue shouldn't be that long. It would be of little importance if the purported act of cruelty was long ago and had settled down sufficiently to not affect the woman in question's state of mind.

In Rajbir v. State of Haryana[7], the Supreme Court ordered that section 302 of the IPC be added to the charge of section 304B of the IPC and distributed to all trial courts. This was done so that death sentences could be imposed on heinous and barbaric crimes, and it also stated that dowry death cases should be charged under both sections 302 and 304B of the IPC. Following the Apex Court ruling, a person found guilty of dowry death would be prosecuted under sections 302 and 304-B of the IPC.

Secondly, Section 498A of the IPC it is enumerated that when a woman is treated cruelly or harassed by her husband or a member of his family. Cruelty committed by his husband or family members is now punishable by up to three years in jail and a fine under Section 498-A. Cruelty includes both physical and psychological harm. It includes any intentional behaviour that might lead to the woman's death, put her life, limb, or physical or mental health in jeopardy, or harass her or another person by making an illegitimate demand for dowries such assets or real estate. Foster sister is not a "Relative" within the meaning of section 498A of the IPC to fix culpability for inflicting cruelty against the complainant, as was determined in the case of Vijeta Gajra v. State of NCT Delhi[8].

The Dowry Prohibition Act's Section 4 and the IPC's Section 4 do not subject offenders to double jeopardy. A person convicted under both section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act and section 498A of the Indian Penal Code does not fall under the purview of double jeopardy under article 20(2) of the Indian Constitution, according to the Delhi High Court's ruling in the case of Inder Raj Malik v. Sunita Malik[9]. The Indian Penal Code and the Dowry Prohibition Act differ from one another in that, in the former, the existence of cruelty is a requirement for section 498A of the Indian Penal Code while it is not a need in the latter. In the contested case, the Delhi High Court adopted a practical stance and stated that the term "cruelty" is properly defined.

Thirdly, if a person wilfully kills a woman, they are subject to punishment under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. Fourthly, if a woman commits suicide within seven years of marriage, her husband and his family members may be held liable under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Code of Criminal Procedure
The investigation and inquiries relating to the reasons of unnatural deaths by the police and magistrate, respectively, are covered in Sections 174 and 176. The 1983 Amendment Act mandates that if a woman dies within seven years of marriage by suicide or in any other suspicious circumstance, the police must submit the body for a post-mortem investigation. Additionally, it gives executive magistrates the authority to investigate similar-case deaths of women.

Indian Evidence Act
The burden of proof in dowry deaths contains a new clause, section 113B, which states that the individual who is demonstrated to have subjected the lady to cruelty or harassment just before her death is presumed to be responsible. Due to the nature of dowry offences, which are typically perpetrated in secret and in the privacy of private houses, obtaining the independent and direct evidence required for conviction is difficult. In order to improve the prosecution's position, section 113B of the Evidence Act of 1872 was added by Amendment Act of 1986. This clause allows a specific presumption to be created if certain key factors are proven and the tragic incidence of death occurs within seven years after marriage.

If it is proven that a woman was exposed to cruelty or harassment because of, or in connection with, any demand for dowry under section 304B IPC, she may be found guilty under Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act. In the case of State of W.B. v. Orilal Jaiswal[10], it is stated that the requirements of evidence and defence will be true despite the presumption.

Landmark Judgements
In the case of Public Prosecutor v. Satyanandam[11], the High Court of Andhra decided that even if the dowry death offence was not proven, the accused might still be found guilty of dowry demand.

In the case of State of Andhra Pradesh v.Ram Gopal Asawa[12], in this instance, the court ruled that there had to be a direct and tangible connection between the death in question and the cruelty caused by the dowry demand.
In the case of Kans Raj v. Punjab State[13], the court held that the in-laws or other relatives cannot always be held responsible for the husband's guilt in the dowry demand. The overt conduct ascribed to someone other than the spouse must be shown beyond a reasonable doubt in circumstances where such an accusation is made. Such relations cannot be charged with the dowry death offence based only on speculation and inferences. However, there has been a propensity to involve all of the in-laws of the deceased spouses in dowry death cases, which, if discouraged, is likely to harm the prosecution's case even against the true offenders. The parents of the dead have been discovered to be making efforts to involve other relatives in their overzealous pursuit of conviction for the greatest number of persons, which eventually weakens the case of the prosecution even against the true accused.
In the case of Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar[14], the court held that, in recent years, marriage disagreements have increased dramatically. In this nation, marriage as an institution is highly regarded. The purpose of introducing Section 498-A IPC was to prevent the threat of harassment a woman could experience from her husband and his family. Section 498-A IPC has earned a poor reputation for being one of the clauses that resentful women use as weapons rather than a shield because it is a cognizable and non-bailable offence. The easiest form of harassment is to use this clause to have the husband's family members jailed. In a good deal of situations, the husband's bedridden grandparents and grandmothers, as well as their sisters who have been overseas for decades, are detained.


In Indian civilization, the social curse of dower death is a major problem. Organised effort by groups that support women, the police, government employees, and the courts to punish those responsible for dowry killings with deterrent penalty. In order to reduce the number of dowry killings, harassment, or cruelty, more female police officers should be hired. This would increase their availability in situations involving the unnatural deaths of women. The inquiry must be conducted by an assistant commissioner or above in the interests of justice and proper investigation. Up to seven years may now be served in prison for aiding suicide. It will be beneficial to have a logical and realistic approach.


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