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Fighting the Demon of Dowry: The Dowry Prohibition Act

It is obligatory on part of the person who has received dowry to transfer it to the woman
03:18 AM Apr 13, 2024 IST | MUNEEB RASHID MALIK
fighting the demon of dowry  the dowry prohibition act

The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, (hereinafter referred to as the “Act”) is a social legislation having an object of combating the growing menace of dowry. The Act makes punishable not only the giving or receiving of dowry but also the demand of dowry. The Act sends a clear message that in our society, women should never be subjected to exploitation or harassment in the name of marriage as a marriage should be founded on the pillars of love, respect and equality and not dowry that often accompanies it.


What is dowry?


Dowry means any property or a valuable security which is given by one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage. This exchange occurs in connection with the marriage of the parties.

Does dowry include mahr?


Dowry does not include mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law applies.


Is giving or taking dowry punishable?


Yes, giving or taking dowry is punishable by imprisonment for a term not less than 5 years and a fine of not less than Rs. 15,000 or the value of the dowry, whichever is more. However, under specific circumstances, the court may impose a lesser term of imprisonment for adequate reasons.


When is giving or taking dowry permitted?

The presents which are given to the bride or bridegroom at the time of marriage without any demand, are permitted under the Act. Additionally, presents given by or on behalf of the bride or any person related to the bride are exempted if they are of customary nature and their value is reasonable, considering the giver’s financial status.

What is the penalty for demanding dowry from the parents or relatives of a bride or bridegroom?

If any person demands dowry, directly or indirectly, from the parents or other relatives or guardians of a bride or bridegroom, they shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term not less than 6 months, but which may extend to 2 years, along with a fine that may extend to Rs. 10,000.

Is there any provision for the court to impose a lesser sentence for demanding dowry?

Yes, the court may, for adequate reasons, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than 6 months, despite the minimum term prescribed by the law.

Is advertising of property as a condition for marriage allowed under the Act?

A person offering any share in his property or of any money or both as a share in any business as consideration for the marriage of his son/daughter is an offence under the Act and is punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 6 months, but which may extend to 5 years, or with fine which may extend to Rs. 15,000.

What if the dowry is for the benefit of the wife and is received by some other person?

If the dowry is received by anyone other than the woman herself, it must be transferred to her within a specific timeframe i.e. within 3 months after marriage. If the dowry is received at the time of or after the marriage, then, it has to be transferred within 3 months after its receipt and if the dowry is received when the woman was a minor, then, it has to be transferred within 3 months after she turns 18.

What if such a transfer is not made within the specified timeframe?

If the transfer is not made within the specified time limit, the person holding the dowry may face imprisonment for a term ranging from 6 months to 2 years, or a fine ranging from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 10,000 or both.

What if the woman entitled to the dowry property, dies before receiving it?

In such circumstances, the heirs of the woman have the right to claim the property from the person holding it at that time. However, if the woman dies within 7 years of marriage due to reasons other than natural causes and has no children, the property has to be transferred to her parents. If she has children, the property has to be transferred to them.

What if such a property is not transferred in accordance with the Act?

If the person has not transferred the property to the entitled woman or her heirs, parents, or children before their conviction, the Court will, in addition to the punishment i.e. imprisonment for a term ranging from six months to two years, or a fine ranging from five thousand to ten thousand rupees, or both, issue a written order directing the person to transfer the property within a specified period. If the person fails to comply with this directive within the specified timeframe, an amount equivalent to the value of the property may be recovered from them as if it were a fine imposed by the Court, and it will be paid to the entitled woman or her heirs, parents, or children.

What kind of circumstances do not constitute to a demand of dowry?

Money demanded by husband from his father-in-law after the marriage, on the basis that it will be returned back, may not amount to a dowry demand.

What is dowry death?

There are four ingredients of dowry death, which are - death of a woman must have been caused by any burns or bodily injury or her death must have occurred otherwise than under normal circumstances; such death must have occurred within 7 years of her marriage; soon before her death, she must have been subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband; and such cruelty or harassment must be in connection with the demand for dowry.

Which is the place of filing of complaint if the dowry is not transferred to the woman?

It is obligatory on the part of the person who has received the dowry to transfer it to the woman. He can transfer it at the place where woman is, residing. If he fails to transfer it, then the woman gets cause of action for filing a complaint at the place where it should have been transferred to her. Consequently, where the woman is, she can file the complaint there for return of the amount.

Is an agreement for giving or taking dowry valid?

Any agreement for the giving or taking of dowry is void.

Which court has the jurisdiction to try the matters under the Act?

A Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the first class shall try any offence under the Act.

When can a court take cognizance under the Act?

A court shall take cognizance of an offence upon its own knowledge or a police report of the facts which constitute such offence, or upon a complaint by the person aggrieved by the offence.

Are the offences under the Act bailable?

Every offence under this Act is non-bailable and non-compoundable.

Who are Dowry Prohibition Officers?

Dowry Prohibition Officer has to see that the provisions of this Act are complied with; prevent, as far as possible, the taking or abetting the taking of, or the demanding of, dowry; collect such evidence as may be necessary for the prosecution of persons committing offences under the Act; and perform such additional functions as may be assigned to him by the State Government.

What is an Advisory Board?

An advisory board consists of not more than 5 social welfare workers which advises and assists Dowry Prohibition Officers in the efficient performance of their functions.

Muneeb Rashid Malik is an Advocate practicing before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and tweets @muneebmalikrash.


The contents of this article are intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.