Punishment for Dowry in India

हिंदी में पढ़ें
November 19, 2023
By Advocate Chikirsha Mohanty

Table of Contents

  1. What is dowry?
  2. Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
  3. Penalty for taking dowry under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961:
  4. Dowry under the Indian Penal Code, 1980
  5. Dowry under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
  6. Dowry under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872
  7. How Can Police Help You in Case of Dowry Harassment, in India?
  8. Misuse of Anti-Dowry Law

In India, the dowry tradition still prevails. It involves the bride’s family giving gifts or money to the groom’s family. This tradition has become atrocious and has been the root cause of torture, harassment and exploitation of many brides and their families. 
This article shall explore such aspects of the society, namely “dowry demand”, especially the Dowry Prohibition Act, of 1961, and its consequences in order to provide a clear picture of the laws and challenges surrounding this issue.

What is dowry?

Dowry is a custom in India where the groom’s family asks for money or valuable items from the bride's family when they get married. This practice reflects gender inequality, as it assumes that the groom is superior and expects the bride to provide a certain amount of money or property to be accepted by her new family. The dowry system is deeply ingrained in Indian society, almost like an unspoken rule. Not following it can lead to social criticism and shame. Nowadays, it has turned into a practice that exploits the bride's family, with the demands based on the groom's wealth, his family's reputation, and sometimes their caste. Subsequently, to stop the dowry system in India, the Dowry Prohibition Act was passed on May 1, 1961, as a response to the exploitative practice.

Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 is the legislation that prohibits the practice of giving or receiving dowry. This statute widens the understanding of dowry by recognizing various assets, such as property, or money exchanged in connection with a marriage, as dowry, regardless of the fact that it is provided by parents or any other party involved in the marriage.
This Act has been subject to multiple amendments aimed at strengthening its provisions and penalties. The amendments to the Dowry Prohibition Act also established specific penalties for giving, receiving, or demanding dowry, as well as for advertising offers of money or property in connection with a marriage. 

Penalty for taking dowry under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961:

Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, of 1961 defines dowry as any valuable security or property given in connection with a marriage, whether directly or indirectly. Originally, the Act used the phrase 'consideration for the marriage of such parties' to describe this concept. However, the Supreme Court ruled that this phrase had a limited interpretation of dowry.

Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 provides the punishment for giving and taking dowry. This punishment is a minimum of five years of imprisonment and a fine of either Rs 15,000 or the value of dowry (whichever is more).

Section 4 penalizes the act of demanding dowry from either party of marriage. It is punishable with a term of a minimum of six months to a maximum of five years and a fine of up to Rs15000.

Section 8 provides that the offences under Section 3 and Section 4 shall be non-bailable and cognizable. Sub-section (a) strengthens it more by putting the burden of proof on the person denying to have committed the said offense.

Dowry under the Indian Penal Code, 1980

The Indian Penal Code of 1980 was also amended to ban dowry. Amendments in 1983 and 1986 added Section 304(b) & Section 498(a), respectively, to improve these laws due to their ineffectiveness.

The IPC talks about four possibilities, where a married woman is subjected to harassment and cruelty for dowry. These possibilities are:

Dowry Death (IPC Section 304(b)): This crime pertains to a woman’s death within seven years of marriage due to harm, burns, or unnatural circumstances related to dowry harassment. The penalty ranges from seven years to life in prison.

Cruelty to a Woman (IPC Section 498(a)): This pertains to cruelty or harassment by a husband or his relatives. It includes both physical and mental abuse, as well as asking for dowry. It can result in up to three years in prison and a fine. 
Intentional Death of a Woman (IPC Section 302): Causing a woman's intentional death related to dowry is punishable under Section 302, which deals with murder.

Abetting Suicide of a Woman (IPC Section 306): Section 306 addresses abetment of suicide, including situations where a woman's husband and his relatives drive her to suicide. If this occurs within seven years of marriage, it is considered abetment of suicide linked to dowry.

Dowry under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

In India, giving or receiving dowry is illegal, and there are specific legal procedures for investigating this crime. The police and magistrates handle this under sections 174 and 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. If a person dies within seven years of marriage under suspicious circumstances, it is mandatory for the police to send the body for a post-mortem examination. Additionally, executive magistrates have the authority to investigate such deaths, especially when they involve women.

Dowry under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

To protect women from dowry-related problems, a key change was made to the Indian Evidence Act, of 1872. The addition of Section 113(b) clarifies who must prove their innocence when accused of mistreating someone over dowry. According to this rule, these mistreatment incidents must occur just before the victim's death to be considered dowry-related. And, importantly, a death is called a dowry death only if it happens within seven years of the marriage.

How Can Police Help You in Case of Dowry Harassment, in India?

It is crucial to understand how the police can help you if a woman is dealing with dowry harassment in India:
1. File a Complaint – Visit the local police station, which has jurisdiction over the area where the harassment took place or where you currently live. The complaint against the tortures perpetrated by the husband and in-laws for the dowry demand shall be made here.
2. File an FIR – The police must file an FIR and launch an investigation. They cannot redirect you elsewhere.
3. Provide Evidence – Submit all the supporting documents or evidence related to the harassment or dowry demands, and include them with your complaint. This can strengthen your case.
4. Ask for a Copy – For the legal process, the complainant shall ask for a copy of the FIR.
Other options that can be availed are:
Complain to the Dowry Prohibition Officer: A complaint can be registered with the Dowry Prohibition Officer in your district.
Women Helpline Numbers: Women can use helpline numbers like “1091” or report their complaint to the “181”. These helplines are dedicated to helping women facing various problems, including dowry harassment.

Misuse of Anti-Dowry Law

The misuse of anti-dowry laws to manipulate husbands has become widespread. This misuse has led the Supreme Court of India to describe it as 'legal terrorism.' The one-sided nature of this law has allowed women to file false cases against their husbands for various reasons:

  • Escaping from a difficult marriage.
  • Forcing the husband to give money through blackmail.
  • Falsely implicating the husband to reunite with a past lover or engage in an extramarital affair.

However, it goes without saying that such acts are punishable. Punishment for false dowry cases can be found under Section 211 of IPC, which prohibits the illegal act of wrongly accusing someone of a crime with malicious intentions, without any valid reason. This offence is punishable by two years of imprisonment or a fine, or both.

Why do need an Expert Advocate?
When dealing with dowry-related matters in India, legal guidance is vital due to complex laws and potential consequences. An expert can help you understand these laws, navigate procedures, and safeguard your rights.
LawRato offers a Free Legal Advice service, connecting you with experienced lawyers specializing in dowry cases. Get personalized guidance to protect your rights and resolve your legal concerns. 


These guides are not legal advice, nor a substitute for a lawyer
These articles are provided freely as general guides. While we do our best to make sure these guides are helpful, we do not give any guarantee that they are accurate or appropriate to your situation, or take any responsibility for any loss their use might cause you. Do not rely on information provided here without seeking experienced legal advice first. If in doubt, please always consult a lawyer.

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