Dowry Laws In India


“Any young man, who makes dowry a condition to marriage, discredits his education and his country and dishonors womanhood.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Dowry, also referred to as "dahej," is any item that the bride's side does not provide on their own and anything that the groom's side requests, either directly or indirectly. The demands of the bride's side must be enforced by the groom's side. Any demand made by the groom's side as a condition of the marriage, without which the bride's side believes the marriage may not go through, will also be regarded as dowry.

For something to be considered dowry, it must be demonstrated that the groom or his family made a dowry demand that involved a direct or indirect arrangement with the bride's family. Before, during, or after the marriage, dowry requests can be made in the form of money, property, or any other favors.

In India, the custom known as "dowry" required the parents of the bride to provide the parents of the groom with significant property, money, or security in exchange for their demands. Though, requesting dowry and even torturing a woman for it is currently a crime in India.

Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

The Dowry Prohibition Act was put into effect on May 1st, 1961, to stop the spread of the dowry system in India. The Act makes it illegal for anybody to give or receive dowry in the nation. Under the Act, everything received by either party to a marriage, by either or both of the couples' parents, or by anybody else connected to the married parties is considered a dowry. It is India's first piece of national dowry legislation. In the year 1961, two amendments to the dowry ban statute were made. It was done to broaden the definition of "dowry" and to stiffen the penalties for breaking the Act.

Relevant Sections

  • According to Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, any valuable security or property transferred from one person to another with a direct or indirect connection to marriage will be regarded as a dowry. When the original Act was in effect and had not been modified, the term was defined as "consideration for the marriage of such parties." The Apex Court found that it gave the term "dowry" a limited definition.
  • The punishment for providing or accepting dowry is specified in Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, and includes a minimum five-year sentence as well as a fine of either Rs. 15,000 or the amount of the dowry (whichever is more). 
  • Per Section 4 of the Act, requesting dowry from either party to a marriage is also punishable by a period of imprisonment ranging from six months to two years and punishment of up to Rs. 10,000 in fines.
  • The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, Section 8, makes the offense cognizable and non-bailable, which makes the punishment for Sections 3 and 4 harsher. It is further strengthened by Section 8(a), which places the burden of proof on the party who is denying the offense.

It is customary in dowry situations for the jewelry and other gifts received at the time of the wedding to be registered solely in the bride's name. If the bride is a minor when she marries, the transfer must be completed three months after she turns 18 years old. It must have a known benefit for the woman if it is not done. In the event that this is unsuccessful, the offender faces a fine ranging from Rs 5000 to Rs 10000 as well as a sentence of up to two years in prison.

Dowry under Indian Penal Code, 1980

In addition to outlawing the dowry system in India, the Indian Penal Code, of 1980 also forbids the associated violence, which was previously a common occurrence in the nation. Sections 304(b) and 498(a) of the IPC were added by an amendment to the IPC in the years 1983 and 1986 due to the ongoing failure of dowry legislation in India.

There are four situations in which a married woman can experience harassment and cruelty, which is illegal. The four options are as follows:

Dowry Death

The Indian Penal Code, 1980, Section 304 (b), addresses dowry death. According to this, if a woman dies within seven years of her marriage from a bodily injury, burn, or other unnatural cause, and it is established that she was being harassed about dowry by her husband or his relatives, the offender faces a minimum sentence of seven years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The Indian Penal Code, 1980 does not define the term "dowry," however section 304(b) confirms that it would be interpreted under the definition provided in section 2(1) of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

Points to note on dowry death under section 304(b), IPC, are:

  • Death by either bodily injury, burns, or other unnatural causes. 
  • Within seven years of marriage, the death described above took place.
  • Regarding the dowry demand, harassment, cruelty, or both had been used, and they should have been used before the death.

Cruelty to a woman by a husband or his relatives

The Indian Penal Code, 1980, deals with cruelty physical or Mental harassment committed against a woman by her husband, his family, or both. According to the clause, it is illegal and subject to a fine and a sentence of up to three years in prison. Under cruelty, the area covers both physical and mental torment. Any intentional behavior that encourages a woman in committing suicide, puts her life, physical health, mental health, or limb in danger, or coerces her or another person by forcibly demanding dowries such cash, goods, or property.

Intentional death of a woman

According to section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1980, anyone who intentionally kills a woman for dowry faces penalties.

Abetting Suicide of a woman

Abetment of suicide is defined under section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1980, and encompasses situations in which a woman's husband or a member of her husband's family created or encouraged her to commit suicide. This is seen as encouraging suicide for dowry if it occurs within seven years after marriage.

Dowry under Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

India considers giving and receiving dowry to be criminal violations, and the police and magistrate conduct criminal proceedings, including inquiries and investigations, under sections 174 and 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. According to the 1983 amendment to the Act, if a death occurs within seven years of marriage or under any suspicious circumstances, the police must transfer the body for a post-mortem examination. This clause also gives the executive magistrate the authority to look into a woman's death in these situations.

Dowry under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Section 113(b) of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872 was added to provide women additional power against dowry. If dowry demand-related harassment, cruelty, or both have been committed and it should have been done before the death, the burden of evidence is on the perpetrator. It should be noted that only deaths that take place within seven years of a marriage qualify as dowry deaths.

Elements affecting dowry legislation in India

Dowry matters have not been resolved effectively by the Indian court system despite the country's strict dowry laws. Let's talk about certain aspects that have an impact on India's important dowry legislation:

Social Elements

The fact that receiving and giving dowry is illegal makes it difficult for the administration of the justice system, especially when there is less social support in the community associated with it. The family is typically the only witnesses to the harassment and untimely death, and none of them are prepared to make testimonies due to either involvement or familial pressure. In the meantime, some neighbors have seen or have questions about the dowry harassment or death, but they are also reluctant to come out due to relationships and avoid engaging the police, among other reasons.

It is crucial to understand that if help had been supplied to young women promptly, many of them could have been spared from an unnatural death, harassment, and abuse. Due to intense social pressure in India, many parents ask their daughters to live with their in-laws despite being subjected to dowry torture. There are numerous opportunities to abolish dowry in India if we can get past this societal taboo.

Police and enforcement of laws against dowry

The police have a responsibility to protect citizens from wrongdoing committed against them. Police are available to assist the public in any manner they can. However, the public still has a negative perception of police and is afraid of them, which is regrettable. Additionally, it is thought that the chance of laws being successfully implemented was frequently hampered by the attitude, behaviors, and perception of the police.

Numerous accusations have been made by the public, including that they arrive at the crime scene very late, destroy evidence when filing the first information reports (FIR), conduct the investigation improperly, and misdiagnose dowry deaths as suicides, among other things. violence against women is addressed Regular family business and a refusal to file a case are two factors that negatively affect the outcome of such cases.

The Honorable Supreme Court of India held in Bhagwant Singh v. Commr. Of Police Delhi, 1983 that there is a discernible distinction between true occurrences of unnatural deaths and those that are started by the police. The police registers are not kept up to date and are not presented to the magistrates. Additionally, the cases are impacted by the frequent changes in investigation officers, which results in a less effective court response to dowry.

Naturally, all parties are always aware of what is being said. Police have their own set of justifications, including the unsatisfactory state of affairs, insufficient evidence based on unconnected witnesses, and discrepancies between the significant piece of evidence and linked people's recorded statements. In these situations, forensic evidence is crucial since it is preferable to have forensic specialists brought to the scene of the crime to view and analyze the victim.


The Honourable Supreme Court expressed its distress at the dowry deaths of young brides in several cases. In the 1983 case Virbhan Singh v. the State of UP, which dealt with the rising number of dowry deaths in India, the Apex Court ruled that when such heinous crimes are proven, the offenders must face harsh punishment.

The Supreme Court ruled in Samunder Singh v. State of Rajasthan, 1987, that anticipatory bail could not be granted in situations involving bride burning and dowry deaths. Only at the trial level, significant discontent arose from some judicial presumptions, such as the declaration that a person with a 100% burn was not suitable to die. If another reported complaint on behalf of a harassment victim is not reported, the Indian judicial system is left with a gap.


The curse of dowry deaths or dowry-related harassment and abuse has long been discussed in Indian society. Only a methodical effort by the police, government employees, groups that support women, and the judges, who impose deterrent punishment for dowry deaths, can help. It is clear that the Indian government and court are creating cooperative and supporting laws to protect women's lives and dignity, and they work to provide justice to those who have been subjected to abuse or harassment by their husbands or their family members. Women and other individuals can become more aware of their rights with the aid of an upgraded and well-planned educational system.

Education will also aid in finding jobs, which will reduce the incidence of dowry cases and fatalities. However, nothing can be addressed without particular corrective actions like public support and refusing to indulge in any materialistic dowry hunger.

More women should be hired as police officers so that harassed and abused women will feel more at ease telling police officers about their experiences. To ensure that the investigation is objective and uninfluenced, it should not be carried out by someone with less than assistant police rank. Additionally, harsher penalties for such offenses will be beneficial in eradicating the dowry problem from society. However, nothing will be more effective than approaching the issue logically and practically.