THE DOWRY PROHIBITION ACT, 19611 (28 OF 1961)

[20th May, 1961] An Act to prohibit the giving or taking of dowry.

be it enacted by Parliament in the Twelfth Year of the Republic of India as follows:—

Statement of Objects and Reasons.—The object of this Bill is to prohibit the evil practice of giving and taking of dowry. This question has been engaging the attention of the Government for some time past, and one of the methods by which this problem, which is essentially a social one, was sought to be tackled was by the conferment of improved property rights on women by the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. It is, however, felt that a law which makes the practice punishable and at the same time ensures that any dowry, if given does enure for the benefit of the wife will go a long way to educating public opinion and to the eradication of this evil. There has also been a persistent demand for such a law both in and outside Parliament. Hence, the present Bill. It, however, takes care to exclude presents in the form of clothes, ornaments, etc., which are customary at marriages, provided the value thereof does not exceed Rs. 2,000. Such a provision appears to be necessary to make the law workable.

Amendment Act 63 of 1984—Statement of Objects and Reasons.—The evil of dowry system has been a matter of serious concern to every one in view of its ever-increasing and disturbing proportions. The legislation on the subject enacted by Parliament, i.e., the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and the far-reaching amendments which have been made to the Act by a number of States during the seventies have not succeeded in containing the evil. As pointed out by the Committee on the Status of Women in India, the educated youth is grossly insensitive to the evil of dowry and unashamedly contributes to its perpetuation. Government has been making various efforts to deal with the problem. In addition to issuing instructions to the State Governments and Union territory administrations with regard to the making of thorough and compulsory investigations into cases of dowry deaths and stepping up anti-dowry publicity. Government referred the whole matter for consideration by a Joint Committee of both the Houses of Parliament. The Committee went into the whole matter in great depth and its proceedings have helped in no small measure in focussing the attention of the public and rousing the consciousness of the public against this evil.

2. The following observations made by late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru which have been quoted by the Committee indicate trie role which legislation can play in dealing with the evil:—

“Legislation cannot by itself normally solve deep-rooted social problems. One has to approach them in other ways too, but legislation is necessary and essential, so that it may give that push and have that educative factor as well as the legal sanctions behind it which help public opinion to be given a certain shape.”

The recommendations made by the Joint Committee of the Houses to examine the question of working of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 have been considered keeping in view these observations and after taking into consideration the comments received on the Report from the State Governments, Union territory administrations and the different administrative Ministries of the Union concerned with the matter. One of the important recommendations of the Committee for dealing with cruelty to a married woman by the husband or the relatives of the husband on the ground of non-receipt of dowry or insufficient dowry has already been given effect to by the Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act, 1983. This Act amended, inter alia, the Indian Penal Code to include

  1. The Act has been extended to (I) Dadra and Nagar Haveli by Regulation 6 of 1963 and (2) Pondicherry by Act 26 of 1968.

 

                                                                          

therein a provision for punishment for cruelty to married women and was aimed at dealing directly with the problem of dowry suicides and dowry deaths.

3. The Joint Committee has recommended that the definition of “dowry” contained in section 2 of the 1961 Act should be modified by omitting the expression “as consideration for the marriage” used therein on the ground that it is well nigh impossible to prove that anything given were a consideration for the marriage for the obvious and simple reason that the giver i.e., the parents who are usually the victims would be reluctant and unwilling to set the law in motion. The omission of the words “as consideration for the marriage” would make the definition not only wide but also unworkable, for, if these words are omitted, anything given, whether before or after or at the time of marriage by any one, may amount to dowry. The Supreme Court has also placed a liberal construction on the word “dowry” as used in section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, relating to demanding dowry. In the circumstances, it is proposed to substitute the words “in connection with the marriage” for the words “as consideration for the marriage” instead of omitting those words.

4. Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act relating to the offences of giving or taking of dowry is being amended in accordance with the recommendations of the joint Committee to make the punishment for the offence more stringent. All presents given at the time of marriage to the bride and certain types of presents given at the time of marriage to the bridegroom are proposed to be excluded from the purview of the offences under the section. However, the recommendations of the Committee for exempting the giver of dowry from punishment is not being given effect to as such exemption may only prove to be counter­productive.

5. Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act relating to penalty for demanding dowry is proposed to be amended to make the punishment thereunder more stringent on the lines recommended by the Joint Committee.

6. Section 6 of the Act is being amended in accordance with the recommendation of the Joint Committee, to reduce the time limit within which dowry received in connection with the marriage of a woman by any other person should be restored to the woman from one year to three months. Likewise, the punishment for failure to restore such dowry within the said time limit is being made more stringent on the lines recommended by the Committee. Under a special provision which is being included in section 6 where a person is convicted for failure to restore the dowry to the woman concerned within the period specified in the section, the Court may, in addition to awarding punishment, issue a direction requiring him to restore the property to the woman within the period specified in the direction. In case of non-compliance with the” direction, the value of the property would be recoverable from such person as if it were a fine and the amount so recovered may be paid to the woman concerned or, as the case may be her heirs.

7. Sections 7 and 8 of the Dowry Prohibition Act are proposed to be amended to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee as to cognizance of offences under the Act and making offences under the Act cognizable.

Amendment Act 43 of 1986—Statement of Objects and Reasons.—The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 was recently amended by the Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 1984 to give effect to certain recommendations of the Joint Committee of the Houses of Parliament to examine the question of the working of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and to make the provisions of the Act more stringent and effective. Although the Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 1984 was an improvement on the existing legislation, opinions have been expressed by representatives from women’s voluntary organisations and others to the effect that the amendments made are still inadequate and the Act needs to be further amend ed.

2. It is, therefore, proposed to further amend the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 to make provisions therein further stringent and effective. The salient features of the Bill are:—

(«) The minimum punishment for taking or abetting the taking of dowry under section 3 of the Act has been raised to five years and a fine of rupees fifteen thousand.

(b) The burden of proving that there was no demand for dowry will be on the person who takes or abets the taking of dowry.

 

                                                DOWRY PROHIBITION ACT, 1961                                      

, i he statement made by the person aggrieved by the offence shall not subject him to prosecution under the Act.

(d) Any advertisement in any newspaper, periodical journal or any other media by any person offering any share in his property or any money in consideration of the marriage of his son or daughter is proposed to be banned and the person giving such advertisement and the printer or publisher of such advertisement will be liable for punishment with imprisonment of six months to five years or with fine up to fifteen thousand rupees.

(e) Offences under the Act are proposed to be made non-bailable.

(/) Provision has also been made for the appointment of Dowry Prohibition Officers by the State Governments for the effective implementation of the Act. The Dowry Prohibition Officers will be assisted by the Advisory Boards consisting of not more than five social welfare workers (out of whom at least two shall be women).

(g) A new offence of “dowry death” is proposed to be included in the Indian Penal Code and the necessary consequential amendments in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 have also been proposed.

1. Short title, extent and commencement.—(1) This Act may be called the

dowry prohibition act, 1961.

(2) It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

(3) It shall come into force on such date2 as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint.

2. Definition of “dowry”.—In this Act, “dowry” means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly—

(a) by one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage; or

(b) by the parents of either party to a marriage or by any other person, to either party to the marriage or to any other person;

at or before 3[or any time after the marriage] 4[in connection with the marriage of the said parties, but does not include] dower or mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies. sr***i

Explanation II.—The expression “valuable security” has the same meaning as in section 30 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).

State Amendment—[Haryana].—In   its application to the State of Haryana, for S. 2, substitute the following section, namely:—

“2. Definitions.—In this Act, unless the context requires,—

(;’) “dowry” means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly—

(a) by one party to a marriage to the other; or

(b) by the parents of either party to a marriage or by any other person, to either party to the marriage or to any other person,

at or before or after the marriage as consideration for the marriage of the said parties, but does not include dower or mahr in case, of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shnriat) applies.

Explanation 1.—For the removal of doubts it is hereby declared that any presents made at the time of a marriage to either party to the marriage in the form of cash, ornaments, clothes

2. Brought into force on 1-7-1961.

3. Substituted by Act 43 of 1986, S. 2, for “or after the marriage” (w.e.f. 19-11-1986).

4. Substituted by Act 63 of 1984, S. 2, for “as consideration for the marriage of the said parties, but does not include” (w.e.f. 2-10-1985).

5. Explanation I omitted by Act 63 of 1984, S. 2 (w.e.f. 2-10-1985).

                                     

or other articles, shall not be deemed to be dowry within the meaning of this section, unless they are made as consideration for the marriage of the said parties.

Explanation II.—The expression “valuable securities” has the same meaning as in section 30 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).

(«’) “marriage expenses” shall include expenses incurred directly or indirectly at or before the marriage on—

(«) Thakka, Sagai, Tikka, Shagun and Milni ceremonies;

(b) the gifts made by one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage or by the parents, grand-parents and brothers of either party to a marriage, to either party to the marriage or the blood relations thereof;

(c) illumination, food and the arrangements for serving food to the members of the marriage party and other expenses incidental thereto.

Explanation.—For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that any gifts made by a person other than those specified in sub-clause (b), at the time of marriage to either party to the marriage shall not be deemed to be marriage expenses”.—Haryana Act 38 of 1976, S. 2 (w.e.f. 11-8-1976).

                                          COMMENTS                                                                                                                                               

Demand of dowry after three years of happy life certainly is not relating to the marriage as it neither relates to the one nor agreed to be given at or before or after the marriage: Shanmughavelu v. State2004 Cr.L.J. 2731 (Mad.).

Any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given comes within the purview of “dowry” on three occasions in which any property or valuable security comes within its purview. They are: (i) before the marriage, (it) at the time of marriage, and (Hi) “at any time” after the marriage. The third occasion may appear to be an unending period, but the crucial words are “in connection with the marriage of the parties”. This means, giving or agreeing to give any property or valuable security on any of the above three stages should have been in