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Dowry-An analysis of its uses and misuses under the Indian legal system

In ancient time the family of bride use to give the bride during her marriage a valuable security in the form of cash, Jewellery, ornaments etc  as token of love & affection for the financial benefit of the bride which also constituted as Stridhan ie the property of the bride which earlier was given to the bride out of own wish & depending upon the financial status of the bride’s parents which later was assumed in the form of dowry. Dowry originated in upper caste families as the wedding gift to the bride from her family.  The dowry was later given to help with marriage expenses and became a form of insurance in the case that her in-laws mistreated her.  Although the dowry was legally prohibited in 1961, it continues to be highly institutionalized.  The groom often demands a dowry consisting of a large sum of money, farm animals, furniture, and electronics.
The joint parliamentary committee on dowry in its report of 1982 has opined that for the failure of dowry prohibition law, there are two reason: First the explanation in section 2 of the Act excludes all presents (whether given in cash or kind) from the definition of dowry, unless the same were given in consideration of marriage, and it is almost impossible to prove that gifts or presents given at, before, or after the marriage, were given in consideration of marriage.

The main reason is that no giver of the present will ever come forward to say that he gave these in consideration of marriage as giving dowry is as much an offense as taking it. Secondly the act did not have an effective enforcement instrumentality. With a view to giving teeth to the law, the joint parliamentary committee on dowry has made some recommendation most of which have been accepted by parliament pursuant to which the Dowry prohibition (amendment) Act 1984,and the Dowry prohibition (amendment) Act 1986 were passed.
In recent years also the criminal law of the land have undergone radical changes to provide protection to women, more teeth have been provided to existing laws (DP Act, 498A, 406 IPC etc) and new enactments have been made (DV Act), but unfortunately the remedy is becoming worse than the ailment, which is now a well known fact as the stringent dowry laws have failed to stop the gruesome crimes for dowry/dowry deaths.
Use of anti-dowry laws
The practice of dowry abuse is rising in India. When the dowry amount is not considered sufficient or is not forthcoming, the bride is often harassed, abused threatened or denunciation of throwing out of the house is given by the husband and his family members.Their life is made miserable.  The most severe is “bride burning”, the burning of women whose dowries were not considered sufficient by their husband or in-laws.  Most of these incidents are reported as accidental burns in the kitchen or are disguised as suicide. As per the latest report 8172 dowry death cases have been registered in India in 2008. It is evident that there exist deep rooted prejudices against women in India. Cultural practices such as the payment of dowry tend to subordinate women in Indian society
Use of Section 498 A by Indian Courts:
Indian Courts had been using this provision to safeguard the women from facing the cruelty faced by them at their matrimonial home.9 out of 10 of the cases are always related to dowry, wherein the woman is continuously threatened for want of more money and property which if remains unfulfilled , the married woman is tortured, threatened, abused- both physically and verbally and harassed. Like in the case of Ram Kishan Jain &Ors v State of Madhya Pradesh due to insufficiency of dowry demands the woman was administered calmpose tablets and thereafter she even cut the arteries of both her hands. Sometimes, dowry may not be the cause but the woman for several reasons like her complexion or family status is tortured to death.
In the case of Surajmal Banthia & Anr. v. State of West Bengal the deceased was ill-treated and tortured for several days and even not given food several times. Her father- in-law also misbehaved with her quite often. This is the treatment that several young brides face when they move out of their parents’ home and into the house of her in-laws’. It is the duty of the court to prevent any of these abusers from escaping. The increasing rate of bride burning for want of more dowry and brutal torture of young wives, together with a clear escape of the abuser is a clear indication that the court has not taken any strong measures for the implementation of S. 498A IPC properly.
As stated earlier many a times this victim turns into the abuser and is clearly not wronged but instead wrongs the husband and his family for no fault of theirs. Several cases show that the married woman takes advantage of the section and sends the respondents to jail under the ambit of this section.

Misuse of the Anti-Dowry law
A violation of this section, its goals and its aims is on the rise with the woman frivolously making false allegations against their husbands with the purpose of getting rid of them or simply hurting the family. The abuse of this section is rapidly increasing and the women often well- educated know that this section is both cognizable and non-bailable and impromptu works on the complaint of the woman and placing the man behind bars.

Like in the case of Savitri Devi v Ramesh Chand & Ors, the court held clearly that there was a misuse and exploitation of the provisions to such an extent that it was hitting at the foundation of marriage itself and proved to be not so good for health of society at large. The court believed that authorities and lawmakers had to review the situation and legal provisions to prevent such from taking place. This section was made keeping in mind protection of the married woman from unscrupulous husbands but is clearly misused by few women and again this is strictly condemned in Saritha v R. Ramachandran where the court did notice that the reverse trend and asked the law Commission and Parliament to make the offence a non-cognizable and bailable one. It is been a duty of the court to condemn wrongdoings and protect the victim but what happens when the victim turns into the abuser? What remedy does the husband have here?

When a law is being made or passed then probability sometime lies that it wont get implemented & if get implemented it will be misused. But here women should understand that  these laws are made for a particular class of women who are constantly being  threatened or being harassed in their matrimonial home & its all for their benefit so all they need to understand that instead of deriving any benefit from it & misusing it they should let the law get used by those who actually needs it.To retain the spirit of this law is in their own hands.


1.Modern Hindu law by paras Diwan 20th edition 2009(Allahabad law agency)

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