To prohibit the demanding, giving and taking of Dowry, the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 is in force since 1st July 1961.
To stop the offences of cruelty by husband or his relatives on wife, Section 498-A has been added in the Indian Penal Code, and Section 198-A has been added in the Criminal Procedure Code since the year 1983.
In the case of suicide by a married woman, within 7 years from the date of her marriage, the Court may presume that such suicide has been abetted, encouraged by her husband or his relatives. Provision to this effect has been added in the Indian Evidence Act, by adding Section 113-A since the year 1983.
The object in forming the Dowry Prohibition Act and adding provisions in the Indian Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Evidence Act is to remove the evil of dowry system and give protection to women.
Because of the Dowry Prohibition Act, a person who gives or takes, or helps in the giving or taking of dowry can be sentenced to jail for 5 years and fined Rs.15,000/- or the amount of the value of dowry, whichever is more. Because of the Dowry Prohibition Act, to give or to agree to give, directly or indirectly, any property or valuable security, in connection with a marriage is prohibited. The giving of or agreeing to the giving of any amount either in cash of kind, jewelry, articles, properties, etc. in respect of a marriage is absolutely prohibited by the Dowry prohibition Act.
Because of the Dowry Prohibition Act, even the making of a demand for dowry also is now prohibited and it is punishable with imprisonment of 5 years and a fine of Rs.10,000/-.
Because of the Dowry Prohibition Act, now nobody can advertise to give money or share in his property as a consideration of the marriage.
Because of the Dowry Prohibition Act, an Agreement between the parties, to give or to take dowry, is considered as void and cannot be enforced in law and the person who has received dowry is liable to return it to the wife.
Genuine presents offered to the Bride or to the Bridegroom, at the time of the marriage, are however not prohibited by this Act. The giving of such presents however must be customary. The value of such presents, however, should not be excessive, compared to the financial status of the parties giving such presents. A list of such presents is also required to be maintained wherein the name of the person who has given the present, his relationship with the Bride or Bridegroom, description of the presents given and the value of the presents is to be mentioned and that list has to be signed by both the Bride and the Bridegroom.
The demanding of dowry itself is a cruel act and can be a ground of Divorce. A husband or his relatives can be punished for behaving cruelly with the wife by demanding dowry and can be sentenced for 3 years imprisonment and also fined. Harassment of a woman for dowry is now a criminal offence and ill treatment of a woman for dowry can also be punished.
On account of the Dowry Prohibition Act, a wife or her relatives can now take recourse of law and if dowry is demanded or a wife is harassed on account of dowry, the persons doing so can be punished.
Unfortunately, despite all these legislations, ill treatment of women in our society still continues. The system of dowry, the evil of dowry still exists. Dowry deaths and Dowry suicides still happen every day. Pick up any newspaper and you will find a case of dowry death or a dowry suicide or harassment of a woman on account of dowry. What is surprising is, that such demand of dowry, such harassment for dowry, dowry deaths and dowry suicides are even found in the affluent and educated society. However, the purpose of legislature in making the Dowry Prohibition Act and amendments to other acts is not lost. On account of such laws, the evils of dowry have definitely come under control. Cases of harassment to wife have reduced and have come to light on account of these laws.
Few years ago, when these laws were not in force, particularly when the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 had not been enacted, there was no remedy for a harassed wife or her parents against the demand for dowry. The numerous cases about the dowry death or harassment on account of dowry which you now read in the Newspapers have come to light because of these laws. If these laws had not been made, a troubled wife or her relatives would not have been in a position to complain against the demand for dowry or the taking of dowry. The evil of dowry has definitely been brought under control to a very great extent by these laws and these laws definitely provide great relief to a wife.
Husbands, however, complain that these laws are being misused and that on account of these laws, wives or their parents make false complaints against the husband and his family members just to harass them. Many times, when a husband files a petition for divorce, the wife or her parents take recourse under the Dowry Prohibition Act and lodge false complaints, under that Act, against the husband or his parents, so as to pressurize the husband. Well, every coin has two sides. It cannot be denied that, at times, the Dowry Prohibition Act, is being misused. But this Law has certainly helped the bride and has reduced the evil of Dowry.
Unless there is a strong awareness in the minds of the people, unless the entire society believes that dowry is an evil, unless the entire society objects to the demand for dowry, unless every mother-in-law thinks that at one time she too was a daughter-in-law, unless every mother thinks that the treatment which she gives to her daughter-in-law can also be received by her own daughter, the evils of dowry will remain in society. The Law definitely helps to prevent the evil of dowry but to make the Law effective and fruitful, people should follow the Law and see that dowry demands are not made and dowry deaths do not occur. A word of advice: One should not treat Marriage as a lottery. After all “The Love of money is the root of all evil”.