In India Dowry is a curse that has caused innumerable forms of mental, physical, and psychological trauma to the victims, usually women. The Ststista analysis shows the trend in the number of reported dowry deaths in India below. Dowry has been considered to be illegal in India since 1961. However, the statistics point out that the laws  haven’t been changing mindsets.

  • In 2022, reported dowry death cases in India amounted to nearly 6.4 thousand.
  • According to a report by BBC, dowry was paid in 95% of marriages in rural India.

Image Credits: Statista

What is Dowry?

Dowry is given in the for, of cash, gold, property, household utensils, furniture, vehicle, etc. by the bride’s family to the groom at the time of marriage. The constituents of a dowry are decided at the time of the finalization of an arranged marriage by both parties involved. The groom’s family demands certain things as part of the dowry. To constitute dowry, the demand by the party is essential. Any customary exchange of gifts, presents to the bride by her family without any demand by the groom and his family can be considered outside the purview of dowry. 

What is Dowry Harassment?

The harassment/ torture/ taunt/ abuse/ criticise a person while demanding for dowry, for non-receipt of dowry, demanding for more even after receiving dowry is called dowry harassment. The harassment can be physical, mental or emotional. To explain this further in cases of either non-receipt of dowry or regardless the groom’s family may harass the bride physically, mentally, and emotionally. They might torture her to bring in more money, or other specific things, or criticize her for bringing in less than their expectation. They might also demand more even after the said dowry has been given and cause trauma to the bride to fulfill their greed. This is termed as dowry harassment.  

Laws Related to Dowry Harassment

To curtail the rampant spread of dowry-related assaults and cases, several laws have been established. Dowry laws have empowered women to seek legal protection. These laws are laid down to stop the demand, provision, and acceptance of dowry aiming at the prevention of harassment of women. 

The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

According to the dowry prohibition act the term dowry constitutes 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.

This act defines certain penalties for giving or taking dowry, and penalties for demanding dowry, the dowry has to be for the benefit of the wife or her heirs and takes cognizance of offenses.

Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code/ Section 84 of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023

If the husband or his relatives subject her to cruelty then they can be taken to court under section 498A of IPC. Under this, the husband and his relatives can be punished with imprisonment for a term that may extend to three years and shall also be liable to a fine.

Here cruelty includes, any conduct likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or cause grave injury or danger to the life, limb, or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or

(b) harassment of the woman link.

Section 406 of the IPC/ Section 316 of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023

If the husband or in-laws don’t give back the property (“streedhan”), or gold that the wife brought, it is considered a criminal breach of trust and can be punished by invoking Section 406 of IPC.

Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860/ Section 79 (1) & (2) of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023

Unfortunately, some women succumb to the constant torture and don’t find legal aid at the right time or are deprived of legal counsel. The lack of support leads to continuous harassment and eventual death. Provision of law as mentioned above deals with dowry deaths and is considered when 

  • Any burns or bodily injury causes the death of a woman. 
  • It is seen that the woman was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for dowry. 
  • Under this, the husband and relatives can be punished with imprisonment for a term, not less than seven years. This can even be extended to life imprisonment.

Women’s Rights in Dowry Harassment Cases

Women have been granted some rights and some laws are there to safeguard them against the menace of dowry. There has been increased awareness and prompt support for women from society in such dowry-related harassment cases.

Steps to File a Complaint of Dowry Harassment

If you or someone you know faces harassment due to dowry-related issues, certain concrete legal steps can be taken to safeguard your life and punish the offenders.

Step 1: File a police complaint at your nearest police station and make sure an first information report (F.I.R). is registered at the same police station.

Step 2: Get the legal expertise of a good advocate who has expertise in laws related to women. 

Step 3: The victim can also file a separate report of domestic violence.

Importance of Legal Representation in Dowry Harassment Cases

Dowry harassment is a sensitive issue and the victim can become emotionally, and mentally shut down or go into a state of shock. It is important to get the right legal guidance from an experienced lawyer who has expertise in dowry-related cases. The right legal aid can help the victim fight for her rights and get the justice she deserves. Seeking legal help can be a huge emotional support to the traumatized victim and a formidable guiding force. At Divorcebylaw, each dowry-related case gets proactive support and the right legal support for a positive outcome. Divorce could be an option chosen by the victim and it’s essential to get the best divorce lawyers by your side to get the justice you deserve.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do you prove dowry harassment?

For initiation, no proof is needed. An FIR is needed from the victim or relatives to start proceedings. Further, for legal proceedings in court testimonies from people, evidence in the form of medical reports, circumstantial evidence, or documents may be required. 

2. Is dowry bailable?

Under the dowry prohibition act, all the offenses are non bailable under the law.

3. How do I file a dowry case?

Get legal help from a distinguished dowry lawyer to build a strong case and argument. The initial step is filing a formal complaint with the local police station in the form of an FIR. 

4. What is the minimum punishment for dowry?

The punishment depends on the extent of crime or harassment. Dowry cases have strenuous punishments of not less than 5 years and a fine of 15,000/- or other as decided by the court.

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