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Dowry means any kind of money, goods, cash, jewellery, property, etc. which the husband’s side demands from the wife’s side, for marriage. (Section 2, Dowry Prohibition Act)
What is not dowry:
Any gifts willingly given to the bride or groom at the time of marriage, without any demand from the other side.
Dowry demand can be made against anyone (i.e. woman, her parents, her relatives, her guardians) and at any time (i.e. before, at the time of, or after marriage).
Money, assets and other gifts brought by the bride, that are given to her without any demand from the husband’s side, are not considered. For dowry, there should be a demand.
Stridhan is the property of a woman (such as cash, jewellery, real estate, etc.) which is given to a woman out of love and affection. Whereas, dowry includes assets and property demanded from the woman’s side by the husband’s side, in connection with marriage. For more details on streedhan, see here Stridhan.
No, just because something has been done as a custom, does not make it correct or legal. The Dowry Prohibition Act clearly states that asking for dowry, taking dowry, or even giving dowry is illegal. The aim of this law is to protect girls and their families from dowry harassment from the husband’s side.
You are not required to make any wedding arrangements beyond your budget and affordability. If the groom’s side makes demands on you or your family for expensive wedding arrangements, it can be considered as dowry demand. You have every right to refuse.
No, the following acts are illegal in India and punishable under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961:
For punishment for each act, see below.
The following legal provisions protect women against dowry:
The punishment for dowry in India is as follows:
Yes, giving dowry is a punishable offence. For punishment, see above. (Section 3, Dowry Prohibition Act)
Yes, taking dowry is a punishable offence. For punishment, see above. (Section 4, Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961)
Abetting i.e. helping someone in giving/taking dowry is considered equal to taking/giving dowry. It is a punishable offence. For punishment, see above. (Section 3, Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961)
Asking for dowry, irrespective of whether you take it or not, is a punishable offence. For punishment, see above. (Section 4, Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961)
If dowry has been taken by any person other than the married woman, that person needs to transfer the dowry to the woman, within 3 months of receipt. If the person does not do so, he/she shall be punished with imprisonment of 6 months-2 years + fine of Rs.10,000.(Section 6, Dowry Prohibition Act)
Anyone can file a complaint against dowry harassment- the woman, her parents, her family members, any NGO, etc. (Section 7b(iii), Dowry Prohibition Act).
A complaint for dowry harassment can be filed against any of the following people who have harassed the woman:
- Husband’s family members- like mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law
The person against whom you file the complaint should have, directly or indirectly, harassed you for dowry.
Every married woman has the right to reside in her matrimonial house. (Section 17, Domestic Violence Act). If your husband/husband’s family ask you to leave your matrimonial house, see Right to Live in Matrimonial House to understand further.
If a married woman dies within 7 years of marriage, under abnormal circumstances or out of bodily injury/burns, and she was harassed by her husband/his relatives before the death, it is called dowry death. The husband or his relatives who harassed the woman are said to have caused the dowry death. (Section 304b, Indian Penal Code)
To sum up, a dowry death is caused when:
- A married woman
- Dies within 7 years of marriage
- Under abnormal circumstances or out of bodily injury/burns
- She was harassed by her husband/his relatives
If the above ingredients are satisfied, the court will presume it was a dowry death, without you having to prove it (Section 113b, Indian Evidence Act). The burden will now lie on the accused to show that it was not a dowry death.
You should immediately file a complaint with the nearest police station. (For details, see How to File a Police Complaint)
If a woman commits suicide due to dowry harassment, you should immediately file a complaint in the nearest police station against the persons who harassed her (For details, see How to File a Police Complaint). The complaint should be filed under Section 306, Indian Penal Code- causing someone to commit suicide.
Remember- All the gifts that you receive in your name during the wedding become your stridhan. Only you, and no one else, has rights over your stridhan. For more details on stridhan, see here stridhan)
To prove dowry harassment in court, it is important that you collect evidence each time there is dowry harassment. How you can collect evidence:
I wasn’t able to collect evidence:
Remember: File a complaint with the police as soon as any incident occurs, so that they can take fast action and you can prove the incident more easily. In your police complaint, you do not need to write the history of all incidences of dowry harassment (if they have been happening over a while)- it is better to do this in court. The most recent incident is enough for the police complaint.
Please note: This information has been made available to you for your benefit on an ‘as is’ basis, and is only for your information. It does not constitute legal advice and cannot substitute professional legal advice. Our disclaimer policy can be viewed here ( disclaimer policy)