Dowry Death is one of India's most heinous or horrible concerns. Dowry is an
all-Indian phenomenon. Every day in India, fifteen women are murdered by their
newly married husbands or relatives of the husband for failing to bring a
sufficient dowry to the marriage.
Although India has many positive laws and acts
that have been enacted and incorporated into the country's legal system, in
addition to this campaigns and awareness programs are launched by the government
and non-government organizations against dowry deaths and the dowry system in
India, the incidents of dowry deaths continue to occur in increasing numbers
because there are still certain unresolved concerns that prevent the country
from moving forward.
There is the Dowry Prohibition Act, of 1961 which states that:
"taking dowry is
itself a crime and prohibited" and along with this more stringent laws were made
namely, Section 304 B (dowry death) and Section 498 A (cruelty by husband or his
relatives) have been incorporated into the Indian Penal Code (I.P.C.) and
section 113 B (presumption as to dowry death) has been integrated in the Indian
Evidence Act (I.E.A.) in order to eradicate or at-least lower down this gruesome
act of dowry system and related deaths.
Secondary research has been endured which aims to scrutinize the history and
main causes of the dowry system, legal provisions adopted by the Indian Legal
System to address the issue, and the contemporary developments in this field.
The Dowry System in India is connected with the establishment of marriage. Dowry
is a property or other significant security that one party gives or agrees to
give to another party during the marriage. In India, the party who agrees to
give dowry is mainly the parents of a girl the party to whom the dowry is given
is the groom's family.
Traditionally, dowry consisted of gifts, usually jewelry,
given to the bride at the time of her marriage, and the dowry system actually
originated to benefit the married woman. But today dowry is negotiated and
refers to wealth that the bride's family needs to pay to the groom and his
family and it leads to menace such as dowry death.
The hone which was once considered as an adoring motion to tie two souls and
their particular families beside adore, care, and back has now ended up a
ghastly, alarming, and horrendous bad dream for the total nation and is
presently enrolled in one of the major and troubling savagery confronted by the
ladies of the nation.
Dowry death in India refers to the death of a woman as a result of harassment or
brutality by her husband or his family in connection with dowry demands. Dowry
is a historic practice in which the bride's family sends gifts, products, or
money to the groom and his family in exchange for the marriage.
Dowry killings occur when dowry demands are not satisfied, and the lady is
subjected to different sorts of harassment, abuse, and assault, which frequently
leads to her death. These fatalities can take several forms, such as suicides,
murders disguised as accidents, or deaths caused by violent domestic abuse.
The research paper aims to provide a comprehensive study on dowry death which
includes a definition of dowry, its history, and the origin of dowry in India.
It focuses on the causes that lead to dowry death. It further illustrates the
current legislation to prevent dowry death and recent legal developments in this
This paper is of descriptive nature and the research is based on secondary
sources for the comprehensive analysis of dowry death and its recent legal
advancement in India. Secondary sources of information like newspaper articles,
journals, and websites are used for the research.
Review Of The Literature
"Dowry deaths are more than just tragic incidents, they are evident reminders of
the profound injustice, inequality, and brutality faced by women in society."
The Dowry system which emerged to serve a bona fide purpose to aid the daughter
in her marital home took an ugly turn after the rise of the colonial period, the
British Raj made it compulsory for the bride's family to provide the dowry to
the groom's family in order to marry, this became a mandatory custom as if you
are giving "a price" for the bride.
The women in the society have suffered
various sorts of discrimination, ill-treatment, and violence and dowry is one
such factor that gives rise to such evil. Demand for dowry creates pressure in
the minds of the bride's parents which gives rise to the gruesome activity of
female infanticide, in order to avoid the burden of dowry, people do not want to
have a girl child in the first place. Since birth, females have been
discriminated against, parents do not provide them with education and they are
expected to perform all the household chores.
When the bride is unable to bring a sufficient amount of dowry to her in-law's
house, she is forced to bring materialistic resources from her father's house,
and in failure to fulfill the greed and lust for dowry, the bride suffers dowry
harassment physically and emotionally.
There is a requirement in Indian legislation to make broader and more
comprehensive laws to cover different kinds of cruelty that women face due to
dowry, efforts need to be made to remove this primitive practice which serves
nothing but an awful purpose.
Dowry And Dowry Death
Dowry is a practice, custom, and tradition of giving away valuables, wealth, and
property to the bride on behalf of her family to her spouse and in-laws as a
thought or security for a fruitful marriage hailed fundamentally from the
medieval period where the bride was constrained to bring endowment at the side
themselves as a compulsion and unbending presupposition. Dowry basically is
nothing but a pass on of parental property, money, and valuables to the groom's
family at the time of marriage which is considered as security and thought for
There are a few legally recognized definitions of dowry aiming to give
the concept a clearer perspective such as:
Origin And Growth Of Dowry
- Webster's New Dictionary:
The money, goods, or estate which a woman brings to her husband in marriage; a
bride's portion on her marriage.
A natural talent, gift, or endowment: as poetry was her dowry; and
A gift of money or property by a man to or for his bride.
- Wharton's Law Lexicon:
Dowry or dote (dos mulieris) otherwise called maritagium or marriage goods [are]
that which the wife brings to the husband in marriage. "Dowry or dote(dos
mulieris) was in ancient times applied to that which the wife bring to her
husband in marriage otherwise called maritagium or marriage goods, but these
were termed as mere property good given marriage and marriage portion"
- Cambridge Dictionary: Dowry is a property that a woman brings to her
The practice of dowry contains a long history and its beginnings can be followed
back to antiquated times. Whereas the precise beginnings are not clear, dowry is
accepted to have risen in different social orders for distinctive reasons.
Earlier, dowry was seen as a frame of financial security for ladies. It was
planning to supply a woman with a share of her family's riches as she
transitioned into her conjugal domestic.
In numerous social orders, women did
not have free financial rights or legacy rights, and dowry was a way to ensure
their monetary well-being within the occasion of widowhood, separate, or other
In, 1973, Lord Cornwallis empowered the privatization of land which was obscure
in India. During this time British totally precluded women from owning any land
or any kind of property. this was the time when parents gave money to the bride
during the marriage, and that money is a thing, as England prohibited women from
owning property of any kind, the money that she received from her parents was
now abused by her spouse. And here the concept of dowry has been turned around
and treated as the price of nuptials, meaning that at the time of marriage, the
bride must bring the wealth desired by her in-laws as part of the marriage.
Various crimes such as murder, psychological abuse, and suicide were committed
when the bride did not bring the desired wealth. The groom's family put pressure
on the woman to covet. this led to the concept of "Dowry Death."
Section 304B of IPC defines Dowry Death as:
- Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury
or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years
of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was
subjected to cruelty or har�assment by her husband or any relative of
her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, such death
shall be called "dowry death", and such husband or relative shall be
deemed to have caused her death. Explanation - For the purpose of this
sub-section, "dowry" shall have the same meaning as in section 2 of the
Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of 1961).
- Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprison�ment for
a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to
imprisonment for life.
According to the data shared by Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Kumar
Mishra in Rajya Sabha, a total of 35,493 dowry deaths were reported in the
country between 2017 and 2021. By falling flat to successfully prevent dowry
deaths, India as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights (ICCPR),' violates the "right to life" as expressed in Article 6(1) and
protected by Article 2.
Law And Dowry
The Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, prohibits the practice of accepting and giving
dowry and if found guilty shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend
to six months, or with a fine which may extend to five thousand rupees, or with
both. The police have the power to arrest perforators for domestic violence
under Section 498 of CrPC.
Section 304 B(2) defines the punishment for such an
act according to which "whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with
imprison�ment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may
extend to imprisonment for life".
The entire Dowry Prohibition Act, of 1961 is prepared, equipped, and created in
order to provide relief to the victims of dowry cases in the country. the whole
act solely fulfills the purpose to protect women suffering from the harassment
and cruelty of dowry.
It contains a total of 10 sections of which the following are the heading of
Section 1 - Short title, extent, and commencement
Section 2 - Definition of "dowry"
Section 3 - Penalty for giving or taking dowry
Section 4 - Penalty for demanding dowry
Section 4A - Ban on advertisement
Section 5 - Agreement for giving or taking dowry to be void
Section 6 - Dowry to be for the benefit of the wife or her heirs
Section 7 - Cognizance of offense
Section 8 - Offences to be cognizable for certain purposes and to be non-bailable
Section 8A - Burden of proof in certain cases
Section 8B - Dowry Prohibition Officers
Section 9 - Power to make rules
Section 10 - Power of State Government to make rules
It is quite evident that this Act is drafted, to protect the interest of all
areas of society and law in order to protect and lift the status of dowry
victims which may be leading them to death suicide, harassment, or cruelty.
Ingredients of Section 304B of IPC are as follows:
- Sabitri Debi and others v. Sarat Chandra Rout and others
- Premananda Sahoo v. State of Orissa
- Suresh Kumar Singh v. State of U.P.
- Section 304 - B of the Indian Penal Code deals with Dowry Death:
- Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or
occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her
marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to
cruelty or har�assment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or
in connection with, any demand for dowry, such death shall be called "dowry
death", and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her
death. Explanation.�For the purpose of this sub-section, "dowry" shall have
the same meaning as in section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of
- Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprison�ment for a
term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to
imprisonment for life
- When the death of the woman is caused under abnormal and suspicious circumstances caused by burns or any other bodily injuries.
- Within 7 years of the marriage.
- The death is caused in relation to the demand for dowry.
- The expression of "soon before her death".
- It is a cognizable, non-bailable, non-compoundable offense.
- Satvir Singh and others v State of Punjab and another
- Raja Lal Singh v. State of Jharkhand
- Baldev Singh v. State of Punjab
Section 498A of The Indian Penal Code
Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty:
being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman
to cruelty shall be pun�ished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to
three years and shall also be liable to fine.
For the purpose of this section, "cruelty" means:
Ingredients of Section 498A of IPC are as follows:
- any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman
to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health
(whether mental or physical) of the woman; or
- harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing
her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any
property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any
person related to her to meet such demand.
Conditions for Domestic Violence Offense:
Balwant Singh and others v. State of Himachal Pradesh
Pawan Kumar and others v. State of Haryana
- The woman should be a married woman.
- The married woman should be the subject of cruelty or harassment.
- The harassment or cruelty should be done by husband or by husband's relatives.
- There should be a Mens Rea on the part of the husband or husband's relatives.
- It is a Cognizable, Non-bailable, Non-compoundable offense.
Section 113 - B of the Indian Evidence Act deals with Presumption as to dowry
death.�When the question is whether a person has committed the dowry death of a
woman and it is shown that soon before her death such woman has been subjected
by such person to cruelty or harassment for, or in connection with, any demand
for dowry, the Court shall presume that such person had caused the dowry death.
Explanation.�For the purposes of this section, "dowry death" shall have the same
meaning as in section 304B, of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- Sham Lal v. State of Haryana
- Harjit Singh v. State of Punjab
- Kamesh Panjiyar alias Kamlesh Panjiyar v. State of Bihar
Recently, the Supreme Court of India noted that - "Mere death of the deceased
being unnatural in the matrimonial home within seven years of marriage will not
be sufficient to convict the accused under Section 304B and 498A IPC."
The cruelty or harassment towards the married woman has to be soon before the
death and it should not be any event that happened in the past.
In a case dating back to 1995 - Charanjit Singh v. State of Uttarakhand
the marriage was solemnized in 1993, and the deceased woman died 2 years after
the marriage in 1995. During the tenure of 2 years, the deceased visited the
parental home after 2 months of marriage and stated that the appellant was
demanding a motorbike, however, she was sent back and from that point, she once
more came and informed that apart from a motorbike, land is also demanded.
However, it can not be concluded from the statement that demand was made right
before the death and the incident was quite old. He also conceded that at the
time of the funeral, his mother-in-law and two brothers-in-law were present,
however, they were debilitated to not file the complaint. Even other relatives
who used to live close to the house of the deceased did not share any detail of
cruelty or harassment.
A bench comprising Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice AS Oka set aside the
conviction and sentence of the appellant u/n Sections 304B, 498A, and 201 of IPC
which were imposed by the Trial Court and upheld by the Uttarakhand High Court.
The court decided that the husband's conviction for dowry death under Sections
304B and 498A of the Penal Code for harassment or cruelty to the wife should be
made in connection with the husband's illegal dowry claim, and the wife's death
must be reasonably related to such illegal demand of dowry and harassment of the
wife. In the case mentioned above, the court considered that since there was
nothing in the testimony of the witnesses that such a claim for the motorcycle
or the land was presented immediately before the death, therefore conviction
under Sections 304B and 498A of The Indian Penal Code relating to dowry death
cannot be sustained.
Suggestions And Conclusions
Demand for dowry before marriage is quite common in India. Dowry has its roots
in medieval times when a gift in the form of cash or kind was given to a bride
by her family to maintain her independence after marriage, earlier there were no
provisions for the inheritance of property by the daughter, giving dowry was one
such means to provide resources to daughters. But in the British period, it
became the only legal way to get married, with the British making the practice
of dowry mandatory.
Although various attempts have been made by different governmental and
non-governmental organizations to curtail this, even statutory laws have been
made to prevent dowry and punish the evil doer, this practice still continues to
harm society. This is particularly because the current legal system has failed
to reduce dowry-related violence. Therefore, authorities need to ensure that
appropriate measures are taken to avert the wrongdoer and tackle social evil.
cannot be done in a day to introduce a law and eradicate this problem,
persistent and collective effort can serve the purpose. Apart from legislative
measures, societal measures must be implemented to combat the menace of dowry
death like educating women about their rights, providing them economic
independence, and creating propaganda against dowry practice via television,
magazines, newspapers, and movies must be made to create awareness about this
The existing mindsets of the Indians need to be changed to push
back primitive customs such as accepting dowry. It is the youth of this country
who can put forward novel ideas and stop following such regressive practices.
the recent judgment of the supreme court held that "mere unnatural death of
the wife within seven years of the marriage is not sufficient to convict the
husband of dowry, in order to be convicted for dowry death, it must be proved
that deceased was abused immediately before her death and not in the past."
Legislators must provide in the law so that it is possible to prevent the abuse
of the law and also ensure the mental and physical health of the married woman.
Written By: Priyanshi Jain
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, Institute Of Law, Nirma University