History of provisions regarding Dowry in India
Dowry Prohibition Act, (enacted on May 1, 1961) intended to prevent the giving
or receiving of a dowry. Under the Dowry Prohibition Act, dowry includes
property, goods, or money given by either party to the marriage, by the parents
of either party or by anyone else in connection with the marriage.
The original text of the Dowry Prohibition Act was widely judged to be
ineffective in curbing the practice of dowry. Moreover, specific forms of
violence against women continued to be linked to a failure to meet dowry
demands. As a result, the legislation underwent subsequent amendments. In 1984,
for example, it was changed to specify that presents given to a bride or a groom
at the time of a wedding are allowed.
The act and relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code were further amended to
protect female victims of dowry-related violence. Another layer of legal
protection was provided in 2005 under the Protection of Women from Domestic
The Indian Penal Code was also modified in 1983 to establish specific crimes of
dowry-related cruelty, dowry death, and abetment of suicide. These enactments
punished violence against women by their husbands or their relatives when proof
of dowry demands or dowry harassment could be shown. The main aim is to shield a
woman who is being abused by her husband or husband's relatives.
So far as the Indian Penal Code is concerned, section 498-A of IPC was
introduced wherein if a woman was subjected to cruelty by her husband or his
relative(s), he/they could be convicted under this penal provision.
The law underwent further change with the introduction of Section 304-B in the
Indian Penal Code and Section 113 B in the Evidence Act, 18728 by the Dowry
Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 1986.
All of these amended laws target the offenders but offer no relief to the
victim, to overcome this loophole in 2005 we got 'The Protection of Women
against Domestic Violence Act'
which was enacted with a view to providing for
more effective protection of rights of women who are victims of violence of any
kind occurring within the family and provides for prompt relief to the victim in
the form of maintenance, residence, restraining orders, custody of children,
Those rights are essential of civil nature with a mix of penal
provisions. Section 3 of the Act defines domestic violence in very wide terms.
It encompasses the situations set out in the definition of 'cruelty'
under Section 498A.
Noorjahan v. State Rep. By D.S.P:
The Supreme Court elaborates on the
legislative intent behind the insertion of Section 498 A of IPC, the relevant
portion of which reads as:
As clearly stated therein the increase in the number of dowry deaths is a
matter of serious concern. The extent of the evil has been commented upon by the
Joint Committee of the Houses to examine the work of the Dowry Prohibition Act,
In some cases, the cruelty of the husband and the relatives of the husband
which culminate in suicide by or murder of the helpless woman concerned,
constitute only a small fraction involving such cruelty. Therefore, it was
proposed to amend IPC, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Evidence Act
suitably to deal effectively not only with cases of dowry deaths but also cases
of cruelty to married women by the husband, in-laws, and relatives. The avowed
object is to combat the menace of dowry death and cruelty.
What constitutes dowry demand?
Section 2 of The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 talks about what things are to
be considered dowry, it reads as:
Definition of dowry
In this Act, dowry means any property or valuable security given or agreed to
be given either directly or indirectly:
- by one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage; or
- 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;
At or before [or any time after the marriage] [in connection with the marriage
of the said parties but does not include] dower or mahr in the case of persons
to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies.
The expression valuable security has the same meaning as in section 30 of the
Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).
This gives a clear insight into the situation of dowry in India and as to what
things can be included in the purview of dowry in India. Despite that, there are
many incidences of confusion about certain incidents being included under
section 2 of The Dowry prohibition Act or not. To tackle such situations
following are some of the incidents courts hadn't considered the particular
thing as Dowry.
It was held in Ramesh Chand v. State of U.P
, that a complaint under
Section 498-A could succeed only if it can be proved that there was an unlawful
demand by the husband of some money. Mere demand without settlement of dowry at
the time of marriage is no offense.
In the case of Mohan Singh & Ors. vs State Nct Of Delhi
, 2006 court
held that demand of Rs. 1 lakh for business and to buy a land which does not
amount to the demand of dowry, as held in a catena of decisions.
In the case of Appasaheb and Anr v. State of Mahrasthra
, it was held
that Demand for Domestic expense in exigency is not dowry under section 304b of
IPC. In other words "there should be a reasonable, if not direct nexus between
her death and the dowry-related cruelty or harassment inflicted upon".
Expanding the ambit of dowry, the court overruled its earlier verdicts in which
it had said that demand for money for meeting some urgent domestic expenses
could not be termed as dowry demand.
In the case of Jitendra Kumar vs Jaidrath Singh & Ors
, Supreme Court
gave a dissenting view over the situation. A bench of Justices T S Thakur, R F
Nariman, and Prafulla C Pant said dowry must be given a pragmatic interpretation
to fulfill the objectives of the Dowry Prohibition Act.
The bench further added that any money or property or valuable security demanded
by any of the persons mentioned in section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, at or
before or at any time after the marriage which is reasonably connected to the
death of a married woman, would necessarily be in connection with or in relation
to the marriage unless the facts of a given case clearly and unequivocally point
However, even after this judgment court has also considered it's the previous
reasoning in various cases according to the facts of the cases respectively.
From the above cases, certain context can be drawn that there has to exist a
correlation between giving or taking of property/ valuable good and marriage to
establish this crime, i.e., to attract the offense of dowry, any property or
valuable security should be given or agreed to be given either directly or
indirectly at or before or anytime after marriage and in connection with the
marriage of the said parties.
Which Dowry demands can be considered as cruelty?Ingredients of the provision are as follows:
Shobha Rani v. Medhukar Reddi
- The woman must be married;
- She must be subject to cruelty or harassment;
- Such cruelty or harassment must have been shown either by the husband of
the woman or by the relatives of her husband.
In this case, the Supreme Court remarked that under Section 498A of IPC a new
dimension has been given to the concept of cruelty. Explanation to Section 498 A
of IPC provides that any willful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely
to drive a woman to commit suicide or likely to cause grave injury or danger to
life, limb, or health (whether mental or physical of the woman), and harassment
of the woman with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet
any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security would constitute
In this case, it was held that evidence as to harassment to the wife to meet any
unlawful demand for money is necessary to constitute cruelty in criminal
law. This is the requirement of the offense of cruelty defined under Section 498
A of IPC. It was further held that the cruelty need not be only intentional,
willful, or deliberate. It is not necessary to prove the intention in the
That word has to be understood in the ordinary sense of the term in matrimonial
affairs. If the intention to harm, harass or hurt could be inferred by the
nature of the conduct or brutal act complained of cruelty could be easily
established. But the absence of intention should not make any difference in the
case, if by ordinary sense in human affairs; the act complained of could
otherwise be regarded as cruelty. The relief to the party cannot be denied on
the ground that there has been deliberate or wilful ill-treatment.
In another case of Noorjahan v. State Rep. D.SP
., the Supreme Court,
in this case, attempted to explain the expression cruelty in the following
Consequences of cruelty which are likely to drive a woman to commit suicide or
to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health, whether mental or
physical, of the woman, is required to be established in order to bring home the
application of Section 498 A of IPC.
In the case of Ashok Kumar v. State of Haryana
, the Supreme court
states the following regarding what constitutes dowry demand and cruelty:
22. The cruelty and harassment by the husband or any relative could be directly
relatable to or in connection with, any demand for dowry. The expression "demand
" will have to be construed ejusdem generis to the word immediately
preceding this expression.
Similarly, in connection with the marriage
is an expression that has to
be given a wider connotation. It is of some significance that these
expressions should be given appropriate meaning to avoid undue harassment or
advantage to either of the parties. These are penal provisions but ultimately
these are the social legislations, intended to control offenses relating to the
society as a whole.
Even if they had demanded money then it doesn't show that they did it by
subjecting the woman to cruelty.
- Noorjahan v. State Rep. By D.S.P , 2000 cr L J 4264 (Ker
- Ramesh Chand v. State of U.P, 2018 (4) TR 3019
- Kans Raj v. State of Punjab & Ors., 2000 Crl.L.J. 2993 (SC)
- Mohan Singh & Ors. v. State Nct Of Delhi, CRL.REV.P. 681/2009
- Appasaheb & Anr. Vs. State of Maharashtra, (2007) 9 SCC 721
- Harjit Singh v. State of Punjab, I (2006) DMC 11 (SC)
- Jivendra Kumar v. Jaidrath Singh & Ors, (2000) 3 SCC 154
- Shobha Rani v. Medhukar Reddi , 1988 SCR(1) 1010
- Noorjahan v. State Rep. DSP., (2008) INSC 691
- Ashok Kumar v. State of Haryana, (2021) 2 MLJ (Crl) 187
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