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In the past few years, the Indian criminal laws have experienced tremendous amendments. The Indian laws are diligently amended to protect the interest of women in India and provide them safety against any illegal or immoral act. Among the various women-centric laws in India, the most commonly invoked law is the anti-dowry law.
Dowry, commonly known as ‘dahej’ includes any gift that is not offered by the bride’s side on their own and anything that the groom’s side asks for, directly or indirectly. The groom’s side must compel the bride’s side to fulfill their demands. If the groom’s side makes any demand as a precondition to marriage, without which the bride’s side anticipates that the marriage might be called off, then also such demand will be considered as dowry.
It must be proved that a dowry demand was made by the groom or his family which involves a direct/indirect deal with the family of the bride, to consider it as dowry. Dowry demand can be made in form of cash, property or any other favours either before, during or after the marriage.
It must be noted that dowry is different from Streedhan. Anything gifted by the bride’s parents to her and not to the groom is the sole property of the bride and is called ‘streedhan’ (the wife’s property). Streedhan can be given at any time and includes the property inherited by the bride. Also includes gifts received by the bride in cash or kind by her husband’s family. Husband and his family have no right to it. Streedhan is treated as the self-acquired property of the bride but is returned to the family in case of an unforeseen death of the bride.
The Dowry Prohibition Act has been in place in India since 1961, but the practice of dowry went on undeterred. When it is not demanded outright, it is implied that the bride’s family will have to give ‘gifts’ and provide for a certain standard of living for the groom and his family.
Dowry is illegal in India under the anti-dowry law. Under the Dowry Prohibition Act, any act to take or give dowry is punishable in India. The punishment for violating the anti-dowry law is imprisonment for up to 5 years and fine of Rs. 15,000 or the value of dowry given, whichever is more. Any woman who is a victim of dowry in India must talk to a dowry lawyer to take appropriate legal action against her husband or his family members.
Even negotiations for the dowry for a lesser deal from the groom’s side when the bride’s side is unable to fulfill the actual demand/real deal’ and the act of making the bride’s family fulfill demands as compensation for marrying their daughter after the wedding are all punishable under the law.
The Indian Penal Code lays down the anti-dowry law with regards to dowry deaths, under Section 304B and cruelty or domestic violence for dowry demands, under Section 498A. The IPC makes the crime non-bailable, which means that the accused husband or family member cannot get a bail once arrested by the police.
However, the anti-dowry law is not violated in the following case:
When the gift is given by the bride’s parents of their own choosing to the newly married couple without being pressured or asked.
The list of such gifts is drawn up by the family lawyer along with the cost of gifts and a declaration that they were given to the couple out of the parents’ own choice.
The groom’s family has a copy of the list of gifts and they are given only for the couple’s use.
Misuse of anti-dowry law to blackmail husband has become a common practice. The number of false 498A cases or cases of misuse of anti-dowry laws has even made the Supreme Court of India to term it as ‘legal terrorism’. The biased nature of this law has enabled women to file a false case against their husbands for reasons such as:
To get out of the marriage due to her inability to adjust to the new family.
Blackmailing the husband to extort money.
To implicate the husband in a false case and rekindle with a man she was previously associated with or got into an extra-marital affair with.
In case of misuse of the anti-dowry law by the wife, the husband must consult a dowry lawyer to know the correct legal action to take against his wife. MyAdvo connects you with the best dowry lawyers in India. Email us at email@example.com or call us at +919811782573.