The practice of dowry exists in some form or another in many societies around the world. Dowries are a form of payment made by the bride’s family to the groom’s family at the time of the wedding to acknowledge any expenses that the groom’s family may incur in the bride’s favour. These exchanges aren’t always monetary; they can also signify the importance of the marriage and maintain a friendly relationship between the two families.
However, in most societies, this common cultural practice has become extremely perverse, resulting in cruelty and violence among families, with women bearing the brunt of it for the longest time. It is a sexist and decadent practice that is seen in society as a symbol of wealth and power. It is a social vice that has been criminalised in India under various laws.
It is important to understand that giving or receiving dowry is illegal and can result in a sentence of at least 5 years in prison, as well as a fine of $15,000 or the value of the dowry, whichever is greater. If someone directly or indirectly demands dowry, he faces a sentence of 6 months to 2 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
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6 Things To Keep In Mind When Dealing With A Dowry Petition Prior To Marriage
- Demanding dowry is illegal even before marriage, and the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 will apply in these cases as well.
- Taking or giving a dowry is also a crime that both parties are responsible for.
- If a dowry demand is made, go to the nearest police station in the jurisdiction of the location where the demand is made.
- Obtain as much evidence as possible, such as audio-video recordings and witnesses.
- If the police do not register the matter, you can report it to a judicial Magistrate/ Metropolitan Magistrate by filing an application under section 156(3) read with section 190 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- You can also contact the Dowry Protection Officer about the situation. You can find out about the DPO in your area by contacting your district’s family court.
A DPO’s job is to prevent the taking of, or aiding in the taking of, dowry as much as possible, and to collect evidence as much as possible. These officers conduct preliminary investigations into dowry complaints, compile case histories, and assist the public in registering the case with the police.
7 Fearless Approaches to Dowry Demands
- First and foremost, speak with your family and inform them that you want a dowry-free marriage. Discuss it with them in a mature and pragmatic manner. Make sure they understand that you are a benefit to them rather than a liability. If a dowry demand is made in the future, you and they will have reached an agreement.
- If you’re already dating someone, let them know you have no intention of paying a dowry. If they refuse, end the relationship right there. If they agree, guarantee that they will not change their minds in the future.
- If you receive an arranged marriage proposal with a dowry demand, end the relationship right away. It is for the benefit of everyone involved, no matter how harsh it may appear. Even better, under Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, anyone who makes a dowry demand faces a minimum of 6 months to 2 years in prison!
- Back out if you receive a demand while the wedding festivities are underway. It’s a wedding, not a barter, so don’t haggle. Call off your wedding, even if it is on your wedding day. You have to live with these people for the rest of your life. You don’t want to be harassed for the rest of your life. Break the pattern of “log kya kahenge.” Lead by example.
- If a dowry demand is made after the wedding, defend yourself and your family and leave the area right away. It’s never too late to start. These requirements will gradually increase, trapping you.
- When you receive a dowry demand, call the police right away. It is not necessary to show a series of events where such demands were made; just one instance is sufficient to put such people behind bars. You might just save someone else from falling victim to their nefarious schemes, in addition to yourself and your family!
- Last but not least, make yourself worthy enough to marry without having to pay someone. Never let your parents worry about your relationship. India, ironically, has a sex ratio of 940 girls per 1000 boys, so you’ll have plenty of other options if you reject one!
Who can Apply For A Police Complaint?
As it is a cognizable offence, action against it can be taken either by metropolitan magistrates or a magistrate of the first class on its own by the wife, family, or other relatives of such person recognised welfare institutions or organisations. You can launch a dowry case even before your marriage if your prospective husband/in-laws have requested dowry. You can also file a case within the authority of the police station where you live, but you must verify that the demand was made at your residence.
When a police officer fails to register your case, you must take the following five steps:
- Attempt to obtain a written explanation for the failure to lodge the complaint.
- Inform his superior about the situation. Report it to the district superintendent of police, the Deputy Inspector General (DIG), or the Inspector General of Police (IGP).
- Approach the media in order to put pressure on the authorities.
- Contact local NGOs, human rights campaigners, and so on.
- If none of the aforementioned options works, the last and final option will be to go to court. Make an application to a judicial Magistrate/ Metropolitan Magistrate under Section 156(3) read with Section 190 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, requesting that the police lodge the FIR.
If your spouse, his in-laws, or his family attempt to damage or destroy you physically, mentally, emotionally, or financially for the lack of dowry, you may file a dowry demand case under Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, as well as Section 498a of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. You can also apply to the magistrate under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005. The magistrate will decide the case within 60 days of the initial hearing and appoint a protection officer.