Dowry Cases in India: A Legal Study

Marriages may be formed in heaven, but the mother-in-law, sister-in-law, husband, and other relatives are actively involved in the dissolution of marriage in the greed for dowry.

Dowry death, murder-suicide, and bride burning are indicators of a strange social sickness, and awful dowry cases trend in our culture. Because dowry is practised by every sector of society, regardless of religion, caste, or creed, India has experienced the dark ills of the dowry system in a more intense form in almost all sections of the nation during previous decades.

Married women are humiliated, tormented, assaulted, pushed to commit suicide, and ill-treated daily. Many women are even burned to death because their parents cannot satisfy dowry demands.

Introduction to dowry

The dowry system in India puts a significant financial strain on the bride’s family. Taking note of the gravity and consequences of the situation, legislators have enacted legislative steps to close gaps in the law and create additional provisions to make the legislation reasonable and adequate.

The first national legislation to combat the societal problem of dowry was the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961. The legislation established various preventative and penal provisions. However, the goals of the provisions are yet to be realised.

Although the dowry problem as a whole may not be a viable target for criminal law, the violence associated with dowries, which may be lethal, is unquestionably within the functional area of criminal law.

The failure of dowry laws has resulted in a rapid increase in dowry cases related to deaths. Some significant and procedural modifications in criminal law were enacted as THE INDIAN CRIMINAL LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 1908

Enactment of Legislation Related to Dowry

Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

Dowry Protection Act (DPA) was the first national dowry legislation. The legislation includes various preventative and penal elements, but they failed to meet the goals as expected.

Indian Penal Code, 1860

The appropriate aim of criminal law is not just dowry case concerns but also the violence associated with the dowry. Because of the failure of dowry legislation and increase in dowry deaths, the Criminal Code was amended in 1983 and 1986 by adding Sections 304-B and 498-A. There were four instances in which a married woman was exposed to cruelty and harassment, resulting in an offence.

Dowry Death-Section 304-B IPC:

The offence under Section 304-B defines ‘Dowry Death’ as the death of a woman caused by burns or bodily injury or under unnatural circumstances within seven years of her marriage. It should be proven that she was harassed or subjected to cruelty by her husband or his relatives for dowry and is punishable by a term of seven years to life imprisonment.

Dowry deaths under Section 304-B: essentials

  • Burns, bodily harm, or anything else that would not have happened under normal conditions causes death.
  • The woman should have died within seven years of her marriage.

Impediments on the implementation of the law

The Indian judicial system is often obfuscating for dowry victims. Almost all of the components involved in applying laws have flaws and infirmities.

Social Factors

Administration of justice in criminal situations is a difficult task in and of itself, and it becomes even more complex when society does not provide essential social support.

There are no witnesses to transactions resulting in domestic abuse or harassment and unnatural death except for family members. Some people may be accomplices, whereas other people may not support owing to family pressure. More often than not, neighbours have some information or proof against the perpetrators but are afraid to testify for fear of jeopardising neighbourly relationships. They are apprehensive of police and legal processes. Worse than their indifference, the politicised attitude of neighbours, results in them supporting the perpetrators.

If young women are protected from violence, they can be rescued from abuse, harassment, and unnatural deaths. Due to customary limits, such a resort is either impossible or impractical.

Some parents advise their daughters to continue living with their husband and his relatives despite the abuse, leading to an unnecessary catastrophe.

Police and Law Enforcement

The police’s role in society is to shield the general population, but in actuality, they generate dread in the public’s minds. The police are accused of biassed attitudes, behaviours, and perceptions that limit the chances of successful law enforcement.

The most common charges levelled against police are: arriving at a crime site too late, misrepresenting events in recording the First information report, always preferring dowry deaths as suicide, and conducting an inquiry less appropriately and slowly. The police regard violence against women as a family matter and are always reluctant to record a case.


The Supreme Court has voiced sadness and empathetic views on the deaths of young brides many times.

In a dowry case, Virbhan Singh v. the State of U.P, the Supreme Court stated that, in light of the rising number of bride fatalities, such heinous crimes, when discovered and proven, must be met with harsh action and deterrent punishment.

The Supreme Court is concerned about the acquittal of several suspected perpetrators, but the state cannot file an appeal with the court.

Essentials for a Dowry Case

Some of the essentials for a dowry case include:

  1. An applicant abused or tormented by their husband or in-laws should go to the local police station and file a police report, after which an inquiry is conducted.
  2. The applicant must give information of harassment endured at the hands of individuals against whom the police complaint is made to register the police complaint.
  3. Based on such information, the police should launch an investigation to determine whether individuals charged are guilty.
  4. The applicant must also file an action under the Domestic Violence Act to seek support and protection from the husband/in-laws/relatives in addition to making a police complaint.
  5. The court must take note of the dowry allegation and hold a hearing within three days of the complaint getting submitted.
  6. At the first hearing, the magistrate would issue a notice to the respondent and other parties, which the protection officer would serve.
  7. If the court finds that a case has been made out against the respondent, the aggrieved party may ask the court to make any of the following orders:
  • Protection order
  • Residence order
  • Custody order
  • Monetary relief
  • Compensation Order

Criminal Consequences for Violating the Dowry System in India

Penalty for giving or receiving dowry: According to Section 3 of the Act, both providing and receiving dowry is illegal and is punishable by a minimum of 5 years in jail and a fine of not less than Rs. 15,000 or the amount of the dowry, whichever is larger.

Dowry Demand Penalty: According to Section 4 of the Act, if any person demands, directly or indirectly, any dowry from the parents, other relatives, or guardians of the bride or bridegroom, he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not less than six months, but which may extend to 2 years, and a fine of Rs 10,000.


Dowry cases are a societal curse. Organised approach by women’s welfare groups, police, public officials, and the judiciary impose deterrent penalties on people responsible for dowry fatalities.The Indian government, working with the Indian courts, develops cooperative and supporting laws to protect women’s lives and dignity and provide justice to the victims of harassment or cruelty by husbands and his family.

Changes in the school system have improved female education status, and door-to-door job services are expected to reduce dowry case fatalities. However, some corrective measures must be implemented to eliminate or at least mitigate the societal scourge of dowry case death. Crucially, there must be public resolve and commitment to reject dowry demands and avoid the trap of materialistic appetite.

More female police officers should be hired and trained to be available in cases involving unnatural deaths of women to minimise the incidence of dowry murders, harassment, and cruelty.

The inquiry cannot be conducted below the position of assistant commissioner in the interest of proper investigation and justice. Suicide abetment should carry a sentence of up to seven years in prison. A sensible and realistic approach would undoubtedly address the aforementioned issues.

FAQs Regarding Dowry Case

What is the punishment for dowry cases in India?

The law penalises offering or receiving of dowry. If, after the beginning of this act, any person gives, takes, or aids in the giving or taking of dowry, he should be punished by imprisonment for up to 6 months, fined Rs 5000 fine or both.

What was the purpose of a dowry?

According to archaic beliefs that are no longer relevant, a dowry is said to serve the following functions:

  • Dowry provides the bride and groom with the funds and materials to construct a house together.
  • The loss of a dowry protects the bride if her husband becomes violent and/or the marriage ends in divorce.

Why is the dowry system a social problem?

‘Dowry’ refers to the resources and money that the bride brings to her husband's home at the time of her wedding. This tradition is harmful to the bride and her parents because it frequently leads to societal violence against women if the dowry demands are not met.

How can we prevent the dowry system?

  • Educate your daughters.
  • Encourage them to have their career.
  • Teach children to be self-sufficient and responsible.
  • Treat them (your daughter) equally and without prejudice.
  • Do not promote the practice of giving or receiving dowry.
Family Law & Divorce