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This article is written by Paras Chug, student of BBA.LL.B. 2nd semester from RNB Global University, Bikaner, Rajasthan.


Marriage is regarded as a civilised social order in which two individuals who are capable of entering into a union have dedicated themselves to institutional norms and values and vowed to each other a very strong bond to sustain and maintain the marital responsibility. It serves as a foundation for the human race’s survival. Despite all of the promises made at various stages of the marriage ceremony that individual incompatibilities and attitudinal differences for non-adjustment or refusal to adjust would end, certain circumstances arose where the husbands and their families demanded, i.e. Dowry, which was not fulfilled, and sometimes a perverted sense of revenge arose.

The dowry system in India places a significant financial strain on the bride’s family. Taking note of the importance and consequences of the problem, legislators have taken steps to close loopholes in the legislation and implement new provisions in order to make the law more sensible and effective. In 1961, the Dowry Prohibition Act became the first national legislation to address the societal scourge of dowry. The purpose of this law is to outlaw the giving and receiving of dowries. The act has a variety of preventive and penal elements, however, as one might expect, the goals have not been met. Though the dowry problem as a whole may not be an appropriate target for criminal law, the violence associated with a dowry, which can be lethal, falls squarely within its functional sphere. As a result of the high prevalence of dowry-related deaths and the failure of dowry legislation, the Criminal Law Amendment Acts of 1983 and 1986 made significant substantive and procedural modifications in criminal law. Sections 304-B and 498-A of the Indian Penal Code have been amended to include two new offences. The offence under section 304-B is known as dowry death, whereas section 498-A is known as husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty. Sections 174 and 176 of the Code of Criminal Procedure deal with police and magistrate investigations and inquiries into the causes of unnatural deaths, respectively, and new section 113-B of the Indian Evidence Act is known as presumption in cases of dowry death.

Enactment of Legislation Related To Dowry

The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 was the first national legislation on the subject. The statute has a variety of preventive and penal elements, but the objectives have not been met, as one might expect. The failure is owing to the fact that the dowry practise is too well-entrenched among all cross-sections of society, not just because of a few flaws in the law, but also because of the government’s failure to enforce it. Because government authorities do not enforce the law, no action is taken in registered cases, and people are unaware of the law. Despite the fact that legislation and the judiciary continue to provide support, the situation has not changed.

“The dowry system is a tremendous stain and blight on our society, democracy, and the country,” it was said in the case of Sanjay Kumar Jain v. State of Delhi. It is inexplicable how dowry deaths, which are both tragic and condemnable, occur so regularly in our society. To counteract and reduce the growing threat of dowry death, all steps must be made. The legislature was deeply worried about this tragic fact of our culture, and the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 was adopted to put a stop to the growing threat of dowry fatalities.

To prevent the taking and demand of dowry, some strict penal measures have been imposed or changed from time to time. Giving and receiving dowry is illegal under section 3 of the act with a minimum sentence of 5 years and a fine of Rs 15,000 or the value of the dowry, whichever is greater. Demanding dowry is also criminal under section 4 for six months to five years in prison and a sentence of up to Rs 15,000 in fine. After a few amendments, the act attempts to address this socioeconomic problem.

Section 7 specifies who can start the process:

  1. the police,
  2. the offended party,
  3. parents and relatives, and
  4. any recognised welfare institution or organisation.

Section 8 aims to make the law more severe by include non-bailable and cognizable offences. Section 8-A also stipulates that the person who rejects the offence bears the burden of evidence.

Indian Penal Code, 1860

The appropriate aim of criminal law is not simply dowry concerns, but also the violence associated with dowry. Due to the failure of dowry regulations and an increase in the number of dowry deaths, the Criminal Code was amended in 1983 and 1986, adding sections 304-B and 498-A. In summary, there are four scenarios in which a married woman is subjected to cruelty and harassment that results in the commission of an offence.

To begin, IPC Section 304-B Dowry Death: – “Dowry Death” is defined as a woman’s death caused by burns or bodily injury, or under unnatural circumstances, within seven years of her marriage, where it is proven that she was harassed or subjected to cruelty by her husband or his relatives in relation to dowry, and is punishable by a term of seven years to life imprisonment. Seven years would be regarded a cut period due to the seven steps made by the bride and groom of the sacred nuptial fire to complete their marriage, each step being equal to one year. In the case of State of Punjab v. Iqbal Singh, the Supreme Court indicated that the seven-year period is deemed to be chaotic, and that the legislature thought that the couple would have settled down in life after that time.

The term dowry is not defined in the Indian Penal Code, but the section 304-B explanation states that it has the same meaning as the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, which is defined in section 2(1).

Dowry death essentials under section 304-B:

1. Death was caused by burns, bodily harm, or other circumstances that were not usual.

2. She should have died within the first seven years of her marriage.

3. The woman must have been subjected to abuse or harassment by her husband or his family members.

4. Cruelty or harassment should occur in the context of a dowry demand and shortly before death.

The Supreme Court concluded in Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana that if the prosecution can demonstrate the elements of section 304-B, IPC, the burden of proof of innocence falls to the defence. The provisions of section 304B of the Indian Penal Code are more rigorous than those of section 498A of the Penal Code. The offence is cognizable, non-bailable, and subject to a trial before a Sessions court.

Secondly, Cruelty on woman by Husband or Relatives-Section 498A, IPC: – When her husband or a member of his family treats her cruelly or harasses her. Cruelty by his husband or relatives is now punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine under section 498-A. Cruelty encompasses both emotional and physical torment. It includes any deliberate action that is likely to push a woman to commit suicide or put her life, limb, or health, mental or physical, in jeopardy, as well as harassment to pressure her or any other person into making an unlawful demand for dowries such as property or goods.

Third, Intentional Death of Women – Section 302 IPC: If a person intentionally causes the death of a woman, he or she is subject to the provisions of Section 302 IPC.

Fourth, Abetment of Woman’s Suicide- Section 306 IPC: If a husband and his relatives create a circumstance that leads to a woman’s suicide within seven years of marriage, section 306 IPC applies.

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

Sections 174 and 176, respectively, deal with police and judicial investigations and inquiries into the reasons of unnatural deaths. If a woman dies within seven years of marriage in a suicide or other suspicious circumstance, the amendment statute of 1983 makes it essential for police to transfer the body for post-mortem examination. It also gives executive magistrates the authority to investigate a woman’s death under comparable circumstances.

Indian Evidence Act, 1872

The burden of proof in dowry death has been shifted to the individual who is shown to have subjected the lady to cruelty or harassment shortly before her death, according to section 113B.

Because dowry offences are typically perpetrated in the privacy and obscurity of private houses, obtaining independent and direct evidence essential for conviction is difficult. As a result, section 113B of the Evidence Act of 1872 was inserted by Amendment Act 43 of 1986 to strengthen the prosecution’s hands by allowing a certain presumption to be raised if certain fundamental facts are established and the unfortunate incident of death occurs within seven years of marriage.

Despite the presumption, the standards of proof and defence will stay the same in the case of State of W.B v. Orilal Jaiswal.

Impediments In Implementation Of The Law

Once again, India’s affluent judicial system has failed to make any significant improvements to the sad scenario in which dowry victims find themselves. Almost all of the variables engaged in the application of laws have faults and infirmities: social features, police perceptions and attitudes, and infirmities inherent in the functioning of the medico-legal and judicial systems.

Social Factors 

Administration of justice in criminal situations is a difficult task in and of itself, and it becomes far more difficult when society lacks the bare minimum of social support. In most cases, family members are the only witnesses to transactions that result in domestic cruelty or harassment, as well as unnatural death, some of whom may be complicit and others who may not support due to family pressure. Neighbours, who may have information or proof against the perpetrators, are frequently afraid to testify for fear of jeopardising their neighbourly relationship. They annoy apprehend in terms of police and legal processes.

Police and Law Enforcement  

The police’s job in society is to protect the general public, but in reality, an act of police creates dread in the minds of the general people. The police are also accused of having attitudes, behaviours, and perceptions that make it less likely for laws to be implemented successfully in the current situation. The most common complaints made by the public against police are that they arrive too late at a crime site, misrepresent the events when recording the First Information Report, always try to portray dowry deaths as suicide, and conduct investigations in a less professional and slow manner. The police treat domestic abuse against women as a family matter, and they are always reluctant to file a report. Some of the police flaws can be seen in Supreme Court cases, such as Bhagwant Singh v. Commr. of Police Delhi, where the Apex Court found that the rate of unnatural deaths is far greater than police reported. Police diaries are not kept correctly and are not presented to a magistrate in a timely manner. The investigating officer regularly changed, which had a negative impact on the investigation.


Dowry death is a social blight that is a hot topic in Indian society. Deterrent punishment for dowry deaths perpetrators by women’s welfare organisations, police, public officials, and the judiciary. It can be seen that the Indian government, in collaboration with the Indian judiciary, creates cooperative and supporting legislation to protect women’s lives and dignity, as well as to provide additional justice to victims of harassment or cruelty by their husbands and family. Changes in the educational system have improved women’s educational status, and door-to-door job services will reduce dowry deaths. Nonetheless, specific corrective measures must be implemented in order to eliminate or at least reduce the social threat of dowry death, but most crucially, a public will and determination to reject the materialistic greed of dowry demands is required.


Navdeep Chugh · June 16, 2022 at 10:02 am

good work

gralion torile · August 25, 2022 at 11:40 am

I got good info from your blog

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