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Marriage is taken into account as a sacred union in India . The social evil of dowry system has been connected to the construct of wedding associated has become an inevitable a part of wedding business within the society.

The modern issue isn't concerning the giving of dowry , however the blunt demand created by the family of the bridegroom that ends up in exploitation of the bride’s family. Disguised within the name of tradition, it's become a norm and is followed in numerous parts of the country. Most people in our society fails to meet the unfair demands of dowry created by the bridegroom’s family which ends up within the bridegroom’s family torturing the bride once wedding each physically and showing emotion, and in several cases causes dowry death. Dowry deaths refers to a situation in which brides kill or their husbands kill them once at their wedding due to their discontent caused by the failure of the brides’ families in paying dowries.

The study of dowry death in India is crucial to know the cause , extent and to prevent dowry death which has been the reason for loss of the many young innocent lives.

History Of Dowry in India

The dowry system in India refers to the goods, cash, and movable property given to the bridegroom, his family, relatives by the bride’s parents as a condition of marriage. It is given in the form of variety of cash, jewelry, utensils, crockery, bedding, electrical appliances, furniture, vehicles and other essential household things that will help the newlyweds to put up their house.Evidence of the dowry system in India comes from the kings who ruled, the upper castes and granting lands to their daughters. The system withstood even during the time of the muslim leaders. British colonists evaded intruding within the matters regarding private laws. Earlier there was no compulsion to produce a dowry, and were done voluntarily watching the status of the groom and his family. Several castes have imitated the social evil of the dowry system. It has deepened its roots and has taken the vulgar form. . . In western Europe and America, it faded because women became more independent and made sovereign choices of their life partner. But it is still flourishing in India .

Cause Of Increase in Dowry Deaths

Low literacy rate

Lack of education is a major contributing factor to the increase in dowry deaths. In places having low literacy level among the women , makes them less aware of their rights and the remedies against the torture they are facing in the name of dowry at their husband’s house.It also makes the fact clear that the husband and his family does not know the legal consequences of torturing a women in the name of dowry.

The comparison of these two statistical data makes it clear that the states with the lowest literacy rates are also the states with the highest rate of dowry deaths.

Economic Factors

There are a number of economic factors that contribute towards the system of dowry. These include inheritance systems and the bride's economic status.

Some research points to economics and weak legal institutions on inheritance, placing women in disadvantage with inheritance beings left only to sons. This makes women dependent upon their husbands and in her in-laws Who keep the dowry after the marriage. In 1956, India had given equal legal status to daughters and also sons among Hindu. Sikh, Jain families under the Hindu succession Act.

Law Provisions For Dowry Death

With the growing range of dowry deaths in India, the Government has laid certain guidelines to deal with such instances and the legal guidelines have additionally been amended for strengthening the legal system to shield and guide the sufferers who come under the cases of dowry deaths or cruelty. It includes Indian Penal Code (I.P.C.), The Indian Evidence Act (I.E.A.), Criminal ,Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) and The Dowry Prohibition Act (D.P.A.), to shield the women from being subjected to Dowry Deaths or Cruelty springing up out of disputes associated with dowry.

Indian Penal Code

Section 304 – B of the I.P.C. deals with Dowry Death. It says:

(1) Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs

otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage

and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or

harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for. Such cruelty is for, in connection with, any demand for dowry , such death shall be called ‘dowry death’, and such husband or deemed to have caused her death .

(2) Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprisonment which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment

for life.

Essentials of dowry deaths under Section 304 – B of I.P.C. are as follows:

1.Death was caused by burns or bodily injury or otherwise than under ordinary circumstances.

2. Death should have occurred within seven years of the marriage.

3.Woman must have been subjected to cruelty or harassment by husband or his relatives.

4.Such cruelty or harassment should be in connection with demand of dowry.

5.Such cruelty or harassment should have been subjected soon before her death.

The offense under Section 304-B Is Cognizable, Non – Bailable, Non – Compoundable and triable by Court of Session.

Section 498 – A of the I.P.C. deals with the Husband or relative of the husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty. That further says:

Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such

woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend

to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Ingredients of Section 498 – A of I.P.C. are as follows:

1. The woman should be a married woman.

2. The married woman should be the subject of the cruelty or harassment.

3. The harassment or cruelty should be done by the husband or by the husband's relatives.

4. There should be a Mens Rea on the part of husband or husband’s relatives.

∙ It is a Cognizable, Non – Bailable, Non – Compoundable offenses

Indian Evidence Act

Section 113B deals with presumption as to dowry death. It says that when the question is whether a person has been responsible for the dowry death of a woman, it is shown that soon before death she had been subjected to cruelty or harassment for, or in connection with dowry or demand for dowry, then the court shall presume that such person caused dowry death of that woman.

Dowry Prohibition Act 1961

The first national legislation pertinent to dowry prohibition came in the year 1961 to deal with the existing dowry system ,and it was enacted as the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961.

1) Section 1 – Short title, extent and commencement

2) Section 2 – Definition of “dowry”

3) Section 3 – Penalty for giving or taking dowry

4) Section 4 – Penalty for demanding dowry

5) Section 4A – Ban on advertisement

6) Section 5 – Agreement for giving or taking dowry to be void

7) Section 6 – Dowry to be for the benefit of

the wife or her heirs

8) Section 7 – Cognizance of offense

9) Section 8 – Offenses to be cognizable for certain purposes and to be non-bailable and non-compoundable

10) Section 8A – Burden of proof in certain cases

11) Section 8B – Dowry Prohibition Officers

12) Section 9 – Power to make rules

13) Section 10 – Power of State Government to make rules

These are the 10 sections of the Act

Landmark Judgements

In the case Satbir singh vs State of Haryana,

Satbir’s marriage took place on 1st july 1994. On 31st july 1995 , after one year of marriage satbir’s wife died because of burning caused by cruelty and harassment given by satbir and others.

Case was filed under section 304B and 306 of IPC.Before death, satbir’s wife suffers cruelty and harassment because of the dowry. On 11th july 1997, Trial Court found satbir and his brother guilty for the offense under section 304 B AND 306 of IPC and gave rigorous imprisonment. An appeal was filed in 1998, in punjab and haryana high court against trial court judgment. In 2008, the High court dismissed their appeal, after which they approached the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held that all the essential ingredients for dowry death have been proved by the prosecution and presumption under 113 b section shall apply.

In case of Mustafa Shahadal Shaikh v. the State of Maharashtra (2012), the ratio decidendi of the court states that the language used under Section 304-B, “soon before death” does not describe any definite time frame as such under both the Indian Penal Code as well as under Section 113-B of Indian Evidence Act. Accordingly, the term “Soon before death” could be determined by Courts depending upon the facts & circumstances of the case. However, it would imply that the interval should not be much between the cruelty or harassment concerned and the death in question. If the alleged incident of cruelty is remote in time and has become stale enough not to disturb the mental equilibrium of the woman concerned, it would have no consequence[1]


Women are regarded as the backbone of society, and killing or burning them only for the sake of dowry is itself a shameful act . Strong and stringent measures should be taken by the government to reduce the number of dowry deaths in our country and to make sure that no girl or her family is being tortured either mentally or physically in the name of dowry and to make sure all girls of the country can live without fear . The laws should be made in such a way that marriage shall be thought to be a Union of Happiness and Bliss ,not amounting to fear and burden for the girl and her family.


Websites Referred:

Legal Search Engine Referred:

SCC online

Indian Kanoon

Case mine

Books Referred:

The Indian Penal Code, 1860

The Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

This article is written by Vk Sanjana Krishnan of Bharata Mata School Of Legal Studies.

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