IEP DEHRADUN AUGUST 11, 2022
DOWRY PROHIBHITION ACT 1961
Dowry refers to the money and property given by the bride’s family to the groom’s family on the occasion of their marriage. The Dowry Prohibition act was passed on May 1stin the year 1961which made the receiving and giving of dowry illegal in India. It is applicable to every individual irrespective of their caste and religion. Violation of the act is punishable with imprisonment not less than 6 months but which can be extended for life depending on the nature of the crime. An additional fine of rupees 10,000 is also charged. In the year 1983the law was amended to add section 304B and 498A of the Indian penal code in its framework to make it easier for a wife/bride to file a complaint and seek redressal.Sec304B deals with the laws related to the death of a woman within 7 years of marriage. While sec 498B is related to cruelty (mental and physical) subjected upon a woman.
Dowry was and still is the bone of contention for the death of various women in India and the act was passed to ensure the safety of women from being subjected to various offences like cruelty , torture etc which are mainly committed due to a dispute on dowry. The act has been amended various times but still the violence related to it is prevalent and now there is another challenge on the rise that is the misuse of dowry act by the women for egocentric purposes.
CAUSES FOR THE MISUSE OF THE DOWRY ACT
There are various causes for the misuse of the act but first and foremost, it is because the laws are stringent in nature. It is a non bailable and non compoundable offence making it onerous for the accused and his family to get bail. Due to such strict framework of this act the women have started misusing it to a great extent for malicious and other purposes. Further, the laws are clearly victim biased; the universally followed doctrine of innocent until proven guilty is reversed in the case of the dowry act .Here the accused is considered to be guilty until proven innocent. The major reason for the misuse is to attain monetary benefit from the spouse and his family such as properties, huge amounts of cash , etc. In India out of 4,66,079 cases that were pending in the beginning of the year 2013 ,only 7,528 were convicted while 38,165 were acquitted and 8,218 were withdrawn. Every year 90,000 -1,00,000 dowry cases are filed and a huge proportion of them turns out to be false which makes the law one of the most abused laws in the country. In the year 2011 a trial court termed the misuse of the act as legal terrorism.
CASES RELATED TO THE MISUSE OF THE DOWRY ACT
The Nisha Sharma dowry case was a landmark anti dowry lawsuit and it showcased how the various laws under the dowry prohibition act can be misused. It started in the year 2003 and continued till 2012.Nisha accused her fiancé Munish Dalal of demanding dowry and the case was covered by Indian as well as International media. In the year 2012 the court acquitted all the accused. It was found that and all the allegations against the accused were false and Nisha misused the law to avoid getting married to her fiancé. Another lawsuit Ansh Kumar Vs The State Of Bihar was a landmark judgement where the court stated that sec 498A was a deadly weapon in the hands of the disgruntled wives and led to the conviction of innocent people without any evidence which was due to the non – bailable framework of the law.
IMPACT OF THE FALSE ALLEGATIONS ON THE VICTIM
The men and their family have to bear with various consequences as a result of the injustice done to them. A complaint by the wife/ bride grants the right to the police to arrest the accused without a warrant. They are then tortured and harassed by the police which further leads to mental trauma and humiliation.Majority of the times the accused and his family commit suicide because of the social stigma . To add on, the respondent suffers huge financial losses and false conviction also negatively affects their career and reputation. A huge financial and mental strain is developed on the accused and their families.
In the previous judgements the Supreme court has stated that the provisions of the dowry act needs to be re- examined. While in the past years every case that resulted in a conviction, five other cases resulted in an acquittal and one case was withdrawn with the result being that only one out of seven cases resulted in a conviction. Hence the government should work on possible ways to safeguard the rights of both men and women and conduct a preliminary inquiry before making arrests to curb the misuse of the act. It was passed to act as a shield for the women but instead is being used as a weapon by them. (The writer is Riya Bhatia, student of THE Montessari School, Uttarakhand)