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Dowry – A Custom or a Crime (Legal Perspective)

by advocatetushar

The idea of a dowry dates back to the beginning of society. The ancient Hindus practised a crude version of dowry, but they referred to it by a number of different names. The custom of presenting presents to the newlywed couple at the wedding ceremony is very common in India. The bride’s parents give presents to the bride before the wedding. The unconditional love that parents feel for their offspring is the driving force behind this practise of gift-giving; however, over the course of history, this custom has become rigid and inextricably linked to a person’s place in society as well as the prestige of their family, which has caused significant damage to society.

The wedding ceremony, on the other hand, was not solely focused on the authoritarian institution. The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 includes a clause that provides a definition of the term “dowry.” The term “dowry” is defined here. In the context of this Act, the term “dowry” refers to any property or valuable security that is provided or agreed to be granted in any of the following ways: by one spouse to the other, during the course of a marriage, to the other spouse, or to either party to a marriage or to any other person; at, or before, or after the marriage as consideration for the marriage of the said parties; however, this does not include dower or mahr in the case of those to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies. This increase in the custom of giving dowry has led to the increase in the hiring of Best Divorce Lawyer in Delhi.

Every single day, our culture is becoming more and more susceptible to the effects of it.

The customary practise that was initially put into action discussed the act of parents presenting presents to their daughter, which was referred to as stridhan at the time. The terms “Stri” and “Dhan” are what the word “Stridhan” is composed of. The word “Stridhan” is an amalgamation of the two words. Which literally translates to “the property of women” (Dhan). The movable and immovable property owned by women is referred to as tree dhan. In some traditions, it was believed that married women would carry this stri dhan with them to heaven once they died.

Stri dhan, on the other hand, is legal, however dowry is not because dowry is a form of demand and is not voluntary. For this reason, stri dhan, on the one hand, is legal, whilst dowry is not legal.

The Customary Components That Are:

In order to be acknowledged as a customary practise, a conventional act needs to satisfy the following requirements:

Immemorial antiquity


Not opposed to the policies of the government


Immemorial antiquity

The condition that a valid custom must have been around since the beginning of time is the most important one. It ought to have been implemented ever since the beginning of the social order. It is impossible to recognise a tradition as a legitimate custom if it hasn’t been around for as long as society does.


A valid custom should not go against common sense. It should not go against the fundamental values of justice and morality, and it should be helpful to society as a whole.

Not opposed to the policies of the government

One of the most essential conditions that must be met for a tradition to be considered legitimate is that it must not run counter to established norms of public conduct. It shouldn’t be damaging to any individual or group of people, and it shouldn’t have a negative impact on anyone.


A tradition ought to be carried out in a continuous manner; there should be no pauses or breaks in the middle of it. It is impossible to consider behaviour to be a legitimate custom if it is abandoned in the midst of its execution.

As a Form of Tradition?

Dowry is a traditional ritual that dates back to the beginning of marriage. There are a number of historical writings that contain the provisions that are relevant to Dowry. In addition to this, the providing and receiving of dowry is also seen as an acceptable practise in accordance with these writings. It is possible to draw the conclusion that initially, dowry was recognised as a valid custom; however, as time progressed, people began to believe that it is in conflict with public policy, and as a result, the practise lost its recognition.

The Legislation Concerning Dowry

Along with the passage of time came an increase in the number of crimes committed against married women that involved the practise of dowry. The brides started becoming harassed, and incidences of cruelty started mounting, and the primary reason that was brought up was that the dowry wasn’t being paid. As a consequence of these factors, the legislators came to the conclusion that there was a requirement for the enactment of certain losses associated with the dowry.

For this reason, the Parliament of India enacted the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 in 1961. The act contains prohibitions for what will constitute a dowry and what would be the punishment for providing and taking a dowry. Also included in the act is a description of what will be considered a dowry.

Misapplication of Laws That Are Relating to Dowry

Each side of a coin is equally important. Any law that is passed with the intention of shielding a certain group from harm is susceptible to abuse in its most basic form. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of cases involving allegations of dowry payments being made.

Landmark Judgement

Kamesh Panjiyar @ kamlesh Panjiyar vs. State of Bihar [2]

The specifics of the situation

In this particular case, the departed Jaikali Devi got married to the person who is now the appellant. During the time of their marriage, the respondent asked and received a dowry in the amount of 40,000 Indian rupees (Rs).

Following the marriage, the appellant made a demand for a buffalo from the family of the dead, but they did not comply with this demand.

Because they were unable to fulfil this desire, his family began to torment the deceased member of their family. When the deceased person’s brother found out about the circumstance, he went to see the deceased person, but the family of the appellant humiliated him when he arrived.

After a few days had passed, the deceased person’s brother learned the news that his sister had passed away.

The body of the girl had several wounds all over her body when it was found. The appellant asserted that she suffered from some form of rheumatic disease that played a role in the circumstances surrounding her passing.


The appellant was judged to be responsible for the crime, and the Sessions court sentenced him to ten years in jail.

After the appellant presented their case to the High Court of Bihar, the court decided to lower the appellant’s sentence to seven years.

The verdict of the sessions court was supported by the Supreme Court, which stated that it was not required to produce direct evidence of causing death in order to be charged with an offence under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code. It is sufficient for the victim to have suffered cruelty prior to their death.


In addition to this provision, which should also be created to penalise those who misuse the law relating to dowry, it seems just and proper to indicate that law makers can make the restrictions relating to punishment for dowry more harsh. This appears to be a just and proper statement to make.


In conclusion, we would like to state that the practise of dowry can be traced back to the beginning of recorded history; however, the original nature of dowry shifted over the course of time, and as a result, its practise became incompatible with public policy. As a result, law makers passed the legislation that was mentioned earlier in order to protect the general public from the harmful effects of this social problem.

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