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Recently, a Jodhpur based magistrate ordered the filing of an FIR against the father of a bride who had paid dowry during her wedding. Should dowry payers also be penalised?
The winds of change are here! We have come across several stories of grooms and their parents in India being subjected to punishment by the courts for the crime of dowry harassment; however, when was the last time you heard of someone being tried in a court of law for giving dowry in his daughter’s marriage?
This case goes down as a one of its kind and an extremely rare one, especially in Rajasthan where the Indian judiciary has recently pulled up a man for giving dowry in his daughter’s marriage and asked the cops to file an FIR against him. The constitutional provisions laid under the Dowry Prohibition Act have been exercised for the first time in a metropolitan court in Jodhpur, Rajasthan.
The case dates back to 2017, (relating to which the order was passed very recently) when Ram Lal, a retired Army soldier got his daughter Manisha married to Kailash, who is a software engineer by profession. Ram Lal claimed that Kailash resumed his job in Noida and left his daughter behind with her in-laws after the marriage. He also alleged that her in-laws deliberately prevented Manisha from living with her husband and when Ram Lal took her to Noida, Kailash refused to entertain her.
Owing to this Ram Lal registered a case against his son-in-law and his family for receiving dowry in the Jodhpur court, wherein he said that he had provided many things apart from Rupees one lakh as part of the dowry. To that, the groom’s counsel argued in the court that if taking dowry was a crime, a case should also be filed against the complainant Ram Lal for giving dowry.
Admitting the case, the magistrate directed the local police to also file a complaint against Ram Lal for giving dowry, which actually is a legal offence under Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961.
It is the first case of its kind in Rajasthan where the father of a bride has been rebuked by the court for having offered dowry in the first place.
The section 3 (1) of the Dowry Prohibition Act bars giving, taking or abetting dowry.
According to this act, ‘dowry’ means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly:
The act states that such an offence shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years, and a fine which shall not be less than fifteen thousand rupees or the amount of the value of such dowry, whichever is more. The law also states that at the same time the Act, though a piece of social legislation, is a penal statute. Courts are directed to critically analyse the evidence in such cases and adjudicate in a realistic manner.
However, there is negligible data available where counter cases have been filed in such cases. Although the Act envisages punishment for both giving and taking dowry, there is a saving clause that the complainant cannot be punished for the same. According to the Act, “Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force, a statement made by the person aggrieved by the offence shall not subject such person to a prosecution under this Act.”
The reasoning behind this inclusion was that if the government starts punishing the complainant, no would come forward to complain about dowry harassment.
In that context, perhaps this particular case holds much more relevance. B
In 2015, according to the staggering figures provided by the Indian National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 7634 deaths due to dowry were reported. This means, on an average, 21 dowry related deaths are reported across the country every single day.
In 2012, 8233 dowry deaths (by murder or suicide) cases were reported across India, which clearly means a dowry related crime causes the death of a woman every 90 minutes in India. Surprisingly though, even after a charge sheet being filed against more than 90 percent of the accused, the data reveals that not even 40 percent are convicted.
Although, the proceedings against the bride’s father, Ram Lal are yet to begin, the court’s order to file an FIR sends a strong message around dowry driven society norms; it can create a change that one who gives dowry should also be held equally responsible for contributing to this regressive customary practice. The case in itself is exemplary, in terms of its potential to bring about a much needed change in the prevalent mindset.
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