Demand of Money for Construction Of A House Is A 'Dowry Demand': Supreme Court : Daily Current Affairs

Relevance: GS-2: Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes

Key Phrases: Physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse, sexual abuse, Section 304B IPC, Section 498A IPC, Coercion, CEDAW

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court observed that demand of money for construction of a house is a 'dowry demand' to attract offence under Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code.
  • The word "Dowry" ought to be ascribed an expansive meaning so as to encompass any demand made on a woman, whether in respect of a property or a valuable security of any nature.
  • The Apex Court bench, in its judgment delivered appeal filed by the State, listed four pre-requisites for convicting an accused for the offence punishable under Section 304- B as follows:
    • That the death of a woman must have been caused by burns or bodily injury or occurred otherwise than under normal circumstance;
    • That such a death must have occurred within a period of seven years of her marriage;
    • That the woman must have been subjected to cruelty or harassment at the hands of her husband, soon before her death; and
    • That such a cruelty or harassment must have been for or related to any demand for dowry.

Legal Status in India

  • Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961: Act was enacted to prohibit giving or taking of dowry.
  • Section 304-B of the IPC: It is about the Dowry death of a woman subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband.
  • Section 498-A of the IPC (offence of cruelty): Against the husband or his relative if the wife commits suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage.
  • Section 174 of CrPC: was also amended to secure Post Mortem in case of suicide or death of a woman within seven years of her marriage.
  • Section 113A: It has been introduced in the Evidence Act, 1872 raising a presumption of cruelty as defined under Section.

Causes of dowry tradition:

  • Traditions and historicity: It has been a preconceived notion of the people that the dowry system has been existing since centuries back and it is quintessential to be followed by the two families.
  • Social status associated with Dowry: It is a belief among people that dowry giving or receiving gives a lot of merit in reputation and honor within the society.
  • Fear of ill-treatment: Many families in India give dowry to get rid of their insecurity of ill-treatment of their daughters by their in-laws
  • Illiteracy: Although dowry is something that is even practiced by the literates of our society, it becomes a lot difficult to make them understand the laws.
  • Bridegroom coercion: The demand for the well-earned bridegroom in prestigious workplaces often encourages brides’ families to pay hefty dowries leading to the continuance of such evil customs.
  • Societal pressure: Many a time, it becomes a matter of status to give dowry. In Indian society, it has become a common phenomenon to measure one’s status by the amount of money one spends on their daughter’s marriage
  • Social constraints: Compulsion to marry within one’s caste or clan further intensifies the problem. These limitations deplete the pool of desirable grooms leading to a lack of desirable options thus helping the desirable side to demand more


  • Education:
    • If we have to reach out across the nation and make sure the mainstream community is at par with the nation’s prospects, education is a necessity.
    • Lack of education leads to irresponsible decisions leading to financial exploitation from a marriage relation.
  • Government initiative:
    • To ensure that people follow the laws, proper implementation should be carried out.
    • Both the Center and State governments should monitor the sentiments of the community and ensure that no dowry exchange exercises are carried out.
  • Initiating Mass Media Campaign:
    • Media holds the potential to remove dowry system from the mainstream Indian society.
    • By publishing related news and making the authorities aware of any reported case of dowry related crime, they can keep an effective check upon the prospects.
  • Law against dowry:
    • The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961:
      • This legislation prohibits the request, payment or acceptance of a dowry, “as consideration for the marriage”.
      • Here “dowry” is defined as a gift demanded or given as a precondition for a marriage.
      • Gifts given without a precondition are not considered dowry and are legal.
      • Asking or giving of dowry can be punished by imprisonment of up to six months, a fine of up to Rs. 15000 or the amount of dowry (whichever is higher), or imprisonment up to 5 years.
    • Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Evidence Act:
      • Section 304-B is about the Dowry death of a woman subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband.
      • Section 498-A (offence of cruelty) is Against the husband or his relative if the wife commits suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage.
    • Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005:
      • This act was passed in order to provide a civil law remedy for the protection of women from domestic violence in India.
      • This Act encompasses all forms of physical, verbal, emotional, economic and sexual abuse and forms a subset of the anti-dowry laws to the extent it is one of the reasons for domestic violence.
    • Accountability:
      • Under the Constitution of India ‘police’ and ‘public order’ are state subjects while marriage and divorce is a concurrent subject
      • The primary responsibility of prevention, detection, registration, investigation and prosecution of crime, lies with the state governments/union territory administrations.

Way forward

  • The dignity, modesty and safety of women must be prioritized by all. Abusing them just for dowry or any other financial favor is a shameful act in itself.
  • To prevent such heinous crimes stringent provisions and measures need to be undertaken by the government.
  • Eliminating gender-based violence is imperative as it violates the Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination(CEDAW) which is a constitutional obligation.

Sources: Live Law Indian Express , Times of India

Mains Question:

Q. In reference to the recent judgement passed by the Supreme Court of India discuss the causes of the Dowry menace in India and different ways to tackle this menace along with the legal provisions which are enshrined under Indian laws?