Mar 2, 2022

Court recognises the danger to women living in dowry-matrimonial homes 

The Kerala High Court, while dismissing an anticipatory bail plea, noted that ‘matrimonial homes have become the most dangerous place to live for women and the number of cases being reported in our country is alarming’. 


What is dowry?

Dowry is any property or valuable legal document which someone gives to the other party of the marriage, before, during or after the marriage. Dowry does not include marriage presents which people voluntarily give to the bride or bridegroom.


Is giving or taking dowry illegal?

Yes. Courts can punish anyone who gives or takes dowry with jail time for up to five years. If the court decides to give a punishment of less than five years of jail time, it must give appropriate and special reasons in the judgement. The person also needs to pay a fine of at least Rupees fifteen thousand or the dowry value, whichever is more.


The punishment for demanding dowry from the parents or other relatives of a bride or bridegroom is jail time for six months to two years, and a fine up to Rupees ten thousand. However, the court can punish the person with less than six months of jail time after giving appropriate and special reasons in the judgement.


What is dowry death?

When a woman dies within seven years of her marriage due to burns, bodily injury, or other unusual circumstances, it is considered dowry death if soon before her death her husband or his relatives subjected her to dowry-related cruelty or harassment. In a dowry death case, the law assumes that the husband or relatives caused the woman’s death.


What is the punishment for dowry death?

The punishment for committing dowry death is jail time for at least seven years, which may extend to life imprisonment.


Is dowry harassment seen as cruelty towards the woman?

Yes. Cruelty means: 

  • Any deliberate behaviour which might push a woman to commit suicide or cause serious mental or physical injury to her life or health. 
  • Harassing a woman to force her or her relatives to fulfill an unlawful demand for dowry.


A husband or his relatives committing cruelty can be punished with jail time for up to three years and a fine. A woman facing cruelty can also file for a divorce from her husband.

To know more about your rights against dowry harassment, read our explainer.