31 Dec 2007

Does a marriage gift constitute dowry?

This newspiece does lead to curiosity. This recent SLP admitted by the Supreme Court asks the question, "does a marriage gift constitute dowry". [click here to read the background] I am quiet unsure as to why this petition came up to be admitted for this implies there must have been a 'substantial question of law' involved in the matter, whereas Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 removes any doubts to that regard.

This Section 2 reads; "Definition of "dowry". In this Act, "dowry" means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly- (a) by one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage; or (b) by the parents of either party to a marriage or by a other person, to either party to the marriage or to any other person; at or before or after the marriage us consideration for the marriage of the said parties, but does not include dower or mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies. Explanation I.-For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declare that any presents made at the time of a marriage to either party to the marriage in the form of cash, ornaments, clothes or other articles, shall not be deemed to be dowry within the meaning of this section, unless they are made as consideration for the marriage of the said parties." [click to see the entire Act]

Therefore, the gifts in cash or kind do not constitute dowry if the intention behind giving those gifts is not to secure the marriage. In an awareness-spreading note, another lawyer submits the same view point.

Nonetheless I am anticipating a legal battle for the use of term 'customary gift' may be crucial. Like, if it is a custom in the areas to give a gift at the time of the marriage and without the gift marriage cannot take place, it may well be a compulsion on the part of one family to give the gift, which should technically qualify as dowry. It would therefore be a question more of evidence than law but still, it a trial worth watching.

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