The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

What is this law about?

  • This Act prohibits the practice of giving or taking of dowry by either parties to a marriage. This law also punishes demanding and advertising dowry.

  • It imposes a duty on parties getting married to make a list of gifts and presents.

  • If dowry has been exchanged at a wedding anyway, it imposes a duty on the person who is given dowry to give it to the bride.

  • Note that the more serious crimes in relation to dowry such as dowry death and cruelty from dowry demands are punishable under the general law on crimes – the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Who can be punished under this Act?

  • Any person who gives or takes dowry (minimum punishment of five years);

  • Any person who helps someone to give or take dowry;

  • Anyone who in any way demands dowry;

  • Anyone who advertises and offers to give money or property in return for marrying his son, daughter or relative;

  • Anyone who publishes these advertisements;

  • Anyone who does not hand over the dowry to the bride within the specified time.

Updated till Jan, 2017
The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 ACT NO. 28 OF 1961. [20th May, 1961] An Act to prohibit the giving or taking of dowry.
BE it enacted by Parliament in the Twelfth Year of the Republic of India as follows:

1. Short title, extent and commencement.—

(1) This Act may be called the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
(2) It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
(3) It shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint.
This law applies everywhere in India other than Jammu and Kashmir.It has been in place from July 1, 1961.

2. 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 parent of either party to a marriage or by any other person, to either party to the marriage or to any other person, at or before or any time after the marriage in connection with 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 II.— The expression “valuable security” has the same meaning as in section 30 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).

What is 'dowry'?

Dowry is Given by Given to
Anything of value including money and property Bride or groom, their parents or anyone else Bride or groom, their parents or anyone else
  • The dowry could be given at any time in connection with the marriage.
  • According to the personal laws for Muslims, the wife is entitled to either money or property from her husband when she gets married. This is known as dower or mahr and is not considered as dowry.
  • An agreement for dowry is punishable, even if the actual dowry has not been paid.

3. Penalty for giving or taking dowry.—

(1) If any person, after the commencement of this Act, gives or takes or abets the giving or taking of dowry, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years, and with fine which shall not be less than fifteen thousand rupees or the amount of the value of such dowry, whichever is more: Provided that the Court may, for adequate and special reasons to be recorded in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than five years.
(2) Nothing in sub-section (1) shall apply to, or in relation to,— (a) presents which are given at the time of a marriage to the bride (without any demand having been made in that behalf): Provided that such presents are entered in a list maintained in accordance with the rules made under this Act; (b) presents which are given at the time of a marriage to the bridegroom (without any demand having been made in that behalf): Provided that such presents are entered in a list maintained in accordance with the rules made under this Act: Provided further that where such presents are made by or on behalf of the bride or any person related to the bride, such presents are of a customary nature and the value thereof is not excessive having regard to the financial status of the person by whom, or on whose behalf, such presents are given.

What is the punishment for giving or taking dowry?

Who can be punished Jail time Fine Exceptions
- Any person who gives or takes dowry - Any person who helps someone give or take dowry Minimum 5 years Amount of the dowry. If the amount is less than Rs. 15000, then the fine is Rs. 15000. Court can impose lesser jail time for special reasons
Example: Say Raj and Simran are getting married. Simran's father, Sitapati gives Rs. 10 lakh and a car as dowry to Ram's father Raja Bhoj. Both Sitapati and Raja Bhoj can be punished with 5 years' jail time. They will also be asked to pay a fine of Rs. 10 lakh and the value of the car.

Is giving of gifts or presents a crime?

4. Penalty for demanding dowry.—

If any person demands, directly or indirectly, from the parents or other relatives or guardian of a bride or bridegroom, as the case may be, any dowry, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months, but which may extend to two years and with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees: Provided that the court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than six months.

What is the punishment for demanding dowry?

Who can be punished Jail time Fine Exceptions
- Anyone who in any way demands dowry from anyone related to the bride or the groom Between 6 months to 2 years Up to Rs. 10,000. Court can impose lesser jail time for special reasons
Example:On the day of the wedding, Raja Bhoj (groom's father) asks the marriage broker Supandi to tell Sitapati (bride's father) that he will not let the wedding happen if he is not given Rs. 10 lakh as dowry. Sitapati can go to the police station to make a complaint against Raja Bhoj and Supandi for demanding dowry from Sitapati.

4A. Ban on advertisement.—

If any person,— (a) offers, through any advertisement in any newspaper, periodical, journal or through any other media, any share in his property or of any money or both as a share in any business or other interest as consideration for the marriage of his son or daughter or any other relative; (b) prints or publishes or circulates any advertisement referred to in clause (a), he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months, but which may extend to five years, or with fine which may extend to fifteen thousand rupees: Provided that the Court may, for adequate and special reasons to be recorded in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than six months.

What is the punishment for advertising giving of dowry?

Who can be punished Jail time Fine Exceptions
- Anyone who advertises and offers to give money, share in a business or property in return for marrying his son, daughter or relative - Anyone who publicizes this kind of advertisements. Between 6 months to 5 years Up to Rs. 15,000. Court can impose lesser jail time for special reasons
Example:Sitapati advertises in the newspaper that he will give half his estate to anyone who marries his daughter. Sitapati can be punished for advertising the offer for dowry and the newspaper publisher can be punished for sharing it with people.

5. Agreement for giving or taking dowry to be void.—

Any agreement for the giving or taking of dowry shall be void.
Example:Raja Bhoj cannot go to court if Sitapati refuses to pay the dowry, even though they might have agreed to it earlier. The law treats such agreements as 'void' - the agreement will be treated as if it never happened. It has no legal effect.

6. Dowry to be for the benefit of the wife or her heirs.—

(1) Where any dowry is received by any person other than the woman in connection with whose marriage it is given, that person shall transfer it to the woman— (a) if the dowry was received before marriage, within three months after the date of marriage; or (b) if the dowry was received at the time of or after the marriage, within three months after the date of its receipt; or (c) if the dowry was received when the woman was a minor, within three months after she has attained the age of eighteen years, and pending such transfer, shall hold it in trust for the benefit of the woman.
(2) If any person fails to transfer any property as required by sub-section (1) within the time limit specified therefor, or as required by sub-section (3), he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months, but which may extend to two years or with fine which shall not be less than five thousand rupees, but which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with both.
(3) Where the woman entitled to any property under sub-section (1) dies before receiving it, the heirs of the woman shall be entitled to claim it from the person holding it for the time being: Provided that where such woman dies within seven years of her marriage, otherwise than due to natural causes, such property shall,— (a) if she has no children, be transferred to her parents; or (b) if she has children, be transferred to such children and pending such transfer, be held in trust for such children.
(3A) Where a person convicted under sub-section (2) for failure to transfer any property as required by sub-section (1) or sub-section (3) has not, before his conviction under that sub-section, transferred such property to the woman entitled thereto or, as the case may be, her heirs, parents or children the Court shall, in addition to awarding punishment under that sub-section, direct, by order in writing, that such person shall transfer the property to such woman or, as the case may be,her heirs, parents or children within such period as may be specified in the order, and if such person fails to comply with the direction within the period so specified, an amount equal to the value of the property may be recovered from him as if it were a fine imposed by such Court and paid to such woman or, as the case may be, her heirs, parents or children.
(4) Nothing contained in this section shall affect the provisions of section 3 or section 4.

Who should get the dowry, if it has been given at the time of the marriage?

If the dowry has passed hands at or after a wedding anyway, the person taking it has to hand it over to the woman.Example:
  • Say Raj and Simran get married on August 20th. Simran's father has given a car as dowry to Raj's uncle, Aman. Aman must give it to Simran.
  • If the property was received before the wedding, then Aman must give it to Simran within 3 months of the wedding (before 20th November).
  • If the property was received on the day of the wedding or after, then Aman must give it to Simran within 3 months of the date when he received it.
  • If Simran was below 18 at the time of her wedding, then Aman must give the car to Simran within 3 months of her turning 18. Aman must keep it in trust for her till she turns 18.

What is the punishment for not handing over the dowry?

Example: Continuing with the previous example, if Aman doesn't hand over the car to Simran on time, he can be punished with jail time of between 6 months and 2 years. He can also be asked to pay a fine of between Rs. 5000 and Rs. 10000.If by any chance Simran dies before Aman gave her the car, her heirs can claim it from Aman.
  • An heir is a person who is legally entitled to your property on your death.
If Simran dies due to unnatural causes within 7 years of her marriage, the property will be transferred to her children. It will be held in trust for them until they are 18. If she has no children, the property will go to her parentsSay a case has been filed against Aman for not handing over the car in any of the situations in this provision. The court has found him guilty and convicted him for violating the law. However, he still has not transferred the car to Simran or her children/parents.The court will then pass an order against Aman to hand over the property within a specific period. If Aman still does not hand over the car, the court will recover the amount as if it were a court fine.

7. Cognizance of offences.—

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974),— (a) no Court inferior to that of a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the first class shall try any offence under this Act; (b) no Court shall take cognizance of an offence under this Act except upon— (i) its own knowledge or a police report of the facts which constitute such offence, or (ii) a complaint by the person aggrieved by the offence or a parent or other relative of such person, or by any recognized welfare institution or organisation; (c) it shall be lawful for a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the first class to pass any sentence authorised by this Act on any person convicted of an offence under this Act. Explanation.— For the purposes of this sub-section, “recognized welfare institution or organisation” means a social welfare institution or organisation recognized in this behalf by the Central or State Government.
(2) Nothing in Chapter XXXVI of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974) shall apply to any offence punishable under this Act.
(3) 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.

In which courts can a trial under this law happen?

The trial of a crime under this law can only happen in:
  • Metropolitan Magistrate (urban areas with a large population usually have such courts)
  • Judicial Magistrate (First Class)
  • any higher court (e.g. Sessions Court)

How does a case under this law come to court?

The judicial process in a court starts when it comes to know that a crime under this law has been committed from:
  • judge's knowledge;
  • police have filed a charge-sheet (or a police report);
  • private complaint from a victim or relative of victim; or
  • complaint by a government recognized welfare organization.

Is there a time limit for filing a complaint?

Unlike the general law on criminal procedure which contains time limits on prosecuting certain crimes, there is no time limit on when you can file a complaint under this law.

Can I file a complaint even if I have paid dowry?

Yes, if you have been a victim of dowry taking and have been forced to pay dowry, you can still file a complaint against the offenders. The statements you make to the police or before the Court cannot be used against you.

8. Offences to be cognizable for certain purposes and to be non-bailable and non-compoundable.—

(1) The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974), shall apply to offences under this Act as if they were cognizable offences— (a) for the purposes of investigation of such offences; and (b) for the purposes of matters other than— (i) matters referred to in section 42 of that Code; and (ii) the arrest of a person without a warrant or without an order of a Magistrate.
(2) Every offence under this Act shall be non-bailable and non-compoundable.

Treatment of crimes under this law:

Crimes under this law are treated 'cognizable' (except for the purpose of arrest). The law on criminal procedure treats more serious crimes as 'cognizable' - the police can start investigation into such a crime without the permission of a Magistrate.Crimes under this law are also:
  • Non-bailable: A person arrested under this law cannot get bail as a matter of right. He or she will have to make an application to the Court - the Court has the power to decide if you can be granted bail after your arrest.
  • Non-compoundable: Certain less serious crimes can be settled by the victim and the accused. However, crimes under this law cannot be settled in this manner.

8A. Burden of proof in certain cases.—

Where any person is prosecuted for taking or abetting the taking of any dowry under section 3, or the demanding of dowry under section 4, the burden of proving that he had not committed an offence under these sections shall be on him.
Example:If Simran makes a complaint that Raj has asked her family for dowry, then Raj has to prove that he had not asked for dowry.

8B. Dowry Prohibition Officers.—

(1) The State Government may appoint as many Dowry Prohibition Officers as it thinks fit and specify the areas in respect of which they shall exercise their jurisdiction and powers under this Act.
(2) Every Dowry Prohibition Officer shall exercise and perform the following powers and functions, namely:— (a) to see that the provisions of this Act are complied with; (b) to prevent, as far as possible, the taking or abetting the taking of, or the demanding of, dowry; (c) to collect such evidence as may be necessary for the prosecution of persons committing offences under the Act; and (d) to perform such additional functions as may be assigned to him by the State Government, or as may be specified in the rules made under this Act.
(3) The State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, confer such powers of a police officer as may be specified in the notification on the Dowry Prohibition Officer who shall exercise such powers subject to such limitations and conditions as may be specified by rules made under this Act.
(4) The State Government may, for the purpose of advising and assisting Dowry Prohibition Officers in the efficient performance of their functions under this Act, appoint an Advisory Board consisting of not more than five social welfare workers (out of whom at least two shall be women) from the area in respect of which such Dowry Prohibition Officer exercises jurisdiction under sub-section (1).
This section talks about the appointment of Dowry Prohibition Officers, their powers and functions and ways in which the state Government can support them.It also talks about an advisory board which can be appointed by the State Government for advising and assisting the Dowry Prohibition Officers.

9. Power to make rules.—

(1) The Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, make rules for carrying out the purposes of this Act.
(2) In particular, and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such rules may provide for (a) the form and manner in which, and the persons by whom, any list of presents referred to in sub-section (2) of section 3 shall be maintained and all other matters connected therewith; and (b) the better co-ordination of policy and action with respect to the administration of this Act.
(3) Every rule made under this section shall be laid as soon as may be after it is made before each House of Parliament while it is in session for a total period of thirty days which may be comprised in one session or in two or more successive sessions, and if, before the expiry of the session immediately following the session or the successive sessions aforesaid, both Houses agree in making any modification in the rule or both Houses agree that the rule should not be made, the rule shall thereafter have effect only in such modified form or be of no effect, as the case may be; so however that any such modification or annulment shall be without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under that rule.
This section talks about the power of the Central Government to make rules in relation to:
  • List of presents to be maintained under this law.
  • Administration of this law.

10. Power of State Government to make rules.—

(1) The State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, make rules for carrying out the purposes of this Act.
(2) In particular, and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such rules may provide for all or any of the following matters, namely:— (a) the additional functions to be performed by the Dowry Prohibition Officers under sub-section (2) of section 8B; (b) limitations and conditions subject to which a Dowry Prohibition Officer may exercise his functions under sub-section (3) of section 8B.
(3) Every rule made by the State Government under this section shall be laid as soon as may be after it is made before the State Legislature.
This section talks about the power of the State Government to make rules with relation to functions of the Dowry Prohibition Officers and the limitations on those functions.