Doubts over proposed Dowry Act amendments
While the Centre is mulling over amending the Dowry Prohibition Act (DP Act) to change the definition of dowry and exclude from its purview voluntary gifts given to the bride by her family, city advocates say this can lead to misuse of the DP Act as the groom may try to pass off all demands of dowry as gifts.
Instead, lawyers say, the pending Bill on compulsory registration of gifts given and taken during marriage should be passed without delay to prevent confusion on dowry harassment cases.
In India, where the National Crime Records Bureau, statistics show more than 8,000 dowry deaths and around 2,500 bride burning cases occurring every year, the DP Act should be made more stringent, cutting down all loopholes in the law.
While under the law both giving and accepting dowry is a crime, there are hardly any cases against dowry givers. Despite demanding dowry, husbands use the term ‘customary presents’ given by the bride’s parents at the time of marriage.
Advocate Mr P. Subhash said, “The thin line separating dowry from voluntary gifts has to be made more concrete else there are chances of misuse of the DP Act and the very purpose of the Act would be defeated. As it is, very few dowry harassment cases end in conviction. Most cases get dismissed due to lack of evidence by an independent party. Also, the husband or his family invariably claims that ‘it was a gift and not dowry.’”
Family Court advocate Ms Anita Salabh Jain said that instead of modifying the definition of dowry, “registration of all movable and immovable gifts, cash and jewellery given or taken on the occasion of marriage should be made mandatory. Passing this Bill will prevent filing of false cases and making fake claims by disputing parties,” she said.