Demanding bike from wife & kin is also dowry, says Supreme Court

New Delhi, Feb 17, DH News Service:
The Supreme Court has rejected contention that demand of a motorcycle ‘for development of business’ would not fall within the ambit of dowry and has come up with a comprehensive definition of the menace.
According to a bench of Justices Aftab Alam and R M Lodha, “any demand for money, property or valuable security made from the bride or her parents or other relatives by the bridegroom or his parents or other relatives or vice versa in connection with the marriage will fall within the mischief of “dowry” under the Dowry Prohibition Act”.In its judgement, the Bench upheld a Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict confirming seven-year imprisonment awarded by a trial court to Bachni Devi and her son for causing the death of Kanta, wife of the second appellant. The death came after the accused demanded a motorcycle for “development” of his business from the victim’s father, Pale Ram, a rickshaw-puller.

Delivering the judgement, Justice Lodha said: “The mere demand for dowry before marriage, at the time of marriage or any time after the marriage is an offence. The 1961 Act has been amended by Parliament on more than on one occasion and by the Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 1986, Parliament brought in stringent provisions and provided for offence relating to dowry death.”

The court said the term dowry “is defined comprehensively to include properties of all sorts as it takes within its fold ‘any property or valuable security’ given or agreed to be given in connection with a marriage either directly or indirectly to be given or demanded ‘as consideration for the marriage’.”

The judges held: “The Act is a piece of social legislation which aims to check the growing menace of the social evil of dowry and it makes punishable not only the actual receiving of dowry but also the very demand for dowry made before or at the time or after the marriage where such demand is referable to the consideration of marriage. Dowry as a quid pro quo for marriage is prohibited to be understood as it is defined in Section 2 of the Act.”

The bench pointed out that it was clearly established from the facts of the case that Kanta died other than under normal circumstances within seven years of marriage and she was subjected to harassment and ill-treatment by the appellants after Pale Ram refused to accede to their demand, the Bench said. It directed accused Devi to surrender herself for undergoing the sentence. Her son is already in jail.

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