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Published On: 20th April, 2024

Authored By: Harmannat Kour
The Law School, University of Jammu


Dowry, a standing tradition, in societies, remains a topic of discussion and legal action due to its ongoing misuse and serious repercussions. Originally implemented to protect brides from demands laws against dowry have been modified times over the years. Despite these changes instances of abuse continue to emerge prompting concerns about their effectiveness and enforcement. The abuse of laws takes forms, such as false accusations against grooms and their families as well as extortion and harassment. These incidents not only undermine trust in the system but also contribute to societal tensions and injustices. Furthermore, the tragic outcome of disputes related to dowry is the occurrence of related deaths. These occurrences often masked as accidents or suicides result in the loss of women each year leaving families devastated and communities in shock. Dowry deaths serve as a reminder of the consequences of uncontrolled dowry practices and the inadequacy of legal mechanisms in addressing them effectively. While laws play a role in protecting women’s rights their misuse along with the heartbreaking issue of dowry deaths highlight the necessity, for a comprehensive approach that tackles both legal gaps and societal norms. We can only overcome the issue of secure justice and dignity, for those impacted by it through actions, in legal, social, and cultural domains.


Dowry Deaths, Misuse of Laws, Discrimination, Section 498A of IPC


Dowry has been a long-standing tradition in India, deeply rooted in the country’s cultural and social fabric. Giving dowry has been prevalent for centuries, with its origins dating back to ancient times. In traditional Indian society, dowry was seen as a way for the bride’s family to provide financial security for their daughter and ensure her well-being in her new marital home. However, over time, the practice of dowry has evolved into a system of extortion and exploitation, leading to numerous cases of domestic violence and even bride burning. Despite efforts by the government to outlaw dowry and empower women through education and economic opportunities, the practice continues to persist in many parts of India. Society must challenge these outdated norms and create a more equitable and just environment for women in India. Only then can we truly eradicate the harmful effects of the dowry system and ensure gender equality for all.


“Dowry” in the sense that it is considered by the Dowry Prohibition Act is a demand for property or valuable security that is inextricably linked to marriage, i.e., it is a consideration from the bride’s parents or relatives to the groom or his parents and/or guardians in exchange for the agreement to marry the bride-to-be.[1]

The roots of the dowry system in India are not well documented, however it has existed since ancient times. Historical sources, such as the Code of Manu, distinguish between dowry and bride’s riches, implying that the practice generated caste divisions. Dowry was referred to in ancient scriptures as ‘Yuatraka,’ an avaricious gift representing the uniting of two people in marriage. Dowry was performed in the form of ‘Stridhan,’ in which presents from parents and relatives formed the woman’s wealth, which could be used for her well-being, beginning with the Vedic period. However, historical shifts happened under British colonial administration, when land privatization was implemented. This modification reduced women’s property rights, resulting in the concept of dowry, which required brides to bring riches into their marriages. [2]

Over time, the system of dowry has been linked to a variety of bad effects, including murder, mental torture, and even suicide when wives are unable to satisfy the required riches. Grooms’ families frequently put pressure on brides to match these expectations, which resulted in different sorts of abuse and mistreatment.

 Dower (mahr) is a concept in Islamic law that assures that the bride is entitled to a certain amount of money or property from her husband upon marriage. The Quran promotes fair treatment and cooperation over the dower, which ensures the bride’s financial stability and autonomy.


Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) addresses the issue of cruelty by husbands or their relatives towards a woman, with the intent to coerce her or her relatives to meet unlawful demands for dowry. This section was inserted in the IPC in 1983 to provide more stringent measures to combat the prevalent issue of dowry-related harassment and violence against women in India. The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 had previously only punished the demand for dowry, while section 498A of the IPC punishes the cruelty caused by not fulfilling the demand of dowry. The implementation of Section 498A has been a subject of debate and critique. While it has been instrumental in providing legal recourse to women facing dowry harassment, there have been concerns about its misuse and the potential for false allegations. The law has been criticized for leading to the harassment of innocent family members and the dilution of the presumption of innocence. Despite the criticisms, it is essential to recognize the significance of Section 498A in addressing the pervasive issue of dowry-related violence and cruelty against women in India. The law has played a crucial role in empowering women to seek justice and protection from abusive and coercive behavior related to dowry demands. Section 498A of the IPC represents a crucial legal provision aimed at protecting women from dowry-related harassment and cruelty. While there are legitimate concerns about its misuse, it remains an essential tool in the fight for gender justice and the eradication of dowry-related violence in India. [3] [4] [5] [6]

One common reason for the misuse of Section 498A, which deals with dowry-related harassment, is the lack of awareness about the law. Many individuals, especially in rural areas, might not fully understand the legal implications and protections this law provides, leading to its misuse. Additionally, disputes within families or marital conflicts can result in false accusations under this section as a means of revenge or leverage in divorce proceedings. Furthermore, the pressure from family members to file false cases to settle personal scores or gain financial advantage is another significant reason behind the misuse of Section 498A. Singhal et al. (2015) highlight that societal expectations and gender dynamics can contribute to false allegations under Section 498A as well.


India has a disturbing pattern of dowry death, with 20 women dying every day as a result of dowry-related harassment, either murdered or forced to commit suicide. Following National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, a woman dies from dowry in India every hour on average, with an annual number of up to 7000. Another statistical fact that demonstrates the reality of our society and laws, as well as the inherent inadequacy of our legislative and judicial systems.[7]

Dowry is society’s collective greed and desire to flaunt their status, wealth, and the groom’s worth in society by displaying how much cash or other presents the groom received. The male-dominated framework of society, a system where women are considered as subordinates and men as superiors wielding all power, has given rise to this societal scourge. In a society in which women are considered as objects, they are easy prey for patriarchs to exploit. Furthermore, the existence of gender disparity forces the bride’s family to meet the dowry expectations at all costs. The huge pressure on women from family and society as a whole drives them to spend their lives behind the four walls of the house, never raising their voices and tolerating all types of abuse at their expense by in-laws and spouses to safeguard their families’ dignity, honor, and reputation. The sheer lack of knowledge and absence of sympathy in society makes it much more difficult for victims of assault and torture to speak up or express their ideas.

In 2022, India reported almost 6.4 thousand dowry deaths. This was a gradual reduction from 2014 when this figure was at 8.5 thousand. In India, the bride’s family pays the bridegroom a dowry, which consists of capital, durable goods, real estate, and other assets, as a condition of the marriage.[8]


Dowry along with domestic abuse can be addressed to a certain degree by educating the public. It is vital to analyze the current state of law against Dowry and eliminate the flaws that have rendered it ineffectual to some extent. Education among women as well as their families is still weak, which must be addressed by social awareness initiatives that can undoubtedly aid in raising public understanding about the evils of dowry including dowry death. At the same time, parents must provide greater educational possibilities for their daughters and encourage them to be autonomous. Rather than saving funds for dowry, parents can invest it in their children’s education. As Benjamin Franklin correctly observed, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”. India as an entire nation needs to shift its present mentality to combat the discriminatory practice of dowry. Society must recognize and acknowledge that in today’s society, women are equipped to accomplish all that men can. At the same time, women must overcome the perception that they are in no way inferior to men and must rely on males to provide for them. This country’s youth can assist put an end to such social problems by refusing to endorse them.

Misuse of Section 498A (Dowry Law)

The Dowry Law was enacted to protect women from cruelty and harassment by their husbands and in-laws. However, over the years, there have been numerous cases where this law has been misused, leading to innocent individuals being wrongly implicated and tarnishing their reputations. Additionally, despite the presence of such laws, dowry deaths continue to occur, highlighting the failure of the legal system to effectively address this pervasive issue. The misuse of Section 498A has become a contentious issue in India, with many arguing that it has been weaponized by women to settle personal scores or extort money from their in-laws. The provision of immediate arrest upon a complaint being filed has been criticized for its potential for abuse, as it does not require any evidence to be presented before taking action. This has led to a rise in false cases being filed, resulting in innocent individuals being subjected to unnecessary harassment and legal battles. Furthermore, the burden of proof lies on the accused to prove their innocence, putting them at a disadvantage. This goes against the basic tenet of justice, which holds that an individual is innocent until proven guilty. The lack of safeguards in place to prevent the misuse of Section 498A has made it a tool for vengeance or blackmail, rather than a means of ensuring justice for women facing domestic abuse. In addition to the misuse of the Dowry Law, dowry deaths continue to be a pressing issue in India. The Calcutta High Court (HC) has cast illumination on the abuse of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which is intended to address harassment or cruelty against women through their husbands or in-laws. According to a TOI article, the HC expressed worry that this clause is sometimes used as a tool for what it called “legal terrorism” in the name of seeking justice. The case concerned an individual who was charged with being a domestic abuser by his ex-wife, which resulted in criminal charges against him. Justice Subhendu Samanta, who presided over the case, stated, “The legislature introduced the provision of Section 498A to eliminate the dowry menace from society. However, it has been discovered that in certain circumstances, the aforementioned provision is being abused.”[9] The judge also remarked that the current criminal proceedings appeared to arise from a personal grudge rather than a genuine desire for justice. The judge regarded the evidence and witness testimony offered as insufficient to corroborate the claims against the husband and his in-laws, calling it an abuse of the court’s procedure. The couple formally separated in 2018, while investigations by the police were ongoing. The estranged wife had filed a chargesheet in both cases, which included testimonies from her parents and a neighbor. Additionally, the neighbor claimed to have heard quarrels but was unable to identify the “aggressor.” The wife’s medical report, which was incorporated in the case file, showed no symptoms of harm. The husband’s lawyer, Ayan Bhattacharjee, stated that after receiving anticipatory bail, the wife filed a second complaint with the same police station, alleging her in-laws of domestic violence. The case has prompted the court to reconsider the correct use of Section 498A in circumstances when evidence seems to be weak or whenever the provision may be abused. [10]


The issue of dowry deaths is a grave concern that plagues societies around the world, particularly in regions where the practice of dowry is deeply ingrained. Through the course of this essay, we have explored the various facets of dowry deaths, including its historical roots, societal implications, legal frameworks, and the underlying causes contributing to its persistence. It is evident that dowry deaths are not merely isolated incidents, but rather symptomatic of broader systemic issues such as gender inequality, economic disparities, and cultural norms that prioritize material wealth over human life. Addressing dowry deaths requires a multi-faceted approach that involves legal reforms, education, economic empowerment of women, and changing societal attitudes towards gender roles and marriage. Moreover, there is a pressing need for greater awareness-raising campaigns to challenge the acceptance of dowry as a social norm and to promote gender equality and respect for human rights.

False allegations and wrongful prosecutions under Section 498A can lead to grave injustices, causing immense suffering to innocent individuals, tarnishing reputations, and straining familial relationships. Moreover, the overzealous application of the law has contributed to a climate of fear and mistrust, deterring victims of genuine domestic violence from seeking legal recourse. However, it is crucial to recognize that the misuse of Section 498A should not detract from the importance of addressing domestic violence and protecting vulnerable individuals, particularly women, from abuse. Efforts to combat misuse must be balanced with measures to strengthen the implementation of the law, provide support services for victims, and promote gender-sensitive approaches to justice. While acknowledging the need to prevent the misuse of Section 498A, we mustn’t lose sight of the underlying objective of combating domestic violence and ensuring justice for victims. By striking a delicate balance between safeguarding the rights of the accused and protecting the interests of survivors, we can strive towards a more equitable and effective legal framework that upholds the principles of justice and fairness for all.


[1] This Article is published under Sahodar, the link of which is given below:

Sahodar, “Dowry and It&#8217;s Origins” (Sahodar, February 27, 2024) <>

[2] This Article is published under Medium, the link of which is given below:

Lawyers M, “The Dowry System in India: A Historical Overview and Legal Insights” (Medium, August 22, 2023) <>

[3] This Article is published under South Asia Research and I took reference from Research Gate, the link of which is given below:

Palkar, Vineeta. Failing gender justice in anti-dowry law. South Asia Research. <>

[4]I took the reference from NYU Faculty Digital Archive, the link of which is given below:
Nigam, Shalu. Understanding Justice Delivery System from the Perspective of Women Litigants as Victims of Domestic Violence in India (Specifically in the Context of Section 498-A, IPC), <>

[5]I took the reference from NYU Faculty Digital Archive, the link of which is given below:

Nigam Shalu (2005) Understanding Justice Delivery System From The Perspective of Women Litigants as Victims of Domestic Violence in India (Specifically in the Context of Section 498-A IPC), Occasional Paper 35 (2005), <>

[7] This Article from which reference is taken is published under Times Of India, the link of which is given below:

“Dowry and Dowry Death” (Times of India Blog, April 15, 2022) <>

[8] The information Article is taken from Statista, the link of which is given below:

 “Number of Reported Dowry Death Cases in India 2005-2022” (Statista, February 14, 2024) <,amounted%20to%20nearly%206.4%20thousand.>

[9] This Article from which reference is taken is published under Live Law, the link of which is given below:

 Das S and Law L, “Live Law” (Live Law, January 2, 2024) <>

[10] This Article from which reference is taken is published under Economic Times, the link of which is given below:

 Online E, “Anti-Dowry IPC Section 498A Is Being Misused as a Tool to Unleash ‘Legal Terrorism’: Calcutta HC” (The Economic Times, August 23, 2023) <>

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