Dowry prohibition act
Dowry-A Social Evil
Dowry has been one of the most evil customs in India since the time of pre independence. This social custom has not only brought major marriage related problems but it has reached to level of women harassment and all these consequences have resulted in the present problems of low female/male ratio, illiteracy in women etc.
History of Dowry:
Dowry is as old as we find the written traces of it in the oldest records, such as the Code of Hammurabi (the best preserved ancient law code was created in ca. 1760 BC in ancient Babylon. It was enacted by the sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi) as a pre-existing custom, prescribing only regulations for how it was to be handled and also included regulations for a bride price. If a woman died without sons, her husband had to refund the dowry but could deduct the value of the bride price; the dowry would normally have been the larger of the sums. It marks the first record of long-lasting customs, such as the wife being entitled to her dowry at her husband's death as part of her dower, her dowry being inheritable only by her own children, not by her husband's children by other women, and a woman not being entitled to a (subsequent) inheritance if her father had provided her dowry in marriage. The original intent was to help with expenses in the creation of the new family, help bond the families of the new couple, and provide a support for the bride in case of future problems such as widowhood or divorce.
The origin of the system of dowry is lost in antiquity. But, the purpose and practice is much more complex than it has been defined. The prevalent of such practices, in one way or another, were evident in other societies also. In India, during the national freedom struggle, many social reformers, such as, Raja Rammohan Roy, Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, Swami Vivekananda, many others has felt the necessity to eradicate the practice of dowry along with various inhumane treatment meted out to women.
After independence, as early as, in 1950 the Bihar Dowry Restraint Act was enacted in this regard. The first all-India legislative enactment relating to dowry to be put on the statute book was the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961. After independence of India only two states, namely, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh enacted legislation restraining the dowry system. But as the incidence of dowry ascended at high rate, need for the central legislation became essential and as a result, the first national anti-dowry legislation popularly known as the Dowry Prohibition Act was passed in 1961, and this Act applies to all the communities in India. However, the Act proved quite ineffective, which demanded changes in this toothless piece of legislation. With time, various amendments were made in dowry prohibition act with a view to remedy the inherent weakness of the Dowry Prohibition Act
- Amendments in 1984
- Amendments in 1986 to make the provisions of the Act more stringent and stricter than before and also to make its implementation effective ( Dowry Death Law)
- Law Commission 91st report 1983-recommendations to certain several provisions in IPC
Definition of Dowry (As Dowry prohibition Act 1961):
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 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 said parties but does not include dower or mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies.
*The words "valuable security" denote a document which is, or purports to be, a document whereby any legal right is created, extended, transferred, restricted, extinguished or released, or whereby any person acknowledges that the lies under legal liability, or has not a certain legal right.
Important Sections of Dowry Prohibition Act
Section 3 - Penalty for Giving or Taking Dowry
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
Section 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
Section 5 - Agreement for Giving or Taking Dowry to Be Void
Any agreement for the giving or taking of dowry shall be void
Section 8 "" A : Burden Of Proof In Certain Cases
Where any person is prosecuted for taking or abetting the taking of any dowry under Sec. 4, or the demanding of dowry under Sec. 4, the burden of proving that he has not committed an offence under those sections shall be on him.
Section 8-B: 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 offence 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 limitation and conditions as may be specified by rules made under this Act.
(4) The State Government may, for the purpose of advising and assisting the Dowry Prohibition Officer 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)
Limitations To Dowry Prohibition Act
But even after twenty years it has remained ineffective. One of the main reasons of the ineffectiveness of the Act was the limitation of the definition of dowry, as it has been discussed in the context of marriage only. The continuing and consistent demands of the husband and her in-laws were neglected, in turn led to the rise of cases of dowry related atrocities, violence and death even after marriage. To substantiate and assist the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 in preventing the increasing dowry related violence, Section 498A was thus introduced in the IPC in 1983 closely followed by Section 304B which defined the special offence of dowry-related death of a woman in 1986. Section 304B addresses the particular offence of dowry death but section 498A, however, not meant to deal specifically with dowry--- it is commonly considered to be a "˜dowry law' because domestic violence against a wife related to dowry demands is considered to be within the scope of "˜cruelty' envisage by the Section. The term "˜cruelty' embedded in this Section 498A signifies:
Dowry Deaths (IPC Section 304B)
his Section of the Indian Penal Code was inserted by a 1986 amendment. The Dowry deaths law defines a 'dowry death' as the death of a woman caused by any burns or bodily injury or which does not occur under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage. For a woman's death to be a dowry death, it must also be shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry. If this is proved, the woman's husband or relative is required to be deemed to have caused her death. Whoever commits dowry death is required to be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.
Even after having many amendments in the law preventing dowry, the associated limitations are still visible. The dowry death aw is very stringent and strict. Presently there are prevalent cases of misuse of dowry prohibition law and dowry death law. The police, civil society, politicians and even judges of the High Courts and Supreme Court have offered these arguments of the "misuse' of laws vehemently. Domestic violence and abuse by the spouse and family members are complex behaviors and the social organization of courts, the police and legal cultures systematically tend to devalue domestic violence cases. Police often file charges against the husband, his parents and other relatives (whoever being named on the complaint by the wife or her close relatives) and put them in jail. There is no penalty (even a fine) for filing a false case. Many individuals have claimed this is being abused by the wife or her close relatives. And, even there were connivances between the police and the complainants in misusing of the particular law.
- The Indian law even after having particular clauses and amendments is still inefficient in many cases to provide judgments. We have seen problems of misuse of law and like with any law in Indian legislation, the delay in justice especially in dowry cases may make the women situation worse with time.
- Indian society in particular has not been able to get out of this evil completely. Even today, this custom is publically condemned but secretly followed. Hence here, Indian law is not in complete consensus with public mentality because of dowry being such old and prevalent custom in almost all societies.
Recommendations and Suggestions:
Particularly with dowry death law, there is no penalty or fine in false complaints. This has resulted in thousands of false cases which take valuable and resources of Indian judiciary. Hence amendments for this consideration should be done in the law.
As we have discussed earlier, keeping aside legal perspective, we can also interpret that unless Indian people actually understand the evil nature of dowry, this custom will be present in one or the other forms. Hence in addition to stringent laws, to eradicate dowry completely, awareness is also very necessary. This can be brought through NGOs, media and proper education. Indian government is working on these issues but surely the extent of actions for the same need to be made stronger to get long term results.
The overall objective of dowry prohibition act is to protect a married life particularly for women. Our law has provisions for punishments for demand or acquiring dowry but it never results in betterment of the marriage in the whole. Hence any marriage when comes under dowry law, either there should be amendment in terms of declaring the marriage to be illegal or the approach should be to bring consensus between both the spouses.
Recommendations Frm Safe Family Foundation:
It suggests to bring section 3 subsection a and b, which involves clarifications on the forms of presents which do not come under dowry, to bring in section 2 to bring more clarity to the law.
Recommendations in section 4 to involve not only demanding dowry but also offering dowry as punishable offence
Section 7, subsection 3 of this act mentions that ""(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.
It is recommended to remove the clause because there is now no excuse for giving or offering dowry and that it is an equal offence to taking or demanding dowry. Hence it is strongly recommended that this subsection be removed.
Equivalent Citation: AIR1983SC1219, (1984)86BOMLR61, 1983(2) Crimes470 (SC), 1983(2) SCALE175, (1983)4SCC231, 3SCR762
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA Criminal Appeal No. 494 of 1982 Decided On: 30.08.1983
Appellants: L.V. Jadhav Vs. Respondent: Shankarrao Abasaheb Pawar and Ors.
Hon'ble Judges: A.V. Varadarajan, M.P. Thakkar and S. Murtaza Fazal Ali, JJ.
Counsels: For Appellant/Petitioner/Plaintiff: Y.S. Chitale, V.N. Ganpule, Sirish Gupta and V.D. Khanna, Advs For Respondents/Defendant: V.S. Dasai, G.B. Sathe, P.G. Gokhale, and M.N. Shroff, Advs.
Subject: Criminal Catch Words Mentioned IN Acts/Rules/Orders:
Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 - Sections 2, 3 and 4; Indian Penal Code, - Section 30 Prior History:
Appeal by Special leave from the Judgment and Order dated the 22nd December, 1981 of the Bombay High Court in Criminal Appln. No. 283 of 1981
Inder Sain v. The State MANU/DE/0046/1981 Mentioned
Kashi Prasad v. State of Bihar Mentioned
Daulat Mansingh Aher v. C.R. Bansi MANU/MH/0007/1980 Mentioned
Criminal "" abetment "" Sections 2, 3 and 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act,1961 and Section 30 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 "" appeal against quashing of proceedings "" dowry means that any property or valuable security which if consented to be given on demand being made would become dowry within meaning of Section 2 "" object of Section 4 to discourage demand for property or valuable security as consideration for marriage between parties thereto "" Section 4 prohibits demand for giving property or valuable security which demand if satisfied constitute offence under Section 3 read with Section 2 "" no warrant for taking view that initial demand giving of valuable security not constitute offence "" offence took place when demand made again after party on whom demand made agreed to comply with it "" Magistrate right in proceeding on basis of allegations in complaint prima facie constitute offence under Section 4 and issuing process to respondents - complaint filed after obtaining previous sanction of State Government as required by Proviso to Section 4 "" State of Maharashtra not in position to tell about exact stand State Government as to whether it supports or opposes contention of appellant that allegation made in complaint constitutes offence under Section 4 "" appeal allowed "" First Class Magistrate directed to dispose of case according to law.
1. This appeal by special leave is directed against the judgment of a Division Bench of the Bombay High Court in Criminal Application No. 283 of 1981, quashing the proceedings in Criminal Case No. 1634 of 1980 on the file of the Judicial Magistrate, First Class (Anti-Corruption), Pune. The application in the High Court was filed by the respondents in this appeal, who are the two accused in that criminal case, for quashing the criminal proceedings as well as the order of the Judicial Magistrate, issuing processes against them in that case.
2. The appellant L.V. Jadhav was She first respondent while State of Maharashtra was the second respondent in the application before the High Court. The first respondent Shankarao Abasaheb Pawar is the father of the second respondent Pradeep Shankarrao Pawar. There was a proposal to get the appellant's daughter Anita, a Science Graduate, married to the second respondent, a double Graduate in Engineering, working in the United States. After Anita and the second respondent approved each other there was an engagement ceremony on 12-6-1978 at Pune and the marriage was performed at that place on 19-6-1979 after the first respondent came from the United States in May 1979.
3. According to the appellant's complaint, when the marriage ceremonies were in progress on 19-6-1979, both the respondents demanded a cash of Rs. 50.000/- from the appellant in the presence of respectable persons under the pretext that the money was required for the transport of Anita and the second respondent to the United States. The respondents told the appellant that if he did not comply with that demand by way of dowry further ceremonies would not be completed. Some respectable persons who were present at that time persuaded the respondents to complete the marriage ceremonies and formalities and thereafter the marriage ceremonies were over. The second respondent alone went to the United States in July 1979 as the passport and visa for Anita had to be arranged which was done some time later while Anita was staying in the house of the first respondent. Anita was not sent to the United States and the respondents continued to persist in their demand for the money when she was staying in the first respondent's house. The appellant filed a complaint before the Judicial Magistrate, First Class on 5-6-1980 against both the respondents, alleging that they had committed an offence under Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 by demanding the sum of Rs. 50,000/- as mentioned above. This was done after the appellant had obtained the necessary sanction required by the proviso to Section 4 of the Act. The Judicial Magistrate verified the complaint and issued processes to the respondents and sent summonses to the United States where the first respondent was staying with the second respondent at that time.
4. The respondents challenged the Magistrate's order issuing summonses to them by filing their application in the High Court. The learned Single Judge before whom the application originally came up for consideration referred the matter to a Division Bench. The contention of the learned Counsel for the respondents before the High Court was that even if the allegations made in the appellant's complaints were true no offence under Section 4 of the Act is disclosed, whereas for the appellant it was contended before the High Court that the aforesaid demand for Rs. 50,000/- would constitute an offence under Section 4.
5. Reading the definition of "dowry" given in Section 2 of the Act into Section 4; the learned Judges held that for bringing a case under Section 4 of the Act, there must be a demand for dowry as such, that is, for any property agreed to be given as consideration for the marriage, and that as there is no allegation in the complaint that the appellant had agreed to pay the sum of Rs. 50,000/- and the respondents thereafter demanded the same no offence under Section 4 of the Act is disclosed in the complaint. In that view the learned Judges allowed the respondent's application and quashed the proceedings in the appellant's complaint and the Magistrate's order issuing the processes to the respondents. Hence this appeal by special leaves.
6. The question for consideration is whether the allegation made in the appellant's complaint that there was a demand by the respondents when the ceremonies of the marriage of Anita with the second respondent were in progress, for the payment of Rs. 50,000/- to be* made by the appellant on pain of the marriage ceremonies not being completed if the demand, was not complied with under the pretext that the said amount was required for the passage of Anita and the second respondent to the United States discloses an-offence under Section 4 of the Act. It would be necessary to extract the following relevant Sections 2 to 5 and 8 of the Act for easy reference in order to consider the question:
2. 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 any other person, to either party to the marriage or to any other person; at or before or after the marriage as 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 declared 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.
Explanation II - The expression ''valuable security" has the same meaning as in Section 30 of the Indian Penal Code.
3. 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 which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees, or with both.
4. If any person after the commencement of this Act, demands, directly or indirectly, from the parents or guardian of a bride or bridegroom, as the case may be, any dowry, he shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees, or with both;
Provided that no court shall take cognizance of any offence under this section except with the previous sanction of the State Government or of such officer as the State Government may, by general or special order, specify in this behalf.
5. Any agreement for the giving or taking/of dowry shall be void,
6. Every offence under this Act shall be non-cognizable, bailable and non-compoundable".
7. According to the appellant's complaint, when the marriage of his daughter Anita and the second respondent, the son of the first respondent, was in progress on 19-6-1979, both the respondents demanded from him cash of Rs. 50.000/- in the presence of respectable persons under the pretext that the amount was required for the passage or transport of Anita and the second respondent to the United States where the second respondent was employed at that time and they told him that if he did not comply with their demand by way of dowry further ceremonies in the marriage would not be completed. It is further alleged that some respectable persons who were present at that time persuaded the respondents to complete the marriage ceremonies and formalities and thereafter the marriage ceremonies were completed and that subsequently the second respondent went to the United States in July 1979 alone because the passport and visa of Anita had to be arranged which was done some time later while Anita was staying in the house of the first respondent, and the respondents continued to persist in their demand for the money when Anita was staying in the house of the first respondent without being sent to the United States. Mr. V.S. Desai, Senior Advocate, appearing for the respondents invited our attention to the decision of a learned Single Judge of the Delhi High Court in Inder Sain v. The State MANU/DE/0046/1981 and also of another single Judge of the Patna High Court in Kashi Prasad v. State of Bihar1980 BBCJ (HC) 612 and submitted that the demand for Rs. 50,000/- alleged in the complaint would not constitute an offence under Section 4 of the Act as there is no allegation in the complaint that the appellant consented to pay the amount and that without consent to the payment the sum of Rs. 50.000/- alleged to have been demanded does not become dowry within the meaning of Section 2 of the Act which defines "dowry" as meaning "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 any other person, to either party to the marriage or to any other person at or before or after the marriage as 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.
Section 2 contains two explanations with which we are not concerned in this case In the Delhi High Court's decision the question for consideration was what constituted "consideration" for marriage within the meaning of Section r2 of the Act, and Luthra, J. has observed:
Thus the definition of the word "consideration" leads to the conclusion that the property or valuable security should be demanded or given whether in the past, present or future for bringing out solemnization of marriage. After the marriage, giving a property or valuable security by the parents of (the bride cannot constitute a "consideration" for the marriage unless it was agreed at the time of or before the marriage that such property or valuable security would be given in future.
The complaint in that case did not spell out that the articles mentioned in the same were given after the marriage as a result of some agreement for the purpose of the marriage. The allegations in the complaint indicated that those articles were given after the marriage with a view to have smooth sailing and continuance of good marital relations. The learned Judge, therefore, held that the articles given in those circumstances did not constitute dowry within the meaning of Section 2 of the Act. We think that the learned Judge is right in holding so, and that it is desirable that even such a demand should, be prohibited arid made punishable in law.
8. We are concerned in the present case with a complaint in which it has been alleged that the demand for the sum of Rs. 50.000/- as dowry was made when the marriage ceremonies between the appellant's daughter Anita and the second respondent were in progress, by both the respondents, under the pretext that it was required for the passage of the parties to the marriage to the United States with a threat that if the amount was not paid the marriage ceremonies would not be. completed and that there was demand for payment of the amount even after the marriage ceremonies were over when Anita was staying in the house of the first respondent after the second respondent went away alone to the United States because the passport and visa for Anita had not been obtained by then. The decision of even the Patna High Court relied upon by Mr. Desai relates only to what 'constitutes "consideration" for the marriage within the meaning of Section 2 of the Act. On the other hand, Dr. Y. S. Chitale, Senior Advocate, appearing for the appellant invited our attention to a decision of a Division Bench of the Bombay High Court in Daulat Mansingh Aher v. C.R. Bansi MANU/MH/0007/1980 and submitted that a mere demand for money as dowry for completing the marriage ceremonies on pain of not completing the ceremonies if the money was not given is sufficient to constitute an offence under Section 4of the Act even though there was no consent on the part of the appellant to comply with that demand. What appeared from the record of the case out Of which the decision of the Bombay High Court arose, was that the accused-petitioner filed an application on 6-10-1978 raising a contention that the Court of the Metropolitan Magistrate, Dadar, Bombay had no jurisdiction to entertain and try the case because the accused and the complainant were residing outside the jurisdiction of that Court. A contention was also raised that the complaint was barred by limitation and was, therefore, liable to be dismissed.
However, during the arguments in the High Court it was conceded by the learned Counsel for the accused-petitioner that the complaint was filed within the period prescribed. Therefore, the only question that arose for consideration by the learned Judges of the Division Bench was the one relating to the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Magistrate, Dadar, and Bombay to entertain and inquire into the complaint. However, the learned Judges have observed in the judgment after extracting Section 4 of the Act that "what is made punishable under that provision is the demand itself, whether direct or indirect, from the parents of a bride or bridegroom". The learned Judges have further observed thus (at pp. 1173-74):
On the averments made in the complaint the demand is made by the accused by writing a letter from Wadala, Bombay-31. This demand was made through his elder brother who is the son-in-law of the complainant and resides at Agartala. From Agartala the said letter of demand was forwarded by the son-in-law of the complainant to Andheri, Bombay where the complainant is. rending. Therefore, the demand by accused was not made at Agartala. He had only used the good offices of his elder brother to forward the letter. Instead of writing a direct letter to complainant demanding dowry, the demand was made through the elder brother who is residing at Agartala. Still the demand is by accused and is made from Wadala at Bombay. The demand became complete when the complainant received the letter at Andheri, Bombay. Hence the dowry was demanded at Bombay, The offence was partly committed at Wadala, Bombay, from where the dowry was demanded. It was also committed at Andheri, Bombay, where the complainant received the demand letter. It is further alleged by the complainant in the complaint that the marriage of Alka which was almost settled, could not take place due to the demand of dowry made by the accused. This consequential result or consequence of the demand also took place at Bombay. Wadala is within the local jurisdiction of Metropolitan Magistrate, Dadar. Letter of demand was actually sent from Wadala, Bombay. Hence, in any case it can safely be said that offence as alleged is partly committed at Wadala also. Though a contention was raised before the trial court that neither accused nor complainant are residing within the jurisdiction of the Dadar Court, now it is an admitted position that accused resides at Wadala.
Even if it is held that offence became complete when complainant received letter at Andheri, Bombay, still it will be triable by Bombay Court. Whether it is Dadar or Andheri Court will not make any difference. On the other hand, we are sold, that Dadar Court is nearer to the residence of accused. The point raised is too technical and no prejudice will be caused to the accused nor on that count could it be said that trial is vitiated; or will result in failure of justice. Hence there is no substance in this contention.
9. It appears from a reading of this judgment that it was either not disputed before the learned Judges or that it was presumed that a mere demand for property as consideration for the marriage taking place would constitute an offence under Section 4 of the Act.
10. The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 is intended to prohibit the giving or taking of dowry and Parliament has made every offence under the Act non-compoundable by S. & of the Act. By Section 5 it has been enacted that any agreement for the giving or taking of dowry shall be void. Section 3 makes abetment of the giving or taking of dowry an offence. No, doubt, according to Section 2 of the Act "dowry" is any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly at or before or after the marriage as consideration for the marriage but does not include dower or mahr in the case of person to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies. It would appear from Section 2 that consent to comply with the demand for any property as consideration for the marriage would alone make the property or valuable security given or agreed to be given directly or indirectly, "dowry" within the meaning of the Act. But having regard to the dominant object of the Act which is to stamp out the practice of demanding dowry in any shape or form either before or after the marriage, we are of the opinion that the entire definition of the word "dowry" should not be imported into Section 4 which lays down that "if any person after the commencement of this Act, demands, directly or indirectly from the parents or guardian of a bride or bridegroom, as the case may be, any dowry, he shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees or with both." According to Webster's New World Dictionary, 1962 edn. Bride means a woman who has just been married or is about to be married, and bridegroom means a man who has just been married or is about to be married. If we give this strict meaning of a bride or a bridegroom to the word bride or bridegroom used in Section 4 of the Act property or valuable security demanded and consented to be given prior to the time when the woman had become a bride or the man had become a bridegroom, may not be "dowry" within the meaning of the Act, We are of the opinion that having regard to the object of the Act and a liberal construction has to be given to the word "dowry" used in Section 4 of the Act to mean that any property or valuable security which if consented to be given on the demand being made would become dowry within the meaning of Section 2 of the Act. We are also of the opinion that the object of Section 4 of the Act is to discourage the very demand for property or valuable security as consideration for a marriage between the parties thereto. Section 4 prohibits the demand for 'giving' properly or valuable securities which demand, if satisfied, would constitute an offence under Section 3 read with Section 2 of the Act. There is no warrant for taking the view that the initial demand for giving of property or valuable security would not constitute an offence and that an offence would take place only when the demand was made again after the party on whom the demand was made agreed to comply with it. The learned Magistrate was, therefore, right in proceeding on the basis that the allegations in the complaint prima facie constitute an offence under Section 4 of the Act and issuing processes to the respondents. The High Court, we cannot refrain from observing, might well have refused to invoke its inherent powers at the very threshold in order to quash the proceedings, for these powers are meant to be exercised sparingly and with circumspection when there is reason to believe that the process of law is being misused to harass a citizen. The present was not such a case. We find that the complaint had been filed after obtaining the previous sanction of the State Government or of such officer as the State Government may by general or special order specify in this behalf as required by the proviso to Section 4 of the Act. Mr. P. G. Gokhale who appeared for the second respondent, State of Maharashtra, was not in a position to tell us about what the exact stand of the State Government in this appeal is as to whether it supports or opposes the contention of the appellant that the allegation made in the complaint constitutes an offence under Section 4 of the Act. For the reasons stated above, we allow the appeal and direct the learned Judicial Magistrate, First Class to take further proceedings on the complaint and dispose of the case according to law.
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