A woman and her family members cannot be treated as accused under the Dowry Prohibition Act for giving dowry at the time of marriage, the Supreme Court has said.
A bench of Justices HS Bedi and CK Prasad upheld the Delhi High Court verdict that quashed a criminal case against a girl stating a dowry harassment victim was protected under the law and, could not be charged under the Act.
Two separate benches of the Delhi HC had taken divergent views on the issue. While Justice SN Dhingra (since retd) held the woman and her family could be prosecuted for giving dowry, Justice Ajit Bharihoke had said it could not be done.
The latter judgment held that section 7 of the Dowry Prohibition Act provided protection to the person who was a complainant under the law. Section 3 of the Act makes giving, accepting or abetting dowry an offence.
The SC order clarifies the legal position regarding the culpability of an alleged dowry-giver bride. It dismissed the appeal against Justice Bharihoke’s verdict filed by the husband who claimed that the judge could not have delivered it as the law was settled by Justice Dhingra.
The bench, however, dismissed the petition and said, “The girl is a victim and you want her to be prosecuted also. Then 498A (dowry harassment section) would be rendered nugatory.”
Vijary Aggarwal counsel for the woman who faced the case for giving dowry, contended there should be harmonious construction of the Act.
Justice Bharihoke had in October 2010 quashed a metropolitan magistrate’s order that directed registration of a case under the Act against a woman. The case was registered following a complaint made before the court by the husband.
Delhi police issues circular in 2007 asking its officers to register cases under the Dowry Act against women who marry despite dowry demand
Mar 19, 2010: Delhi court orders case against a woman saying she had willfully given dowry
Dec 4, 2008: Noida court orders case against woman.