Welcome step against dowry
To ?TAKE? dowry in marriage is punishable. And also, to ?give? dowry is punishable under the Dowry Prohibition Act. This provision came on the statute book as far back as in 1961. However, the ground reality is that instead of losing its poisonous sting, the evil of dowry has continued to become more and more potent.Updated: Jan 16, 2006 00:17 IST
To ‘TAKE’ dowry in marriage is punishable. And also, to ‘give’ dowry is punishable under the Dowry Prohibition Act. This provision came on the statute book as far back as in 1961. However, the ground reality is that instead of losing its poisonous sting, the evil of dowry has continued to become more and more potent.
An uncountable number of girls in the country, despite being educated and professionally competent, remain endlessly unmarried because their parents cannot fulfil the demand for pre-marriage dowry keeping pace with ever-mounting market rates that are determined on the basis of the bridegroom’s ability to earn honest or dishonest money. Then, the number of married girls being tortured, killed, and even burnt for more post-marriage dowry from their parents, continues to rise.
Often, the question that figures for debate at various seminars and symposia is: Are brides for burning? This and the related question what keeps the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, still ineffective, was vehemently raised in a PIL petition before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court expressed its anguish over the fact that the scene on the dowry front had not improved in the country, and probably, a “social revolution” was needed to put an end to the menace.
“Refusal by the bride’s father to pay dowry, refusal by the girls to get married if dowry is demanded, and attaching of ‘social stigma’ to those who demand dowry can alone ultimately put an end to this system, or at least reduce its prevalence,” said the court. And till then, the court emphasised, it will be necessary to make serious efforts to enforce the provisions of the Dowry Prohibition Act effectively.
Accordingly, by its final judgment delivered in the case recently (2005 (3) CCSC 1554), the Supreme Court reiterated that when “the executive fails to strictly implement the law, enacted to tackle a social problem which has assumed menacing proportions”, the court has to step in with a direction to implement the Act rigorously. Therefore, the court issued the following directions:
- The Union and State governments must devise means to create “honest, efficient, and committed machinery” for the purpose of the Dowry Prohibition Act and the rules framed under it.
-The Union and State governments must take “more effective steps” to implement the provisions of the Dowry Prohibition Act, with particular reference to Sections 3 and 4 and the rules framed under them.
-The Union and State governments must give top priority to “activate” the Dowry Prohibition Officers.
- The Union government must frame rules under Section 9(2) (b) of the Act, if not framed yet.
- The requirement of submitting the required list, required by the Act and the Rules, must be strictly enforced
- The Union and State governments must consider whether appropriate rules can be framed in order to compel males, seeking government employment or already in government employment, to furnish information on whether they had taken dowry, and if taken, whether the same has been handed over to the wife, as contemplated by Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.
- The Union and State governments must take effective steps for stepping up ‘anti-dowry literacy’ among people through Lok Adalats, radio broadcasts, television and newspapers on a ‘continuing’ basis.
The Supreme Court’s judgement concluded with a fervent appeal to the enlightened females and educated males. “The conscience of society needs to be fully awakened to the evils of the dowry system so that the demand for dowry itself should lead to ‘loss of face’ in society for those who demand it. We have no doubt that our ‘young and enlightened women’ would rise to the occasion to fight the evil which tends to make them ‘articles of commerce’. We also hope that our ‘educated young males’ would refuse to be ‘sold in the marriage market’ and come forward to choose their partners in life in a fair manner.”
Let us hope this commendable judicial initiative begins to show at least some results soon.