Dowry Prohibition Act 1961: Combating a Social Evil

The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 is an important legislation enacted by the Parliament of India to curb the prevalent practice of dowry in the country. The act aims to eradicate the giving and taking of dowry, which has been a social evil causing immense harm to women and their families. Let’s explore the key provisions of this act and understand its significance in promoting gender equality and protecting women’s rights.

Short title, extent, and commencement

The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, commonly known as the Dowry Act, extends to the entire territory of India. It came into force on a date notified by the Central Government in the Official Gazette.

Definition of "dowry"

According to the act, “dowry” refers to any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given directly or indirectly:

  • By one party to a marriage to the other party
  • By the parents of either party to the marriage or by any other person, to either party or any other person at or before or any time after the marriage, in connection with the marriage

However, it does not include dower or mahr applicable under Muslim Personal Law.

Penalty for giving or taking dowry

The act imposes strict penalties on those involved in giving or taking dowry. Any person found guilty of giving, taking, or abetting the giving or taking of dowry shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and a fine of not less than fifteen thousand rupees or the value of the dowry, whichever is higher. The court may, for recorded reasons, impose a lesser sentence.

Penalty for demanding dowry

The act also addresses the issue of demanding dowry. If any person demands dowry directly or indirectly from the bride’s or bridegroom’s parents or other relatives or guardians, they shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than six months, extendable up to two years, along with a fine of up to ten thousand rupees.

Ban on advertisement

The act strictly prohibits any advertisement offering shares in property or money as consideration for marriage through newspapers, periodicals, or any other media. Such offenses can lead to imprisonment for a minimum of six months, extendable up to five years, or a fine of up to fifteen thousand rupees.

Agreement for giving or taking dowry to be void

The act renders any agreement for giving or taking dowry null and void, emphasizing its stance against the practice.

Dowry to be for the benefit of the wife or her heirs

Any dowry received by someone other than the woman in connection with her marriage must be transferred to the woman. This transfer should happen within three months of marriage or receipt of the dowry, or after she attains the age of eighteen if she was a minor during the marriage.

Cognizance of offenses

Courts that can try offenses under this act are those of a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the first class. Such offenses can be tried upon police report, complaint by the aggrieved person, parent, relative, or recognized welfare institution or organization.

Image illustrating the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, showcasing its significance in addressing dowry-related issues and promoting gender equality.

Offences to be cognizable for certain purposes and to be bailable and non-compoundable

Offenses under this act are non-bailable and non-compoundable, and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, applies to these offenses.

Power to make rules

The Central and State Governments have the power to make rules for carrying out the provisions of the act, including the form and manner of maintaining lists of presents and co-ordination of policy and action.


The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 represents a significant step in addressing the social evil of dowry and protecting the rights of women in India. Through stringent penalties and provisions, the act aims to create a society free from the burden of dowry, promoting gender equality and empowerment. However, it requires continued efforts from all stakeholders to ensure its effective implementation and bring about a positive change in societal norms.

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