Dowry means any valuable security given at or before the marriage by one party to a marriage to the other party to a marriage.
Dowry demand is not only limited to money demanded the purpose of marriage but it may also include money demanded any purpose, condition being, that the demand must be in connection with the marriage.
In legal parlance, the death and violence due to dowry demands constitute domestic violence. Similar to the acts of domestic violence, the acts committed in dowry-related offences generally incorporates mental, physical, economic violence as well as harassment in order to punish the victim or to compel her to meet those demands.
The State of affairs of our country is really saddening when it comes to the number of women who are being murdered, harassed in the name of Dowry, Honour and Domestic violence.
There are various legislations that provides protection to the women like 498 A(Cruelty), 304- B(Dowry Death) of Indian Penal Code, 113-B of Indian Evidence Act, Dowry Prohibition Act, Protection of Women against Domestic violence.
Still, Dowry-related violence increased more than three-fold between 1990 and 2000. Dowry deaths rose by 38% during that same time period and since then about 6,000 to 7,000 women have been murdered each year.
The most important thing nowadays is that a woman should be aware of the law and their legal rights. The crucial steps that need to be fulfilled in order to file a Dowry related complaint are:
STEP 1- THE ACT COMMITTED UPON THE WIFE MUST FALL UNDER THE AMBIT OF SECTION 498 A – CRUELTY.
To constitute the offence of Cruelty, it is necessary to show that the woman was married, there was some kind of cruelty or harassment and the act was committed by the husband or his family members.
One must also satisfy the definition of Cruelty. Cruelty means:
- “any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of the woman; or
- harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand.”
Cruelty comprises of series of the act and every act of cruelty give rise to the fresh act of action.
STEP 2 – CHOOSING A POLICE STATION
One can choose to go to the local police station where the wife stays with the husband or the wife stays with her father.
STEP 3- MAKING THE COMPLAINT
Make an oral complaint which the police will record it in writing and obtain the wife’s signature or acknowledge a written complaint with that police station.
There are certain things one has to keep in mind while making a police complaint. Firstly, one must not give half baked statements while making the police complaint rather give accurate information in the form of facts of the incident. Secondly, there are times when police do not put the actual facts down while registering the complaint.
One must take a written complaint along in order to avoid this happening and also to double check the information one has given to the police before signing for your copy of the same.
STEP 4 – FIR TO BE REGISTERED
The police have to take cognizance of the offence and it has to be investigated. An FIR has to be registered in these cases.
It is important to note that a police station cannot refuse to take your complaint or send you away to another one saying that this does not come under their jurisdiction.
The FIR can be registered in Zero number and then can be transferred to the concerned Police Station. No fees need to be paid in order to lodge these complaints. A free copy of the FIR is given to the complainant after formalities have been completed.
STEP 5 – NOTICE TO THE ACCUSED
After the FIR, the police will give a notice to the accused (Husband, Husband’s Relatives) to record their statements and or even arrest them.
Though nowadays the matter will be referred to the welfare committee for further investigation and no action will be taken against the husband or his family member until proved. The exemption is that there are tangible physical injuries or death of the victim.
This committee would interact with the parties either personally or over the telephone and then has to reach to a conclusion within 1 month. The report shall be prepared by the committee and must be given to the authority which referred the complaint to it.
If the concerned authority still refuses to register the complaint, then the woman can post the complaint by Registered Post or ask to meet the next in command.
Online complaints can be filed too. With the advancement in technology and when the internet is a boon, it became important to tackle the menace of increasing crimes against women.
It was now vital to make it convenient for the aggrieved party to register their complaint or seek help from the concerned authorities. Thus the complaint registration process has become easier by the police departments of various states and women organizations and now the complaints can even be registered through e-mail, post or on the websites of the concerned department.
National Commission of Women administers the authority to deal with these cases too. They can act as a representative of the inflicted party in the legal arena.
One can contact the National Commission of Women as well. The Complaints and Counselling Cell of the commission processes all the complaints whether received orally, written or suo motu under Section 10 of the NCW Act.
The complaints entail cases of cruelty by husband, domestic violence, desertion, rape, sexual harassment at workplace, bigamy, deprivation, bigamy, dowry, torture, harassment, and refusal to register FIR and gender discrimination.
The complaints are tackled as mentioned below:
- The investigation done by the Police is properly monitored.
- Counselling is used as a tool to resolve Family Disputes.
- For serious crimes, the Commission constitutes an Inquiry Committee which makes spot enquiries, examines various witnesses, collects evidence and submits the report with recommendations. Such investigations help in providing immediate relief and justice to the victims of violence and atrocities. The implementation of the report is monitored by the NCW. There is a provision for having experts/lawyers on these committees.
The NGO’s, State Commission and other experts are putting efforts in this. The complaints received tell us the trend of crimes committed against women and help us in analyzing and then suggesting corrective measures.
These corrective measures help us in tackling and in reducing the ever-increasing number of crime committed against the vulnerable section of the Society be Women.
 Dowry Prohibition Act, M.C.W.D. §2 (1961).
 Rajendra Singh v. State of Maharasthra, (2015) 6 S.C.C. 477.
 Rebecca Ruiz, India ‘s All Women Police pursue dowry complaints , We. News (13th September 2006), https://womensenews.org/2006/09/indias-all-women-police-pursue-dowry-complaints/.
 Ind. Penal Code § 498 A (1860).
Criminal Procedure Code § 154(1973).
Rini Mathew, The Concept of Zero : FIR, Law updater( 18th September 2016), https://lawupdaterblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/18/article-on-the-concept-of-zero-fir/ .
 Rajesh Sharma v. State of Uttar Pradesh, Criminal Appeal no. 1265 OF (2017).
 National Commission of Women Act, N.C.W. § 10 (1990).
 Complaint and Investigation Cell, (2008-2009), http://ncw.nic.in/AnnualReports/200809/Eng/CandICell.pdf.