Dowry Death : Laws, Effects, Causes : Know your Rights.

Dowry practice in India

Author: Dhruvi Bambal, DU.

Marriages have been the part of our civilization since time infinite. Economics of dowry runs on the transmission of wealth from one family to the other.  In the bride-wealth, a shift of the money/ wealth from the family of the husband to the house of the girl for reimbursing them for giving up their productive member of the family. While the dowry means transferring wealth in the form of money or other assets from a family of the bride to a house of the bridegroom. It obliges the father of the bride to secure the wedlock by giving valuables and gifts for the family members and the son-in-law. The purpose was to help groom’s family sustain the expenses of maintaining an extra member.  Not just India, it has been the part of European, African and American society as well. Girl brings ornaments, furniture, utensils, quilts and linens for a start of a new home. It differs from stridhan because she doesn’t have an exclusive right on it. In India daughters are given as Kanya-Daan (the gift of the maiden).  It is a system emerged over generations. Traditionally, the women don’t go out to work and do not own property in her own name. it is the duty of the husband to furnish her good care as she bears the responsibility of caring for the children. It is a backup or a kind of compensation provided by father as she has no right in the property of either family.

Evidence of the dowry system in India comes from kings, upper castes and granting lands to their daughters. The system withstood the onset of Muslim rulers. British colonists refrained from intruding in the matters of personal laws. Earlier there was no compulsion to provide a dowry, and they did voluntarily looking at the status of the groom and his family. As the nation had progressed socially and economically the practice should have come to a finish. In western Europe and America, it faded as the women became more independent and made sovereign choices of their life partner.  But sadly, it is flourishing in India on the contrary.

The practice is being legitimised by the retentionists misinterpreting ancient texts. It galvanised the conception of honour and social stature. The social problem spread in the late 19th century when the son used to get an education and a good job in an urban centre, it made its inroads to the suburban towns. Social reforms started a new change, but it was not enough to dismantle the system completely.

” In the early nineteenth-century material culture was the dominant culture, and the Rajputs were its best representatives. The land was divided among Rajput generals, who rendered military service to their kings. These service-estate holders exercised autonomous judicial and general administrative powers. Economic coercion had comparatively limited efficacy and the most important means of social control was through extra-economic coercion which found expression in the culture of physical violence. In this social set up, martial culture invigorated by the concept of honour and shame and culture of physical violence was dominant. Relations of production, as well as social relations in that society, were governed by ties of personal dependence. One person was dependent on another for his rights and sometimes even for his existence. Family relations were also marked by ties of dependence, one of the general features of which was social inferiority of woman.
Working castes that prospered after the green revolution adopted the ways and methods of upper castes perpetuating it. The status of women restricted to the houses which led to gender segregation. This has further created more demand for the dowry. Dowry also replaced bride price as the common practice among middle and low castes throughout the country (e.g.,Kapadia 1995; Shenk 2005b; Srinivas 1984). ”

Several castes have imitated the dowry system. it has deepened its roots and has taken the vulgar form. Sanskritisation of the poor class and castes has led to the perpetuation of tradition. A poor man borrows money to fulfil the demands laid by the family of the groom. The contemporary issue is not about dowry but the blunt demand of made by the family of the bridegroom that leads to exploitation of bride’s family. Disguised in the name of tradition it has become a norm it is followed in various parts of the country. People are following it blindly even though it is a burden for the bride’s family in most of the cases. The father concedes to the demands of the other party.

It is anticipated that the girl might never get married if demands are not fulfilled. This fear makes the families end up spending lavishly. A bigger car is given looking at the position of the husband in society. Families boast and show off what they have received as a dowry from the girl’s family.   As soon as the daughter is born in the family preparation starts for giving her hand in marriage one day. More money is spent on preparation of marriage than on education. It is a financial drain.  Women are seen as a burden to the families. This is the major reason that female foeticide is on the rise and sex-selective abortion. illegal acts of corruption such as bribing, tax evasion is committed to fulfil the needs.

The repercussions of this system are varied depending on the geography of the country. In south India, the problem is not critical because of the design of cross-cousin marriage as the dowry goes to family comes back. The bride givers are not in the inferior position. On the contrary, in north India bride-giver stand on a lower pedestal and he has to retreat to every demand of the bribe-taker. It has become a vicious cycle. Dowry now are given hoping all the loss will be recovered when their son will get married. Sometimes the full meeting of demands does not guarantee the successful married life. Dowry demand sometimes continues even after marriage. The women are mentally and physically tortured and are not respected if don’t meet expectations. the gifts for the family members become compulsory in almost every festival. She is sent back to her parents in most cases. Women are subjected to torture and killed by the in-laws. She unable to ask her parents again commits suicide. Sometimes there is bride burning which is disguised as an accident to avoid criminal charges.
The rise of modern India started with European colonialism, who brought new rational thinking and scientific temper. The terrible situation of women was a grave concern for the social reformers. The elite educated class in collaboration with new British administration and the Christian missionaries tried to bring reforms when female infanticide, sati, polygamy, dowry-related crimes had reached gross levels.

“Unsuccessful attempts have, however, been made to end the evil of dowry. The Anti-Dowry League was started in the first session of the Madras Students’ Convention. All unmarried members had to pledge that they would not accept the dowry. Similar leagues were started in northern India (1914). There was no Government enactment to check this growing evil under the British Raj. The Government of India passed an Anti-Dowry Act in 1961 to check this evil. This act, however, could not become effective as the evil practice of dowry is not only continuing, but the dowry deaths are also a matter of routine in our day today life. (Source:”

After independence women got under article 14 equal status, removed discrimination by enacting Hindu succession Act, also provided favourable discrimination for welfare of women which indicates the intention of constitution makers to end the past disadvantages imposed on women.

Laws related to prohibition of dowry:

“Customs of dowry is no longer innocent and has now taken the form of the most culpable crimes. It is a social peril and it is difficult to restore it in its original form. Gandhi once said- The dowry system is a product of the caste system. The abolition of caste will lead to the abolition of dowry (Harijan, 23rd May 1936). Demanding dowry is akin to discrediting womanhood. Young men who demand dowry should be excommunicated. Parents of girls should cease to be dazzled by English degrees and should not hesitate to travel outside their little castes and provinces to secure true, gallant young men for their daughters (Young India, 21st June 1928). “

The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961


 In the 1900s in India, witnessed an alarming rise in Dowry related crimes. Crimes like the murder, burning, hanging poisoning, compelling the brides to commit suicide, verbal and mental abuse became very common. The sanctity of marriage as the sacred union was lost society was in the grip of a dark phase where greed became primary.  The basic sacredness of the institution of marriage was long lost. The victims of Dowry crimes increased and so the need for reform. Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 was the first proper legislation introduced in order to provide the protection of women and fulfil the obligation of protection of women under the fundamental rights.

 It defined dowry as –

  1. In this act, `dowry’ means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly:
  2. by one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage; or
  3. 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 dowry according to the definition does not include reimbursement of marriage expenses and mehr give in Muslim marriages. The act applies to all religions in India. The act does not have retrospective effect. In Pawan Kumar v. State of Haryana [AIR 1998 SC 958], it was held under Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 that an agreement for a dowry is not always necessary. There was in this case demand for a TV set and a Scooter. If the demand is related to the marriage than it would fall within the meaning of the word dowry under Section 304-B.


The penalty for giving or taking dowry. –

(1)   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 the fine which shall not be less than fifteen thousand rupees or the amount of the value of such the dowry, whichever is more

It does not apply to the cases when presents which are given at the time of a marriage to the bride voluntarily (without any demand by the bridegroom), provided that such presents are entered in list maintained in accordance with the rule made under this Act and presents which are given at the time of marriage to the bridegroom (without any demand having been made in that behalf)provided that these presents are in accordance of law.

According to section 4 if the demand is made in relation to dowry and it must be in relation to the agreed matter. If the demand is not made in consideration of marriage than it is not demand at all. (Kashi Prasad v. State of Bihar) any agreement with respect of dowry is void ab initio according to section 5.

The supreme court in the recent case of Bobbili Ramakrishna Raju Yadav v. State of Andhra Pradesh explained section 6 of the act. When the dowry is received by anyone other than the bride, it must be transferred the same to the woman entitled and if he fails to do so within three months from the date of the marriage, he shall be punished for violation of Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. The amount of the article if in possesion of the husband or the in-laws they are deemed to be the trustee. Person who has dominion over the amount or the article is bound to return the same within three months after the date of marriage to the woman in connection with whose marriage it is given. otherwise, he will be guilty of an offence under Section 6.


The dowry prohibition act was first legislated in 1961; the act was amended in 1984 to make the offence of “dowry” cognisable offence. The maximum punishment for these offences has been increased to two year imprisonment and punishment by way of a fine for these offences has also been increased substantially. According to section 7 cognisance can only be taken by metropolitan magistrate court and judicial magistrate 1st class.


A close reading of Section 8A provides that initial burden lies on prosecution to give enough material against the accused under section 3 and section 4. Section 8A is to be read with section 2 and all the ingredients of section 3 and 4 must be fulfilled before the action can be brought against the accused. Once the burden is discharged by the prosecution, thenburden of proof lies on the accused that Such property or valuable security must be given in connection with the marriage of said parties.


In the late 20st century, the problem of dowry has changed structurally and in magnitude. Now with the accession of education, scientific advancement urbanisation the dowry system has become compulsory. Husbands from professions of managers, administrative officers, businessman come costly. It doesn’t just happen in the marriages arranged by the parents, but rather it has taken its hold in the love marriages with permission of parents. It might not be asked outright, but it can be asked in form of gifts. Seeing the aggravated scenario attempts have been made to tackle the problem by prosecuting the culprits under the provision of I.P.C. Section 302, 304 A, 304 B, 306 ,498 A, and Section 113A and 113B of Indian Evidence Act.


Section 498A of Indian penal code

The first substantive law dealing with cruelty on women was introduced by Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1983 (Act 46 of 1983). Section 498A deals with matrimonial cruelty to women.

“Husband or relative of the husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty-Whoever being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects her to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to a fine.

Explanation defines cruelty as-

  1. Any wilful conduct which is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health of the woman; or
  2. harassment of the woman where such harassment is to coerce her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demands for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such a demand.”

The aim of the act was to protect women from dowry death and harassment after marriage based on dowry demands by the husband and the relatives. Cruelty is the most important ingredient here.

“The act of harassment would amount to cruelty for this section. Drinking and late coming habits of the husband coupled with beating and demanding dowry have been taken to amount to cruelty within the meaning of this section, but this section has been held not to include a husband who merely drinks as a matter of routine and comes home late. In a case before Supreme Court it was observed that this section has given a new dimension to the concept of cruelty for matrimonial remedies and that the type of conduct described here would be relevant for proving cruelty. (Source:”

There is a presumption of cruelty introduced by adding section 113A Indian evidence act. It is also applying when the husband has extramarital affairs with other women, and he beats his wife. This section gives wide discretion to the courts in the matters of interpretation of the words occurring in the laws and in matters of awarding punishment. This provision is not ultra-vires. It does not confer arbitrary powers on courts. The SC has also raised concerned arrest made under the section. In arneshkumar v. state of biharSC provided a set of a checklist to before arresting anyone under section 498A. In Rajesh Sharma and Ors. v State of UP court provides for setting up a family welfare committee for scrutinising dowry cases and the police will make an arrest on the recommendation of the committee. while a group of people finds it a positive change, but pro – feminist have taken a stand that such a measure will make the genuine cases slide by without justice. And exonerate the perpetrators.

“Section 498-A differs from section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. in the latter mere demand of dowry is punishable and existence of an element of cruelty is unnecessary, whereas section 498-A deals with the aggravated form of the offence. It punishes such demands of property or valuable security from the wife or her relatives as are coupled with cruelty to her. Hence a person can be prosecuted regarding both the offences punishable under section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act and this section. (Inder Raj Malik and others vs. Mrs Sumita Malik).

Forms of cruelty –

(a) Cruelty by vexatious litigation

(b) Cruelty by deprivation and wasteful habits

(c) Cruelty by persistent demand

(d) Cruelty by extra-marital relations

(e) Harassment for non-dowry demand

(f) Cruelty by non-acceptance of a baby girl

(g) Cruelty by false attacks on chastity

(h) Taking away children (Inder Raj Malik vs. Sunita Malik)

With the new age of modernisation and education, women find the section as a tool to harass the hapless husbands and family become the subject of their vengeance. The malimath committee, 2003 also notes this gross misuse. It had opined to amend the provision. Law Commission in 2002 also vouched for making it less stringent. 243rd Law Commission Report justified compounding of the offence looking at the statistical data of cases under Section 498-A. The misuse of Section 498-A is clear from the high number of cases pending in various courts across the country. It is argued that emphasises the need for the Court playing an active role while dealing with the application for compounding the offence under Section 498-A.

Recent judgements like rajeshsharma v. state of UP raises concerns about the patriarchal viewpoint. Intention of such a provision was to provide protection from cruelty. Slow judicial process forces them to compromise than seek justice. It may end up blocking chances of genuine cases as its worth is brought down to cases of bouncing of a cheque.

Section 304 B dowry death

1986 amendment proposed a fresh offence of dowry death under IPC named dowry death. Earlier such cases were accorded under section 302 IPC I.e. Murder and section 306 IPC abetment to suicide.


Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is 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 a dowry, such death shall be called ‘dowry death’, and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death.


Explanation- For the purposes of this subsection, “dowry” shall have the same meaning as in section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 (28 of 1961).”


Essential Ingredients of Dowry Death are the followings:


  1. Death of woman should be induced by burns or bodily injury or otherwise than under ordinary circumstances.
  2. Death should have taken place within Seven years of her marriage
  3. The woman must have been exposed to cruelty or harassment by her husband or relatives of her husband.
  4. Such Cruelty or harassment should be for or in connection with the demand for a dowry.
  5. Such cruelty or harassment should have been subjected soon before her death


Punishment and procedure-


Under Section 304-B (2) of Indian Penal Code,  Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be slighter than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life. The offence is cognisable, non-bailable, non-compoundable and triable by a Court of Session.

Explanation of section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 provides –

For, the purposes of this section, “dowry death” shall have the same meaning as in Section 304-B of the Indian Penal Code.”

The presumption arises when the essential element of demand for dowry is fulfilled by the prosecution. The initial burden rests on the prosecution to prove the ingredients of Section 304-B, including the fact that soon before her death, she had been subjected by the accused persons to cruelty or harassment for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry. The presumption is a departure from traditional rules of evidence, and it emerges against the accused where the women died unnaturally.

“Prem Singh v. the State of Haryana,30 unnatural death of a married woman in her husband’s house within seven years of her marriage. Harassment by the husband for not bringing sufficient dowry was established. Medical evidence showing that the deceased died due to asphyxia as a result of smothering which is an unnatural death. No explanation offered by the husband as to how the deceased sustained several abrasions and contusions on her body. The Court observed that, in the circumstances, the presumption of dowry death can be raised against the husband. High Court justified in reversing his acquittal. However, mother of the husband who resided separately did not stand to gain from the demand of additional dowry and whose presence in the house at the time of the incident not established, she entitled to the benefit of the doubt.”


If the prosecution succeeds in discharging this first burden, then the provisions of Section 113-B of the Evidence Act came into action presumption against the accused is drawn that he caused dowry death. The presumption cannot be made if the act is confined to section 302. (bottom Singh v. state od UP). Unlike any other laws present here the husband and husband’s relatives shall be presumed to have caused a ‘dowry death’ and shall be liable for the offence unless proved otherwise.


Section 304-B does not explain the term cruelty or harassment, but Section 498-A, inserted by the Dowry Prohibition (Amendment) Act, 1986, explains ‘cruelty ‘as- “whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such a woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 304-B provides terms ‘soon before’ her death. It means the woman was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband soon before her death Implying that the interval between cruelty and should not be large. Or to say plainly cruelty should be ‘immediately before’ the death. cruelty should not be remote in time to become old enough not to disturb the mental equilibrium of the woman concerned. There must be a proximate link between the effect of cruelty based on dowry demand and the concerned death. The determination of the period which can come within the term ‘soon before’ is determined by facts and circumstances of each case.

The term ‘other than normal circumstances’ means not the natural death (Hans raj v. the state of Punjab). In Rajayyan v. State of Kerala [AIR 1998 SC 1211], SC observes that death “otherwise than in normal circumstances” means that the death was not in the usual course but apparently under suspicious circumstances if it was not caused by a burn or bodily injury. Death of a woman by suicide occurring within 7 years of marriage cannot be described as occurring in normal circumstances.

 Rameshwar Das Vs. State of Punjab (2008) it was held that a Pregnant woman wouldn’t commit suicide unless the relationship with her husband comes to such a pass that she would be compelled to do so. Accused was held liable to be convicted.


Even if the validity of marriage itself is under legal scrutiny and the demand of dowry with respect to an invalid marriage is not legally recognisable, the scope of Section 498-A, 304-B of IPC and Section 113-B of the Evidence Act cannot come to an end right off. The argument that there is not legally valid marriage is not acceptable because the legislative intent is clear that is to save women from harassment. (Reema Aggarwal v. Anupam [2004])

“Here the expression ‘husband’ construes to cover a person who enters into a marital relationship and under the colour of such proclaimed or feigned status of husband subjects the woman concerned to cruelty or coerce her in any manner or for any of the purposes enumerated in the relevant provisions – Sections 304-B and 498-A of IPC whatever be the legitimacy of the marriage itself for the limited purposes of Section 304-B and 498-A of the Code.”

In KodamGangaram v. State of A.P. [1999 Cr.LJ 2181 (A.P.)], the woman was forced to commit suicide due to harassment of dowry demand by husband, and her statements are fully corroborated by other evidence, it can well be presumed that it was only harassment which resulted in death, the conviction under Section 304-B and 498-A IPC is proper and fully justified.

Because of the protection granted by Article 20 (1) of the Constitution an act committed before section 304-B was enacted and enforced could not be tried and punished under section 304- B. (The Supreme Court in SoniDevrajbhaiBabubhai v. the state of Gujarat)

In Surinder Kumar v. State a wife was deserted by her husband. If the deceased women in her dying declaration/ suicide note specifically name the accused making the demand of colour television and scooter and that she was being abused and harassed for bringing insufficient dowry. Even if she is staying with her parents when she committed suicide, there were meetings between the parties and attempts made to rehabilitate her. The grounds are sufficient incitement and continuous harassment for attracting section 304-B. There should be a perceptible nexus between the death of the deceased and harassment or cruelty on her. (Satvir Singh v. the State of Punjab)

Nowadays the offence of dowry death is full of controversy. 202nd Law Commission Report has complained about rising false cases and section 304 and 498-A the tool of harassment. It has rejected any scope for providing a death sentence for the offence of dowry death under Section 304-B, there is no substantive reason to do so. Bride burning is also an offence committed by the husband and his family when dowry demands are not met. When a married woman dies by burns, it is covered under section 304 B.

However, the commission agreed that there is need to remove vagueness in the provisions and so classification and distinction have to be made regarding dowry death and murder, which are frequently confused for one another. It has been reiterated by the supreme court in K. PremaS.Rao Vs Yadla Srinivasa Rao that, the Legislature has by amending the Penal Code and Evidence Act made Penal Law more strident for dealing with punishing offences against married women.  Such strident laws would have a deterrent effect on the offenders only if they are so stridently implemented by the law courts to achieve the legislative intent. Dowry deaths are a manifestation of socio-economic maladies prevailing in the society.’  It is necessary that this is addressed at different levels, instead of legal redressal level alone, to curb the menace of dowry deaths.”

Cruelty and Dowry Death intertwined:

section 304 is attracted when all the 5 ingredients are fulfilled. Otherwise, the case falls under section 498A. in the Shanti Vs State of Haryana, the supreme court held that Section 304B and 498A are not mutually exclusive. Two distinct offences are observed and dealt with. A person that is charged and acquitted under Section 304B can be convicted under Section 498A without a charge being framed if such a case is made.  However, from the perspective of practice and procedure and to avoid technical shortcomings, it is sensible in such cases to frame charges under both the Sections.  If the case is established against the accused, he can be convicted under both the Sections, but no separate sentence need be awarded under Section 498A because of a substantive sentence being awarded for a major offence under Section 304B.

“In Kaliyaperumal vs. State of Tamil Nadu, that cruelty is a common essential under both the sections 304B and 498A of IPC. The two sections are not mutually inclusive but both are distinct offences and persons acquitted under section 304B for the offence of dowry death can be convicted for an offence under sec.498A of IPC. The meaning of cruelty is given in explanation to section 498A. Section 304B does not contain its meaning but the meaning of cruelty or harassment as given in section 498-A applies in section 304-B as well. Under section 498-A of IPC cruelty by itself amounts to an offence whereas under section 304-B the offence is of dowry death and the death must have occurred during the course of seven years of marriage. But no such period is mentioned in section 498-A.

The protection of women from Domestic violence act, 2005

Dowry demands also entail violence physically. Dowry is not a prerequisite for the above act but it is one of the conditions, however, it can be in hidden form. That is why domestic violence act, 2005 is expansive enough to recognise the dowry.

“3. Definition of domestic violence. -For the purposes of this Act, any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent shall constitute domestic violence in case it –

(a) harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well-being, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person or tends to do so and includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse; or

(b) harasses, harms, injures or endangers the aggrieved person with a view to coerce her or any other person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any dowry or other property or valuable security; or

(c) has the effect of threatening the aggrieved person or any person related to her by any conduct mentioned in clause (a) or clause (b); or

(d) otherwise injures or causes harm, whether physical or mental, to the aggrieved person.

Explanation I.-For the purposes of this section,-

(i) “physical abuse” means any act or conduct which is of such a nature as to cause bodily pain, harm, or danger to life, limb, or health or impair the health or development of the aggrieved person and includes assault, criminal intimidation and criminal force;

(ii) “sexual abuse” includes any conduct of a sexual nature that abuses, humiliates, degrades or otherwise violates the dignity of woman;

(iii) “verbal and emotional abuse” includes-

(a) insults, ridicule, humiliation, name calling and insults or ridicule especially with regard to not having a child or a male child; and

(b) repeated threats to cause physical pain to any person in whom the aggrieved person is interested.

(iv) “economic abuse” includes-

(a) deprivation of all or any economic or financial resources to which the aggrieved person is entitled under any law or custom whether payable under an order of a court or otherwise or which the aggrieved person requires out of necessity including, but not limited to, household necessities for the aggrieved person and her children, if any, stridhan, property, jointly or separately owned by the aggrieved person, payment of rental related to the shared household and maintenance;

(b) disposal of household effects, any alienation of assets whether movable or immovable, valuables, shares, securities, bonds and the like or other property in which the aggrieved person has an interest or is entitled to use by virtue of the domestic relationship or which may be reasonably required by the aggrieved person or her children or her stridhan or any other property jointly or separately held by the aggrieved person; and

(c) prohibition or restriction to continued access to resources or facilities which the aggrieved person is entitled to use or enjoy by virtue of the domestic relationship including access to the shared household.

Explanation II.-For the purpose of determining whether any act, omission, commission or conduct of the respondent constitutes “domestic violence” under this section, the overall facts and circumstances of the case shall be taken into consideration. “

The definition includes all kinds of abuse- sexual, physical psychological and economic. But united nations handbook for legislation against women says that psychological and economic abuse are very difficult to prove in legal proceedings. Physical and economic abuse cannot be kept at par with each other. The perpetrator can argue that since his demands are not met for running the family business or household his abuse against the victim is justified as he is economically disadvantageous.


Therefore, it has been recommended that the psychological and economic violence should be replaced by ‘coercive control’ which also links patterns of intimidation, isolation, degradation, and deprivation as well as physical assault. The abuser’s tactics may include controlling how the victim dresses, cleans, cooks, or performs sexually. it includes controlling behaviours like how the victim dress, cleans, cooks, or performs sexually. Such behaviours target the victim’s autonomy, independence and dignity in ways that compromise her ability to make decisions.

 “Coercive control is defined as an act or pattern of acts of assault, sexual coercion, threats, humiliation, and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten a victim. This control includes a range of acts designed to make victims subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.”


The menace of dowry custom has reached deep in the society at the same time when India is witnessing an unprecedented economic and technological boom. Laws have become stringent with time to do complete justice and protect women, but it brought negative consequences of frivolous cases. Awareness has increased among people, but it not created any deterrence among people. Dowry is a socio-legal problem which cannot be law alone. There is a need for government intervention along with help of NGO/civil societies. Education and self-dependence of woman can become catalyst and overhaul the problem gender imbalance and loss of self-esteem of women.