How many government department heads get a declaration from employees that they have not taken dowry on getting married?
Social Justice Department sources said though the Kerala Dowry Prohibition Rules formulated under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, stipulates such a declaration, it is hardly complied with.
In fact, there is a fixed format to submit the declaration, which the head of the department is expected to make available to employees.
The rules formulated in 2004 suppressing the earlier rules formed in 1992, stipulate that “every government servant shall after his wedding furnish a declaration to the head of the department stating that he has not taken any dowry. The declaration shall be signed by the wife, the father and the father-in-law.”
“Though the rules mention such a declaration it is silent when it comes to the consequences for violating it. Anyway dowry remains an acceptable social evil in our society which cannot be eradicated completely through law unless there is an awakening of public conscience,” said K.K. Vinayan, Regional Dowry Prohibition Officer.
However, there is also the possibility that the wife and her family may sign the declaration even if they have given dowry as they would rather avoid discords at the time of the wedding. In that event, it will become a piece of evidence if a divorce petition over dowry is filed in the future.
“The declaration of not having taken dowry has evidential value if a divorce petition is filed with a demand to return the dowry in future. For that matter, even a photograph is considered evidence. However, it is not an effective mechanism in serving the purpose of prohibiting dowry,” said Sebastian Paul, Supreme Court lawyer and media analyst.
He, however, pointed out that the provision for declaration by government employees is one of the many formalities in the law that does not attract any consequence on failure to comply with. For instance, public figures are supposed to declare their assets annually. While some comply with, others don’t and there is also no mechanism to ascertain whether it is being done properly. Considering that dowry accounted for a certain percentage of the 41,279 divorce petitions that were filed in 20 family courts across the State in 2011, what is needed is an effective mechanism.
N. Leelamani, district family court judge, confirmed that dowry was one of the main reasons behind divorce petitions. Domestic violence is another factor but that again has its roots in dowry, she said.
Ms. Leelamani said she was unaware of government servants filing declarations on dowry after their wedding . Moreover, money and property changing hands during marriage these days are being shown as inheritance and not as dowry. She attributed the low conviction rates in family courts with regard to dowry to provisions in the Dowry Act that treats both the giver and taker as equally guilty.
Keywords: Kerala dowry system