In order to provide more teeth to dowry-prevention laws, the Government has decided to make it mandatory for couples to notify the list of gifts exchanged during their wedding ceremony.
The rule will come about through an amendment to the existing Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 (DPA).
The list of gifts, in form of a sworn affidavit, has to be notarised, signed by a protection officer or a dowry prohibition officer and kept by both the parties. Failing this can invite heavy penalty including a three-year term in jail for not only bride and groom but also their parents.
The ministry of women and child development (MWCD) is moving a cabinet note seeking amendment in the existing provisions of DPA, official sources said.
The amendments are expected to be placed before cabinet for its approval this month end and is likely to be tabled in Parliament in the coming budget session, the sources said.
The amendments include having lesser penalty for the dowry givers, allowing a woman to file case where she permanently or temporarily resides, to include parents and relatives of the bride as aggrieved persons and who can complain and link the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (PWDV) with the dowry laws for quick relief.
The definition of dowry is also being widened by changing the word “in connection with marriage” to “given before the marriage, at the time and at any time after the marriage.”
In case of a woman’s death, all property obtained as dowry would need to be reverted back to the parents of the woman or her children.
The justification for this is that the taking of dowry by the husband itself was illegal, the dowry liable to be returned in her lifetime on her death cannot give rise to a claim of inheritance.
Ministry wants a clear distinction between “gifts” given voluntarily from those given under duress or compulsion. It also wants expression “presents” used in Section 3 (2) of the DPA to be substituted with “gifts” to indicate the voluntary intent behind the exchange. The expression “gifts” finds definition in law under the Gift-Tax Act 1958.
“There are no penalties provided for the failure to maintain lists of gifts exchanged in connection with the marriage. The maintenance of lists of gifts is crucial for the effective implementation of the law,” the National Commission for Women (NCW), that had prepared the amendments, explained.