High Court of Kerala
WP ( C ) No. 20219 of 2021
Highlight: The High Court of Kerala has held that gifts given to the bride at the time of her marriage for her welfare will not count as dowry under the ambit of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
Brief facts of Case: The single-Judge Bench of Justice M.R. Anitha noted:
“the presents given at the time of marriage to the bride without any demand having made in that behalf and which have been entered in a list maintained in accordance with rules made under this Act will not come within the purview of Section 3(1) which prohibits giving or taking of dowry.”
In one plea wherein the petitioner-husband has assailed the dowery prohibition officer’s order.
It was contended that he doesn’t have jurisdiction to entertain the petition since the allegation levelled is that the ornaments that were gifted to her for her well being were kept in a bank locker and not yet returned.
It was also argued on his behalf that the respondent wife’s family deposited all her ornaments in a bank locker in the couple’s name. It was further pointed out that the key to this locker was also with her.
The Court on the outset noted that the very averment was that the ornaments gifted to her for her well being were retained in the locker in a bank under the control of respondents.
Therefore it was held that presents given at the time of marriage to the bride without any demand having made on that behalf will not count as dowry.
The Court considered the noted points while quashing the impugned order and held :
“on receiving a complaint, the District Dowry Prohibition Officer is W.P.(C) No.20219 of 2021 8 bound to scrutinize the complaint and find whether it would come within the purview of Sections 2, 3, 6 etc. of the Act and conduct an enquiry to collect evidence from the parties about the genuineness of the complaint and upon such enquiry, if it is found that dowry is received by a person other than the women, then only powers under the Act can be exercised by the District Dowry Prohibition Officer. If the complaint is received with respect to the non-transfer of such dowry to the woman, who is entitled to it as per Section 6 of the Act, the District Dowry Prohibition Officer can issue directions to the parties to transfer the same. Here, from the records produced from the side of the petitioner as well as from the impugned order what could be gathered is that a statement of the petitioner has been obtained. ”
“The impugned order would further go to show that the 4th respondent stated at the time of hearing that 55 sovereigns of gold ornaments were given at the time of marriage and a chain was given to the petitioner by the parents of the 4th respondent and that has been agreed by both parties. It is further stated that out of which 5 chains and 9 bangles have been kept in the W.P.(C) No.20219 of 2021 9 Thodiyoor Service Co-operative Bank, Edakulangara Branch in the joint locker. Thereafter, the direction was given to return the 5 chains, 9 bangles and also the chain given to the petitioner at the time of marriage. So, no enquiry is conducted as to whether those articles are dowry given to the 4th respondent and no finding that the articles ordered to be released are dowry given to the 4th respondent at the time of marriage is entered into in the impugned order. ”
“What is revealed from the impugned order is only that 4th respondent stated that 55 sovereigns of gold ornaments were given at the time of marriage to her and one gold chain was given to the petitioner at the time of marriage and petitioner admitted that during the hearing. An order does not reveal that 4th respondent stated that gold was given as dowry by her parents as agreed or there was any such demand from the side of the petitioner for dowry. The 4th respondent will get jurisdiction to pass direction under Rule 6(xv) of the Rules only if it is found that the ornaments directed to be returned to the 4th respondent are dowry received by the petitioner. In the absence of such finding, the Dowry Prohibition Officer W.P.(C) No.20219 of 2021 10 will not get any jurisdiction to give a direction under Rule 6(xv).”