Kerala High Court: M.R. Anitha, J., decided whether gifts given to the bride during marriage by parents be covered under ‘Dowry’ or not?
Instant petition was filed by the petitioner who was the husband of 4th respondent. The impugned order was passed by the 3rd respondent/dowery prohibition officer.
Petitioner’s counsel submitted that the petitioner married the 4th respondent as per the customs and practices prevailing among the Hindu community. After marriage, they were living together as husband and wife at the residence of the petitioner. Since the relationship got strained and 4th respondent initiated legal proceedings against the petitioner and ultimately a petition was filed before the nodal officer.
Further, the counsel’s petitioner contended that the 4th respondent’s parents and her brother had deposited all her ornaments in the bank locker, except daily use jewellery in the name of the 4th respondent and the petitioner at the Bank. The key was also in the possession of the 4th respondent alone.
Notice was issued to the 4th respondent.
Analysis, Law and Decision
Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 was referred which was with regard to “Penalty for giving or taking dowry”.
“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 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 the averments, it was stated that the ornaments given to the 4th respondent for her well-being were kept in the locker in the bank under the control of the respondents.
The Court stated that as per Dowry Prohibition Rules, 1992 on receiving a complaint, the District Dowry Prohibition Officer is 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.
Bench further, noted that the impugned order nowhere revealed that the 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.
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 the above finding, the Dowry Prohibition Officer will have no jurisdiction to give a direction under Rule 6(xv).
In view of the above discussion, the impugned order passed was not sustainable in law and hence quashed.
The petitioner’s counsel also stated that his party would cooperate to take and hand over the gold ornaments gifted to the petitioner at the time of the marriage to the 4th respondent and counsel for the 4th respondent agreed to take the said ornaments from the locker in the presence of the Branch Manager.
In view of the above petition was allowed. [Vishnu v. State of Kerala, 2021 SCC OnLine Ker 5131, decided on 26-11-2021]
Advocates before the Court:
For the Petitioner:
Rasmi Nair T.
For the Respondents:
K.V. Anil Kumar
PP Sangeetharaj N.R.