In a judgement that could have a far reaching impact, the Kerala High Court on December 15, Wednesday ruled that presents given to the bride at the time of the wedding for her welfare will not count as dowry under the ambit of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. Justice MR Anitha, while hearing a petition submitted by the husband of a woman named Deepthi, observed that presents given at the time of wedding to the bride without any demands being made 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.
The judgement would have a particular impact in the state since it witnessed a couple of dowry-related deaths in the recent past. The petitioner married Deepthi in 2020. Deepthi is the fourth respondent in the petition. The couple's relationship strained in due course and the wife initiated legal proceedings against the husband. She filed a petition before the dowry nodal officer, reported LiveLaw.
The petitioner's counsels had argued that the respondent’s family deposited all her ornaments in a bank locker the key of which was with the wife.
In June this year, 22-year old Vismaya V Nair, a student of Bachelor of Ayurveda Medicines and a native of Kadaykkal in Kollam, died by suicide. The death was said to be a result of alleged dowry harassment and her husband Kiran Kumar had been arrested for it.
The death of Vismaya was followed by similar incidents, kicking off a slew of debates on dowry in Kerala. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan termed dowry as a social evil of utmost gravity. Governor Arif Mohammed Khan undertook a day-long fast to create social awareness against the practice of dowry and to end atrocities against women.