Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mixed ruling on gifts demanded by in-laws

The mixture of societal norms versus modern age greed makes for a potential minefield of customs. Given the prevalence of dowry in India, it is left for the courts to sort their way through this minefield. What makes the situation more complex is the prevalence of dowry as an abhorrent concept that can (and many times does) lead to harassment of the bride of the family, both verbally and physically as well as the increasing trend to use the harsh anti-dowry laws to threaten and get back at the husband's family. Things are never simple. The classic definition of dowry is when money or equivalent is demanded from the bride and her family for the marriage or after. But what about the case when the husband's family wants the bride's family to give some gifts on the occasion of the birth of a child. If demanded, then it is abhorrent; but is it really dowry. It is part of the same get-money claim, but is not dowry. And that is what the Supreme Court has ruled:

The Supreme Court has ruled that demand for money and presents from parents of a married girl at the time of birth of her child or for other ceremonies, as is prevalent in society, may be deprecable but cannot be categorised as dowry to make it a punishable offence.
This means, if a daughter-in-law is being harassed for customary gifts by parents-in-law, then they could be booked under ordinary penal provisions but not under the tough anti-dowry laws providing stringent punishments.

Such a judgment is never easy. It is easy to condemn such forced demands, and they should be condemned, but the court has to take a stand of law, and this is what they have decided. It must not have been easy for the court to decide on this issue, but given that the various judgments of the court have essentially been set as precedent, this is now the law. The court in the same order also passed more observations on the misuse of the law, but it cannot change things in order to prevent misuse; that can only be done by parliament. The court can only rule on a case by case basis.

Labels: , , ,

If you like these writings, you can subscribe to this feed to get new postsSite Feed Site Feed

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 6:18 PM