Avoid false dowry claims, keep a list of gifts exchanged: Allahabad High Court [17.5.2024]

The Allahabad High Court recently stated that both bride and groom should maintain a list of gifts exchanged during marriage ceremonies as stipulated under Section 3(2) of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. Justice Vikram D Chauhan emphasised that such record-keeping is crucial to thwarting false accusations of dowry during subsequent disputes.

The court noted that meticulous documentation of gifts prevents both parties and their families from levelling baseless allegations of dowry transactions post-marriage. Additionally, the court highlighted that adherence to the provisions outlined in the Dowry Prohibition Act aids in resolving disputes by determining whether alleged dowry exchanges fall within the exceptions specified under Section 3(2) of the Act.

Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act imposes penalties for giving or taking dowry, with imprisonment for a minimum of five years and fines starting at Rs 50,000 or the equivalent value of the dowry, whichever is higher. However, subsection (2) of Section 3 exempts gifts presented to the bride or groom during marriage ceremonies, provided that a detailed list of such gifts is maintained in accordance with the prescribed rules.

The court stressed that the legislature intentionally exempted gifts exchanged during marriage from the definition of dowry under the Act. To avail of this exemption, it is imperative for the bride and groom to maintain a comprehensive list of gifts received as per the specified rules.

Furthermore, the court highlighted the role of the Dowry Prohibition (Maintenance of Lists of Presents to the Bride and Bridegroom) Rules, 1985, in governing the maintenance of gift lists. These rules, formulated by the Central Government, aim to ensure that the Indian tradition of exchanging gifts during weddings is upheld while also serving as a means to address dowry-related allegations in matrimonial disputes.

In the case under consideration, neither party had submitted a gift list as required by Section 3(2) of the Dowry Prohibition Act and the corresponding Rules of 1985. The court stressed the need for strict implementation of Section 3(2) to prevent frivolous litigation and called upon the State Government to clarify how the provision is being enforced.

Additionally, the court directed the Chief Secretary of the State of Uttar Pradesh to provide information regarding the appointment of Dowry Prohibition Officers, emphasising the need for their appointment in light of the rising number of dowry cases.

The court requested the State to clarify whether marriage registration officers are collecting and maintaining lists of presents as mandated by the Dowry Prohibition Rules of 1985. This measure aims to facilitate the verification of gifts in the event of disputes over dowry allegations.

The case is scheduled for further hearing on May 23.

18 May 2024