Supreme Court on Financial Assistance as Dowry

In a recent decision, a Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose has held that seeking financial assistance from your wife or her family for the setting up of your business will be termed as dowry. During the contention, the accused stated he needed the money for the expansion of the business i.e his clinic and not as dowry.

In an argument, the counsel for the accused also stated that in the judgment of Appasaheb & Anr. vs. the State of Maharashtra, it was stated that demand for money on account of some financial stringency or some urgent domestic expenses cannot be termed as dowry.

In the present case, the accused along with his mother and two brothers were convicted by the Trial Court on account of demand for dowry coupled with cruelty on his deceased wife during the subsistence of his marriage. However, the High Court while confirming the conviction of the accused, acquitted others.

But the Supreme Court while passing the judgment stated that the judgment of the case Appasaheb which stated that ‘seeking financial help would not per se constitute a demand for dowry has been overruled by a later judgment of a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Rajinder Singh vs. the State of Punjab.

In Rajinder Singh vs. State of Punjab, it was held that any money or property or valuable security demanded by any of the persons mentioned in Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, at or before or at any time after the marriage which is reasonably connected to the death of a married woman, would necessarily be in connection with or in relation to the marriage.

Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition states that dowry” means any property or valuable security is given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly—

  • by one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage; or
  • by the parent of either party to a marriage or by any other person, to either party to the marriage or to any other person,

at or before or any time after the marriage but does not include dower or Mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies. The Section also mentions that the expression “valuable security” has the same meaning as in section 30 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Section 304B of the IPC stated the offence of dowry death and its punishment. It formulates that-

Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or har­assment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, such death shall be called “dowry death”, and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death. The punishment for the offence of dowry death is imprison­ment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.

Thus the Court dismissed the petition.