Thursday, October 21, 2010

Court: dowry, for fear of cancellation, is no offence

Giving dowry for fear that a proposed marriage may otherwise be called off is not an offence, the Delhi High Court has held while quashing an FIR against a bride and her family for conceding the demands of the groom's family.

Justice Ajit Bharihoke quashed the criminal proceedings after the bride and her family convinced the court that dowry was given under pressure. For, the bridegroom's family had threatened to cancel the marriage.

“As per the allegations in the complaint made by the petitioner [bride], the demand for dowry was made by the father of the respondent [bridegroom] at the time of engagement ceremony when he allegedly asked her father to concede his demand for dowry, failing which he would call off the marriage.

“From the aforesaid facts, it is obvious that the petitioner and her parents were confronted with the unenviable situation of either conceding the demand or facing loss of honour of their family in society, and if under that fear, the petitioner and her parents conceded the demand for dowry, they cannot be faulted as they were victims of the circumstances,” the court said.

Granting the bride relief, the court said, “She cannot be subjected to prosecution for the offence under the Dowry Prohibition Act.”

The court passed the order on the petition filed by Pooja Saxena challenging a lower court's order which directed the police to register an FIR against her and her family members, who alleged dowry harassment by her husband and in-laws. Sameer Saxena and his family members were accused of committing cruelty to Pooja by harassing her for dowry. The woman, in an FIR with the Roop Nagar police station, claimed that her family members had given huge dowry to Mr. Saxena at the time of their marriage.

Mr. Saxena later pleaded before the lower court that criminal proceedings be initiated against his wife and her family as she herself had admitted to giving huge dowry, which was an offence under the statute. The lower court on March 10 passed an order directing registration of the FIR on a petition filed by Mr. Saxena.

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