Keeping in view the rising number of complaints regarding the misuse of anti-dowry law, Centre is mulling to introduce penal provisions in the act that will ensure punishment or penalty to those who make false charges. The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development is also contemplating giving more teeth to the Dowry Prohibition Act by strengthening the existing provisions and widening the definition of 'dowry'.
"Recently, a rise in the incidents of misuse of the anti-dowry law has come to the notice of the ministry. In some cases, women falsely implicate their husbands and in-laws for various other reasons. "If the allegations turn out to be false, the case gets closed. So there are discussions going on about changing some provisions under which the misuse of the act may invite punishment or penalty," an official in the ministry said.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had directed the state governments to instruct police "not to automatically arrest when a case under Section 498A of IPC (dowry harassment) is registered but to satisfy themselves about the necessity for arrest under the parameters laid down flowing from Section 41 of Criminal Procedure Code".
While giving the direction, the apex court had expressed concern over the misuse of the anti-dowry law by "disgruntled" wives against her husband and in-laws and noted that the act was being increasingly used to harass in-laws.
According to ministry officials, the amendments may include widening the definition of 'dowry' by changing the words 'in connection with marriage' to 'given before the marriage, at the time of marriage and at any time after the marriage'.
The officials said that there was also "a proposal to link certain provisions of the Domestic Violence Act to the Dowry Prohibition Act to provide quick relief". Notifying the list of gifts exchanged during the wedding may also be made a mandatory and failure to do so could invite heavy penalties including a three-year jail term not only to the bride and the groom but also to their parents.
"Notification of the gifts during the wedding will help in checking any claim from being made later that they were part of dowry," the officials said. In addition to this, a new clause may be incorporated which will provide an aggrieved woman the opportunity to file her case either at the place where the offence was committed or where she permanently or temporarily resides, they said.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) had also proposed recommendations to amend the Dowry Prohibition Act in 2009.