The Kerala High Court issued notice and directions to the State Government for the implementation of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and its rules to ensure effective eradication of the dowry system from the society.
The Surge in Dowry Deaths
The State of Kerala saw a surge in dowry deaths; from women being set on fire and women being abused to the brink of suicide in the name of dowry.
The petitioner, Dr. Indira Rajan, CEO of the Vikram Sarabhai Science Foundation, filed public interest litigation (PIL) seeking the implementation of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and its rules, particularly the Dowry Prohibition (Maintenance of List of Presents to the Bride and Bridegroom) Rules, 1985 and the Kerala Dowry Prohibition Rules, 2004.
In the PIL, the petitioner sought for a declaration from all governmental servants regarding whether they had received dowry during their marriage; an immediate implementation of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 to eradicate the menace of dowry and deaths caused therein and a directive for appointment of dowry prohibition officers as mandated to be appointed by the State Government under Section 8B of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
Contentions in the Petition
The Counsel appearing for the petitioner submitted that the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and rules connected therewith had not been properly implemented in the State.
The Counsel submitted that dowry deaths were constantly being reported, however, the Regional Dowry Prohibition Officers that was required to be appointed under Rule 3 of Kerala Dowry Prohibition Rules, 2004 were not appointed since 2017.
The petition referred to dowry as a social stigma and cited the torture women are made to go through in the society in name of dowry. The petitioner alleged that no positive, effective, or creative steps had been taken to eliminate the menace of dowry deaths.
Observations of the Court
The division bench constituted by Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly took notice of the submissions made by the petitioner, and the Court observed that
“we are of the opinion that the implementation of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and the rules framed thereunder is a matter to be seriously looked into.”
Order to implement Dowry Prohibition Act
The Court passed an interim order by referring to the seriousness of the issue. The Court directed the State Government to inform the Court regarding the steps that were taken pertaining to the prevention of dowry death since 2004. Furthermore, the Court questioned the State Government regarding why the Regional Dowry prohibition Officers were not appointed since 2017. The Court directed the Government to report the reason for the non-appointed of the officers within three weeks.