What is Dowry?

Dowry is anything which has value (such as cash and property) which is given by the bride’s family to the groom’s family as a condition of marriage.1

The law does not stop the exchange of gifts with the fiance’s family during the wedding. The purpose of this law is to prohibit coercion during the gift exchange.

Gifts from the bride’s side should be according to custom and as per financial capacity of her family. For example, in marriages in certain societies, sarees and jewellery are given to women relatives of both the bride and groom, by the other side. This is done as per custom and therefore would not be considered as dowry. There may be other customs of giving certain gifts.

However, it is important to note that the groom’s family cannot force a bride to give the gifts per the custom as this would be demanding dowry. Generally, gifts given should be of a value which do not create an extraordinary financial burden to the person giving them.2 For example, if the bride’s father has to take a loan of a significant amount to buy gifts for the groom’s side, then it cannot be said that the gift has been given as per financial capacity of the person. This could be a case of an excessive financial burden on him and could be seen as a case of dowry.

  1. Section 2, Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.[]
  2. Provision to Section 3, Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961[]

What is Acid Attack?

[Trigger Warning: The following content contains information on physical violence which some readers may find disturbing.] 

An acid attack is the crime of hurting a person by throwing acid on them, administering acid1 to that person or doing anything with acid with the intention or knowledge that it would harm the person. An acid attack may result in injuries to a person, in any part of the body, including2:

  • Permanent or partial damage or deformity to a person
  • Burns on any body parts
  • Maiming, dis-figuration or any form of disability of a person.

Even though the main definition of acid attack is given in the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Law Commission of India has also defined an acid attack, as a form of violence against women where the perpetrator splashes a person or object with acid in order to deface or kill them.3

An acid attack can happen anywhere. Incidents of acid attack have frequently taken place at home, on the streets and even at work places.

  1. Compensation Scheme for Women Victims/Survivors of Sexual Assault/other Crimes 2018, National Legal Services Authority, accessed at https://wcd.nic.in/sites/default/files/Final%20VC%20Sheme_0.pdf.[]
  2. The Scheme for Relief and Rehabilitation of Offences (by Acids) on Women and Children, 2009 National Commission for Women, accessed at http://ncwapps.nic.in/PDFFiles/Scheme_ACID_Attack.pdf.[]
  3. Proposal for the Inclusion of Acid Attacks as Specific Offences in the Indian Penal Code and a Law for Compensation for Victims of Crime, Law Commission of India No 226, 2008, accessed at https://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/report226.pdf.[]

Who does the law protect?

[Trigger Warning: The following content contains information on physical violence which some readers may find disturbing.] 

The law on acid attack protects all persons, regardless of their gender. Further, there are no specifications in the law in terms of the age of the survivor. Therefore, an acid attack, whether carried out on a person of any age is punishable under the law.1 The law also protects foreigners who are survivors of acid attack if it happens in India.2

  1. Sections 326A and 326B, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  2. Section 2, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]

Exchange/Giving or Taking Dowry

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Any person who:

  • gives or
  • takes dowry, and
  • anyone who helps in the exchange of dowry.

can be punished under the law.

For Example

Raj(groom) and Simran(bride) are getting married. Simran’s father, Amrish gives Rs. 10 lakh and a car as dowry to Raj’s father Anupam.

Scenario 1: When the broker is involved: If the exchange is facilitated through Yash, who is a broker, and Amrish files a complaint, then both Anupam and Yash can be punished under this law.

Scenario 2: When the groom is involved: If Raj is involved in the discussions of demanding dowry, then he will also be prosecuted if a complaint if filed.

Scenario 3: When the complaint is made by someone else: In case the complaint is made by someone else, or it comes to the knowledge of the authorities that an exchange of dowry has taken place, then all three parties i.e. Anupam, Yash and Amrish can be punished. If Raj was also involved in the discussions, then he can also be punished.

The punishment can be jail time for a minimum of 5 years. If the amount is below 15,000 then the fine will be Rs. 15,000. However, if the fine is more than Rs. 15,000 then the fine is equal to the amount of dowry exchanged. For example, if the dowry amount is 30,00,000, then the fine will be Rs. 30,00,000.

What are the rights a person has under this law?

[Trigger Warning: The following content contains information on physical violence which some readers may find disturbing.

Survivors of acid attacks have the following rights under the law:

Right to Seek Medical Treatment

A survivor of an acid attack has the right to seek medical treatment in both government and private hospitals. The Supreme Court issued guidelines for acid attack crimes where they said that:

  • No hospital or clinic can refuse to treat acid attack survivors citing the lack of specialized facilities.1
  • Government and private hospitals have to provide survivors with first-aid and medical treatment free of cost.1

The court has placed the responsibility for the treatment and rehabilitation of survivors on the state government.2 Additionally, it has expected states and union territories to take action against hospitals that refuse to treat acid attack survivors.1

Right to File a Complaint 

Acid attack survivors also have the right to file a complaint against the perpetrator. The complaint can also be filed by the survivor’s relative, friend or acquaintance, any person who has witnessed the crime, or any person who comes to know of the crime. To see a list of other persons who can file the complaint, see here.

The complaint filed is known as a First Information Report (“FIR”). The FIR is a document that contains the information that a police officer fills out when she gets information on the commission of a cognizable offence. To learn how to file an FIR, you can read our explainer on ‘How to file an FIR’.

An FIR can be filed at any police station, regardless of whether it has jurisdiction over the commission of the crime or not. This information will then be transferred to a police station with the requisite jurisdiction. This concept is generally known as a zero FIR. To understand more about zero FIRs, you can read our explainer on ‘Where can FIR be Filed’.

Right to Compensation

Acid attack survivors have the right to seek compensation from the state government. The Victims Compensation Scheme3 that was drafted by the National Legal Services Authority, was approved by the Supreme Court in 2018. It provides for mandatory compensation for survivors of acid attacks as well as sexual crimes including sexual assault, murder, kidnapping etc. Apart from compensation under this scheme, the survivor receives the fine amount that the perpetrator pays for committing the crime which is charged by the Court.4

Various state governments have formed Victim Compensation Schemes for acid attack survivors. Keeping in mind that there is a lack of uniformity in the state schemes, and the amount of compensation specified in most of these schemes is too low, the Supreme Court stated that:

  • The minimum amount of Rupees 3 lakh must be provided by the state government to every survivor.5 This is the minimum amount, and the state government can provide a higher amount, where necessary.6
  • Any compensation amount must factor in not only the survivor’s physical injuries but also their inability to lead a full life.6
  • The Chief Secretary/ Administrator of the state/UT concerned must ensure that this amount is paid.7

To learn more on information on schemes in different states for survivors of violence, contact details of one-stop centres, protection officers and helpline numbers, check out the Nyaaya Map on Key Information for Survivors of Violence.

Given below are the list of State Victim Compensation Schemes in India:

State Name of the Scheme
Arunachal Pradesh Arunachal Pradesh Victim Compensation Scheme, 2011
Assam Assam Victim Compensation Scheme, 2012
Bihar Bihar Victim Compensation Scheme, 2011
Chattisgarh Chattisgarh Victim Compensation Scheme, 2011
Chandigarh Chandigarh Victim Assistance Scheme, 2012
Dadra and Nagar Haveli Dadra and Nagar Haveli Victim Assistance Scheme, 2012
Daman and Diu Daman and Diu Victim Assistance Scheme, 2012
Delhi Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme, 2015
Goa Goa Victim Compensation Scheme, 2012
Gujarat Gujarat Victim Compensation Scheme, 2013
Haryana Haryana Victim Compensation Scheme, 2013
Himachal Pradesh Himachal Pradesh (Victim of Crime) Compensation Scheme, 2012
Jammu and Kashmir Jammu and Kashmir Victim Compensation Scheme, 2013
Jharkhand Jharkhand Victim Compensation Scheme, 2012
Karnataka Karnataka Victim Compensation Scheme, 2011
Kerala Kerala Victim Compensation Scheme, 2014
Lakshadweep Lakshadweep Victim Assistance Scheme, 2012
Manipur Manipur Victim Compensation Scheme, 2011
Meghalaya Meghalaya Victim Compensation Scheme, 2014
Mizoram Mizoram Victims Compensation Scheme, 2011
Maharashtra Maharashtra Victim Compensation Scheme, 2014
Madhya Pradesh Madhya Pradesh Victim Compensation Scheme, 2015
Nagaland Nagaland Victim Compensation Scheme, 2012
Odisha Odisha Victim Compensation Scheme, 2012
Puducherry Puducherry Victim Assistance Scheme, 2012
Punjab Punjab Victim Compensation Scheme, 2017
Rajasthan Rajasthan Victim Compensation Scheme, 2011
Sikkim Sikkim Compensation to Victims or his Dependents Scheme, 2011
Tamil Nadu Tamil Nadu Victim Compensation Scheme for Women Victims/Survivors of Sexual Assault/other Crimes, 2018
Tripura Tripura Victim Compensation Scheme, 2012
Uttar Pradesh Uttar Pradesh Victim Compensation Scheme, 2014
Uttrakhand Uttarakhand Victim from Crime Assistance Scheme, 2013
West Bengal West Bengal Victim Compensation Scheme, 2012
  1. Laxmi v. Union of India and Others, (2016) 3 SCC 669, order dated 10/4/2015 [34], [35].[][][]
  2. Parivartan Kendra v. Union of India and others, (2016) 3 SCC 571 [29].[]
  3. Compensation Scheme for Women Victims/Survivors of Sexual Assault/other Crimes 2018, National Legal Services Authority, accessed at https://wcd.nic.in/sites/default/files/Final%20VC%20Sheme_0.pdf.[]
  4. Section 357B, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.[]
  5. Laxmi v. Union of India and Others, (2014) 4 SCC 427 [13], [14].[]
  6. Parivartan Kendra v. Union of India and others, (2016) 3 SCC 571 [20], [21].[][]
  7. Laxmi v. Union of India and Others, (2014) 4 SCC 427 [14].[]

Complaining about a Demand for Dowry

There is no time limit on when you can file a complaint under this law. You can file a complaint of dowry anytime after marriage. However, you cannot file a complaint after a divorce.

The practice of giving, taking, demanding and advertising dowry is illegal. In case you have had to pay dowry at the time of your wedding, or someone from your family has paid on your behalf, or you personally know of someone who has had to pay dowry as a condition for marriage, any of the following options are available to you:

  • Complaint at the local police station by filing an FIR.
  • Complain to the Dowry Prohibition Officer in your district.
  • Write to the appropriate judicial authority for your case (Metropolitan Magistrate or Judicial Magistrate First Class).
  • Another option is to approach any social welfare institution or recognized welfare organization recognized by the Government and process your complaint through them.

In case you have been coerced into paying dowry, you can still file a complaint against the offenders.

If you were forced to pay dowry and you complained to the police charges of the offence of dowry will not be brought against you.

What are the offences and punishments under this law?

[Trigger Warning: The following content contains information on physical violence which some readers may find disturbing.

The crimes relating to acid attacks have been specified under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Anyone can be punished for the crimes given below regardless of their gender. They are:

Throwing acid or attempting to throw acid

Throwing acid on a person and hurting them is a crime. The punishment for throwing acid is jail time of minimum 10 years that can be extended to life imprisonment along with a fine that is reasonable enough to meet the medical expenses of the acid attack survivor.1

Additionally, throwing or attempting to throw acid on a person is also a crime. The punishment is jail time of a minimum of 5 years and can be extended to 7 years, along with a fine.2

Helping someone throw acid

Helping someone throw acid is also a crime. Helping someone commit a crime is known as abetment under the law. The punishment for abetment is the same as the punishment for throwing1 or attempting to throw acid3 on another person.

Refusing to treat or provide free immediate treatment to an acid attack survivor

An acid attack survivor has a right to medical treatment and a hospital refusing to provide such treatment is a crime under the law. A complaint can be filed before the police against a person who refuses to treat the survivor.4

Besides the specific acid attack crimes in the Indian Penal Code, 1860, other crimes can also be implicated or written in the FIR or charge sheet by the police in the case of acid attacks. These include murder,5 attempt to murder,6 hurting someone with dangerous weapons,7 and causing grievous hurt.5

  1. Section 326A, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[][]
  2. Section 326B, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  3. Section 326B, Indian Penal Code, 1860; Section 109, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  4. Section 357C, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.[]
  5. Section 325, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[][]
  6. Section 307, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  7. Section 324, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]

Are the offences bailable or non-bailable/ cognizable?

The crime of throwing or helping someone throw acid, is both cognizable and non-bailable.1

A cognizable offence is a crime for which a police officer can arrest the perpetrator without a warrant.2

Non-bailable offence is a crime for which bail is not a right and the discretion lies with the court to either grant it or not. To learn more about bail in non-bailable offences, you can read our explainer on Bail for Non-Bailable Offences.

  1.  Sections 326A and 326B, Indian Penal Code, 1860.[]
  2.  Section 2(c), Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.[]