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Order passed by a Dowry prohibition officer quashed by the court in a case pertaining to the adjudication of dowry claims: High Court of Kerala

The High Court of Kerala, through learned judge, Justice M.R Anitha in the case of Vishnu v. State of Kerala (WP(C) NO. 20219 OF 2021), quashed an order passed by a Dowry prohibition officer in a case pertaining to the adjudication of dowry claims. 

BRIEF FACTS OF THE CASE: The petition was filed by Vishnu R challenging an order that was passed by the Dowry Prohibition Officer. The petitioner and his wife, the respondent, had married in 2010 as per the customs and practices prevailing among the Hindu community. As their relationship strained, the wife initiated legal proceedings against the petitioner, and ultimately she filed a petition before the nodal officer (Dowry cases). The learned counsel of the petitioner contended that his wife’s parents and her brother had deposited all her ornaments in the bank locker, except daily use jewellery in the name of his wife and the petitioner at the Bank. The key was also in possession of the wife alone. Notice was issued to the wife in this regard.

JUDGEMENT: The Court stated that as per Dowry Prohibition Rules, 1992, on receiving a complaint, the District Dowry Prohibition Officer is bound to scrutinise the complaint and find whether it would come within the purview of Sections 2, 3, 6 etc. of the Act. The District Dowry Prohibition Officer is also responsible for conducting an enquiry to collect evidence from the parties about the genuineness of the complaint, and upon such enquiry, if it is found that dowry is received by a person other than the women, then only powers under the Act can be exercised by the District Dowry Prohibition Officer. If the complaint is received with respect to the non-transfer of such dowry to the woman, who is entitled to it as per Section 6 of the Act, the District Dowry Prohibition Officer can issue directions to the parties to transfer the same. The court noted that the impugned order nowhere revealed that the wife had stated that gold was given as dowry by her parents as agreed or there was any such demand from the side of the petitioner for dowry. The officer will get jurisdiction to pass direction under Rule 6(xv) of the Rules only if it is found that the ornaments directed to be returned to the wife are dowry received by the petitioner. In the absence of the above finding, the Dowry Prohibition Officer will have no jurisdiction to give a direction under Rule 6(xv). In view of the above discussion, the impugned order passed was not sustainable in law and hence quashed. The petitioner’s counsel also stated that his party would cooperate to take and hand over the gold ornaments gifted to the petitioner at the time of the marriage to the wife. The counsel for the wife, agreed to take the said ornaments from the locker in the presence of the Branch Manager.

JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY – AMRUTHA K

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