What is dower (Mehr)?
“Dower is a sum of money (or other property) which the wife is entitled to receive from the Husband in consideration of marriage" Mulla. According to Saxena “ Dower is a sum of money or any property promised (may be implied) by the husband to be paid or delivered to the wife as a mark of respect for the surrender of her person (body) after the marriage contract, but generally said to be a consideration for marriage”.
Kind Of Dower
Dower may be classified according to the method of deciding of its amount and according to the time when it is payable
(a) Specified dower: When the amount of dower is fixed (either before or at the time of marriage or even after marriage) such fixed amount is called specified dower.
(b) Proper dower (Mahr-i-misl): If the amount of dower is not fixed, the wife is entitled to proper dower. In determining proper dower regard is to be had to the amount of dower settled upon the other female members of her father’s family.
(a) Prompt dower (Muwajja!): it is the amount of dower payable before the wife can be called upon to enter into the conjugal domicile.
(b) Deferred dower (Muwajja!): It is the amount of dower which is payable on the dissolution of the contract of marriage by the death of either of the parties or by divorce. Can dower be remitted?
An adult wife has every right to deal with her dower in any way she likes and as such, she may remit that dower (or any part thereof) in favor of the husband or his heir. Such a remission is valid, though made without consideration. But. the remission must have been
made with her free consent. A remission made by the wife when she is in great mental distress (due to her husband’s death) is not made with her free consent and is not binding on her. A girl, who is a minor and has not attained puberty, cannot remit her dower but if she has attained puberty, she is competent to remit her dower though she may not have attained the age of 18 years within the meaning of the Indian Majority Act. A stipulation in a contract of dower that the wife should not be competent to remit her dower without the consent of her relations is valid.
Right & Remedies of wife on non-payment of Dower
(1)Refusal to cohabit: If the marriage has not been consummated, she has a right to refuse to cohabit with him, so long as the prompt dower is not paid. If the marriage has been consummated she cannot refuse to cohabit (provided the consummation took place when she was not minor or insane.)
(2)Legal nature of Dower: ‘The dower is a debt but an unsecured debt” and the wife is entitled (along with the other creditors) to have it satisfied on the death of the husband out of his estate but the heirs are not personally liable.
(3)Retention of property (or widow’s lien): An.unpaid dower may be analyzed as under :
(1) If a widow
(2) has lawfully and without force or fraud
(3) obtained the actual possession of her deceased husband’s property in lieu of her dower (4) she is entitled to retain the property in her possession
(5) as against other heirs and as against other creditors of her husband
(6) until her dower is paid, and
(7) if she has not obtained possession
(8) she can not exclude other heirs from possession, i.e. they are entitled to joint possession.
Literally, it means betel-box expenses, it is a personal allowance to the wife customary among Muslim families of rank, especially in North India, fixed either before or after marriage and varying according to the means and position of the parties. The husband has hardly any control over the wife's application of the allowance either in her adornment or in the consumption of the article from which it derives its name (paan) ;
Khawja Muhammad v. Husani Begam,