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Supreme Court expounds despite Judicial Separation wife can still claim Stridhan

Stridhan belongs to WomenNovember,21,2015-  Supreme Court today held that a woman can claim her stridhan after separation from her husband and criminal proceedings can be initiated against husband and in-laws for not handing over the properties. As per Hindu law, stridhan is whatever a women receives during her lifetime including all movable, immovable property, gifts etc received prior to marriage, at the time of marriage and during child birth.

The Apex Court held that “A woman has inalienable rights over stridhan and she can claim it even after separation from her husband and that denying it would amount to domestic violence making the husband and in-laws liable to face criminal prosecution”.

Bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C Pant quashed the order of a Trial Court and Tripura High Court  and reprimanded the courts for dismissing the plea of a woman on the ground that she lost the right over stridhan after judicial separation with husband. The Court said that, “The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was meant to provide an effective protection to a woman and the court should adopt sensitive approach towards such complaints. It should be borne in mind that helpless and hapless “aggrieved person” under the 2005 Act approaches the court under the compelling circumstances. It is the duty of the court to scrutinise the facts from all angles whether a plea advanced by the respondent to nullify the grievance of the aggrieved person is really legally sound and correct”.

The Supreme Court further enunciated that separation under court order is different from divorce and the couple remains as husband and wife, although living separately. Consequently held that, “It is quite clear that there is a distinction between a decree for divorce and decree of judicial separation; in the former, there is a severance of status and the parties do not remain as husband and wife, whereas in the later, the relationship between husband and wife continues and the legal relationship continues as it has not been snapped. Thus the finding recorded by the courts below which have been concurred by HC that the parties having been judicial separated, the wife has ceased to be an aggrieved person is wholly unsustainable,”.

Supreme Court expounded that under judicial separation a couple can keep their status as wife and husband till their lifetime and a wife is entitled to invoke the Act during that period if her rights are violated.

The Apex Court in its judgment held that, “As long as the status of the aggrieved person remains and stridhan remains in the custody of the husband, the wife can always put forth her claim under Section 12 of the Act. We are disposed to think so as the status between the parties is not severed because of the decree of dissolution of marriage. A decree or an order for judicial separation permits the parties to live apart. There would be no obligation for either party to cohabit with the other. Mutual rights and obligations arising out of a marriage are suspended. The decree however, does not sever or dissolve the marriage”.

In this case the woman got married in 2005. Five years after tying the knot, her husband moved family court seeking separation from her and the court passed the order in his favour in 2010. Alleging that her husband and in-laws were not handing over jewellery and other assets gifted to her by family and friends, she approached the trial court which dismissed her plea saying it was not maintainable. The HC also upheld the order without going into the merit of her allegation.

Quashing the order of Trial Court and High Court, the Apex Court directed the trial court hear her plea on merit and said woman has inalienable right over stridhan and neither the husband nor any other family members can have any right over it.

Supreme Court on Stridhan

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