The Punjab High Court in Pratibha Rani v/s Suraj Kumar & Anr. (AIR 1985 628) passed a judgement on 12th March, 1985 wherein an earlier order of the court on Stridhan was overruled. The case was presided by The Honorable Mr. Justice Fazal Ali, The Honorable Mr. Justice Syed Murtaza.
It overruled the decision of the Court in Vinod Kumar Sethi And Ors. v/s State of Punjab And Anr (AIR 1982 P H 372) on 30th March,1982. The wherein it had ruled that Stridhan that a woman acquired at the time of her marriage becomes a part of the joint property as soon as she enters her matrimonial home.
Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 defines Stridhan. It can be understood as a female’s absolute rights over any property possessed at the time of her marriage.
FACTS OF THE CASE:
In Vinod Kumar Sethi & Ors v/s State of Punjab And Anr, 1982, a full bench of the Punjab High Court held that Stridhan acquired by a woman turns into joint property as soon as she enters her matrimonial home. The respondent, Veena Rani alleged against the Petitioner, Vinod Kumar Sethi of extracting more dowry than what was already given at the time of the marriage. On failure of extracting the same, the petitioner seized the respondent of her stridhan.
However, in Pratibha Rani v/s Suraj Kumar & Anr, 1985, this decision of the Punjab High Court was overruled. Here, the petitioner, Pratibha Rani filed a criminal complaint against her husband, the respondent, Suraj Kumar. A demand for dowry at the time of marriage and a repetitive demand of the same after the marriage, persisted. On failure of fulfilment of the same, the respondent maltreated and harassed the petitioner and deprived her of basic necessity of providing food to the petitioner. The stridhan of the petitioner was retained by the respondent illegally and with a dishonest intention of causing wrongful gain the petitioner. The articles given to the appellant by the parents were exclusively given for the appellants’ use.
“The position of stridhan of a Hindu married woman’s property during coverture is absolutely clear and unambiguous. She is the absolute owner of such property and can deal with it in any manner she likes. She may spend the whole of it or give it away at her own pleasure by gift or will without any reference to her husband. The entrustment to the husband of the stridhan property is just like something which the wife keeps in a bank and can withdraw any amount whenever she likes without any hitch or hindrance” was held by the Court.
Hence, it was held by the Court that criminal law and matrimonial homes are not strangers. The wife has a complete right over her property acquired through stridhan. She remains in complete possession of the property. A breach in the same by the husband or his family will constitute a criminal breach of trust and liable to punishment under Sections 405 and 406 of the IPC.
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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY ARYA THAKUR.