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SC Affirms Women’s Absolute Rights Over ‘Stridhan’, Husband Has No Right On It

New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India has unequivocally affirmed that ‘stridhan,’ gifts given to a woman by her parents, in-laws, relatives, or friends before, during, or after marriage, remains her absolute property. The court’s verdict emphasizes that a husband has no entitlement over his wife’s ‘stridhan,’ and he must return it to her if used during times of distress.

The bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta delivered this pivotal judgment while adjudicating a matrimonial dispute. According to the ruling, a woman retains full control over her ‘stridhan,’ including the right to dispose of it at her discretion. The husband, despite being married to her, does not hold any independent authority over her property and is morally obligated to restore it to her if utilized during exigencies.

Moreover, the Supreme Court clarified that any misappropriation or dishonest appropriation of ‘stridhan’ by the husband or his family members could lead to prosecution under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for criminal breach of trust. Importantly, the burden of proof in such cases should not rely solely on evidence beyond reasonable doubt, typical in criminal proceedings, but rather on the preponderance of probabilities.

The verdict comes in response to a plea filed by a woman who alleged that her jewellery was unlawfully seized by her husband on their wedding day. Despite securing a favorable judgment from a family court in 2009, wherein her husband was ordered to pay Rs 8.9 lakh, the Kerala High Court overturned the decision, citing insufficient evidence of her ‘stridhan.’

Affirming the family court’s ruling, the Supreme Court directed the husband to compensate the woman with Rs 25 lakh, considering the prolonged delay in enforcing the original verdict. This verdict underscores the judiciary’s commitment to upholding women’s rights and ensuring justice in matrimonial disputes.

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