Evolving Legal Precedent: Stridhan Recognized as Woman’s Inviolable Possession

In a reaffirmation of women’s rights, the Supreme Court recently underscored the unequivocal ownership of stridhan, asserting it as the exclusive property of women. The ruling elucidated that husbands wield no authority over this property, although they may access it during times of exigency. However, a moral imperative binds them to restore its equivalent value to their wives.

Drawing from the precedent set in Rashmi Kumar v. Mahesh Kumar Bhada (1997) 2 SCC 397, the Court emphasized that stridhan remains solely under the woman’s dominion and does not transform into joint property upon marriage.

The concept of stridhan encompasses gifts bestowed upon a woman pre or post-marriage, or during farewell ceremonies.

The case under review narrates the tale of a wedded couple, wherein the wife contends that her familial endowment of 89 sovereigns of gold was misappropriated by her husband. Additionally, a substantial sum was provided by her father to the husband. Allegedly, on the nuptial night, the husband entrusted the jewelry to his mother for safekeeping, only for it to be misused to settle prior debts.

Though the family court initially ruled in favor of the wife, the decision was overturned by the High Court, prompting an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Critiquing the High Court’s judgment, the Supreme Court elucidated the fallacy of demanding evidence akin to criminal trials in civil matters. It highlighted the need for factual substantiation rather than conjecture.

Moreover, the Court questioned the High Court’s skepticism regarding the wife’s motives for delay in legal action, emphasizing the nuanced complexities of matrimonial discord and societal stigma attached to divorce.

Notably, the husband’s admission of the wife’s possession of stridhan bolstered her claims. The Court reasoned that it’s more plausible for a newlywed woman to entrust her jewelry to her husband and his family rather than harbor distrust by safeguarding it herself.

Further, the Court highlighted the High Court’s inconsistent observations regarding the payment made by the wife’s father to the husband.

Considering the substantial duration since the commencement of proceedings, the Supreme Court opted to adjudicate the matter directly rather than remand it. Upholding the wife’s claim, the Court awarded her Rs. 25,00,000/- in light of escalating living costs and the passage of time.

This landmark ruling not only safeguards women’s property rights but also underscores the judiciary’s commitment to equitable justice.

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