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Concept Of Maintenance, Dower And Stridhan Under Family Law

Definition of Maintenance:

The Hindu Law of Maintenance has been codified under The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956. According to Sec. 3 of the Act maintenance includes:
  1. In all cases provision for food, clothing, residence, education and medical attendance and treatment.
  2. In the case of unmarried daughter, also the reasonable expenses, of her marriage, and expenses incidental to her Marriage expenses cover the actual expenses in performing the marriage and expenses incurred in the betrothal function and nuptial ceremonies. The obligation of a Hindu to maintain others arises on account of personal relationship or ownership of property. Personal obligation is recognized in favour of virtuous wife, infirm, and aged parents, and minor children. The personal obligation is a legal obligation, existing irrespective of ownership of property. Obligation based on ownership of property relates to other members in the Joint Hindu Family, like the females.

Maintenance of Wife

Grounds of Maintenance: It is the duty of husband to maintain his chaste wife in the matrimonial home. Generally, if the wife deserts her husband she loses her fight to maintenance. However for certain just the wife reasons can live separate and claim maintenance from the husband. The just reasons are set forth in Sec. 18 of the Act:
  1. When the husband is guilty of desertion. Desertion means abandoning the wife without reasonable cause, and without her consent or against her wish, or wilfully neglected her.
  2. When the husband treats the wife with cruelty. The cruelty must cause reasonable fear in the wife's mind that it will be harmful or injurious to live with him.
  3. If the husband is suffering from a virulent form of leprosy.
  4. If the husband keeps a concubine in the same house, or habitually resides with a concubine elsewhere.
  5. If the husband ceases to be a Hindu by conversion to another religion.
  6. If there is any other cause justifying the wife's separate living. The expression justifying cause is elastic, and includes any situation:
    1. Making the wife's life in the matrimonial home miserable.
    2. Making it unjust for the courts to compel the wife to live with the husband. The court decides upon a satisfying cause on principles of justice, equity and good conscience.

Disqualification:
The section enacts that the wife loses her right to maintenance, if she becomes unchaste or becomes a convert to another religion. However under Old Law bare pittance or starving maintenance was allowed to an unchaste wife or separate maintenance is altogether denied. But the husband's condonation of the wife's unchastity can cure her disqualification. In the case of conversion to another religion, the wife cannot recover her right to maintenance, by reconversion to Hinduism.

Maintenance of aged parents and major unmarried daughters:

Under Sec. 20 Hindu parents are bound to maintain their unmarried daughters till their marriage. Likewise, Hindu sons and daughters are bound to maintain their aged and infirm parents. Aged parents and major unmarried daughter can claim maintenance only when they are unable to maintain themselves out of their own earnings or other property. Even under Old Law there was obligation upon a Hindu male to maintain his major unmarried daughter and aged parents. After the Act this obligation has been imposed upon females also i.e. daughter and mother. Now the step mother also is included as a parent to be maintained by the step son or step daughter.

Maintenance of illegitimate children Under old Law an illegitimate son could claim maintenance from his putative father. After the act he can claim it also from his mother. When his father died, he could receive maintenance of his life time out of his father's property. This right was recognized as substitute for a share. Under the Old Law illegitimate son by non-Hindu concubine could not claim maintenance. Now also Sec. 24 requires that a claim to maintenance should be a Hindu, and thus there is no change in the law.

Now under Sec. 20 of the Act an illegitimate male child can claim maintenance only during minority. Prior to 1956 an illegitimate daughter could not legally claim maintenance. Now she can claim maintenance during her minority and till her marriage both from her mother and putative father. After death of her parents maintenance can be claimed from the parent's property in the hands of heirs.

Dasi putra and avarudha sri:

An illegitimate son by a permanently and exclusively kept concubine was called Dasi Putra. Among the Sudras a Dasi Putra was entitled to inherit the heritable property of his Putative father, after his death. He received 1/2 of the share of a legitimate son. This right has now been removed and he is at present entitled only to maintenance. A Concubine had no rights of maintenance against her paramour personally. But (an Avarudha Sri) an exclusively and permanently kept concubine could claim maintenance from her paramour's property after his death. But her right to maintenance depended upon her continued loyalty even after his death. Under the Act the concubine has no right to claim any maintenance from her paramour.

Maintenance of widowed daughter in Law:

The widow of a coparcener is a member of the Hindu Joint Family. Originally the Joint Family Manager was bound to maintain her out of the joint family property. After the Hindu woman's Right to Property Act of 1937 she acquired a life estate in her husband's share. Under Hindu Succession Act of 1956 her limited estate has become absolute estate.

Thus acquiring right to claim share along with other heirs, the widow lost her maintenance right. Suppose the son died divided from the coparcenary and left his widow. Under the old Law the father-in-law had a moral obligation to maintain such a widowed daughter-in-law Now under Sec. 19 the widowed daughter-in-law has legal right to claim maintenance from father-in-law, whether her marriage took place before or after the Act: But the following conditions must be satisfied for the claim:
  1. She is unable to maintain herself out of her own earnings or other property.
  2. She is unable to obtain maintenance from the estate of her husband.
  3. She is unable to obtain maintenance from the estate of her father.
  4. She is unable to obtain maintenance from the estate of her mother.
  5. She is unable to obtain maintenance from her son or daughter.
  6. She is unable to obtain maintenance from the estate of her son or daughter.
If the father-in-law has only self-acquired property, he is only morally obliged to maintain his widowed daughter-in-law. But on his death the widowed daughter-in-law as a dependant under Sec. 21, can claim maintenance from the estate.

Rate of maintenance: The Court has judicial discretion to determine:
  1. The need for maintenance.
  2. Quantum of maintenance.

The Court keeps in mind the following considerations laid down in Sec. 23.
  1. Amount of maintenance of wife, children or aged parents:
    1. The position and status of parties.
    2. The reasonable wants of the claimant.
    3. Whether there is justification for the claimant wife to live separately.
    4. Claimant's property and income.
    5. Other persons entitled to claim maintenance.
       
  2. Maintenance of Dependents:
    1. Net value of the estate of the deceased.
    2. The degree of relationship with deceased.
    3. Any provision for the dependant under any will.
    4. Reasonable wants of the dependant.
    5. Past relations between the dependant and the deceased.
    6. Property and income of the claimants.
    7. Other persons entitled to maintenance.

These are mere guiding principles to exercise judicial discretion, and are not mandatory rules. In addition the Court bears in mind many other principles. In short, the Court must fix the rate of maintenance with due regard to all the relevant factors. The object of the Court must be to make just and reasonable allowance suited to the position in life of the claimant. The amount of maintenance whether fixed by Court or agreement, before or after the Act, may be altered. Such alteration is possible if there is material change in the circumstances.

The circumstances may relate to the claimant or to the person or estate bound to maintain:

  1. Enormous rise in prices of necessaries.
  2. Financial crisis faced by person or estate bound to maintain.
  3. Improvement in the condition of the claimant is all such circumstances.

Even the lump amount fixed in full quilt of maintenance is subject to review and revision. Further in spite of an agreement not to claim enhanced maintenance, a claim can be made for enforcement.

Nature Of Maintenance:

Sections 26 to 28 deal with nature of maintenance claims. Sec. 26 clearly states the debts contracted or payable try the deceased have priority over maintenance claims. A claim for maintenance only a personal Right and note charge, on the property, unless it is made so. When there is a charge, maintenance claims shall have priority over the debts. Under Sec. 27 a maintenance claim can be made a charge on the estate of the deceased:
  1. By the will of the deceased.
  2. By a decree of court.
  3. By agreement between the deceased and the claimant.

A claimant may have right to receive maintenance, out of an estate. Such estate or part of such estate may be transferred. Now the right to maintenance can be enforced against the transferee. But the transferee is liable only.
  1. When the transfer is gratuitous.
  2. When he has knowledge of the maintenance claim against the property.
Thus an innocent transferee for consideration and without notice of maintenance claim is protected. This principle is reproduced in Sec. 28 of the Act from Sec.39 of Transfer of Property Act.

Muslim Law of Maintenance (Dower)

Law of Maintenance: Maintenance of wife, children and parents application of Sec.125 Cr.P.C to Muslims Shah Bano's case. The appellant Mohd. Ahmed Khan married Shah Bano Begum, the respondent in 1932 and begotten 3 sons and 2 daughters. In 1975 the appellant seen the respondent out of the house. In 1978 the respondent filed a petition before the Magistrate for maintenance U/S: 125 Cr.P.C. claiming Rs. 800/- p.m. In November, 1978 the appellant divorces the respondent by irrevocable Talak.

His defence before the Magistrate was that she had ceases to be his wife by reason of talak, and that he had already paid maintenance at the rate of Rs. 240/- p.m. for 2 years and that he had already deposited Rs: 3000/- in the count being the deferred dower payable to her. In August 1979 the Magistrate directed the appellant to pay Rs. 25/- p.m. by way maintenance to the respondent. The respondent appealed to the High Court for enhancement of maintenance amount as according to her the appellant was earning Rs. 60,000/- per year.

The High Court enhanced the maintenance to Rs. 179.20 p.m. The husband appealed to the Supreme Court. A bench of 5 Judges including the Chief Justice Y.V. Chandrachud held that Sec. 125 Cr.P.C. is applicable to Muslims also.

This decision was not liked by a section of Muslims Community. In order to maintain status quo and at the same time not to derogate the Supreme Court Judgement, the parliament passed Muslim women's (Protection of Rights on Divorce Act) 1986. According to this all the husband's lability to pay maintenance to the divorced wife extends up to the period of iddat only. Thereafter he need not pay maintenance.

This Act also makes the provision of Sec. 125 Cr.P.C. applicable to Muslims if both the husband and wife give their consent for the petition for maintenance being tried under Sec. 125 Cr. PC. Thus this Act retains both orthodox view of personal law and the progressive and liberal view expressed by the Supreme Court in Shah Bano's case.

Dower (mahr) is a sum of money or other property which the wife is entitled to receive from the husband in consideration of marriage. The word consideration is not used in the sense is which the word is used in the contract Act. Under Islaimic law, dower is an obligation imposed upon the husband as a mark of respect to the wife. The object of dower is also to place a check on the capricious use on the part of the husband as divorce the wife.

The husband may settle any amount he likes by way of dower upon his wife, though it may be beyond his means, and thought nothing may be left to his heirs after payment of the amount. But he cannot in any case settle less than ten dirhams.

Dower is of four kinds. It may be (i) specified' or (ii) proper, according to the mode of determination of its amount. It may also be (iii) prompt' or (iv) deferred', according to the time when it is payable.
  1. Specified Dower:

    Specified dower is fixed by agreement between the parties, either before or at the time of marriage or even after marriage.

    Under Sunni law, specified dower must not be less than the value of 10 dirhams, the money value of 1 dirham (today) being equivalent to about twelve or thirteen rupees. The wife is entitled to this minimum amount even if the specified dower is less. (Under the Shia law, there is no fixed minimum for dower.)

    But there is no upper limit, and a dower is never invalid on the ground of its being excessive. It is not uncommon to fix a figure which is beyond the means of the husband, e.g., a dower of Rs. 51,000 in the case of a poor man. The Court must decree the whole amount of the specified dower, though the husband had no means of paying it when it was stipulated or though its payment would leave nothing to the heirs of the husband.

    Thus, in an old Peshawar case, it was held that if a husband transfers a field to his wife as dower, she is entitled, as against him, to a decree for possession. The Court further held that if there are other sharers in the field, they need not be made parties to the wife's suit, and the Court's decree does not affect their rights.

    If, however, there is any specific legislative enactment on the point, the Court need not decree the entire amount of the specified dower. Thus, the Oudh Laws Act, 1876, contained a provision that the Court could not award the amount of dower stipulated in the agreement, but only such sum as was reasonable, regard being had to the means of the husband and the status of the wife.
     
  2. Proper Dower (Mahr-I-Misl or Mahr-Ul-Misl):
    If nothing is said about dower at the time of marriage, the wife may claim to have a reasonable amount of dower settled for her, even if the marriage was contracted on the express condition that she should not claim any dower. In fixing the proper dower, the Court is guided by the amount of dower settled upon the other female members of the family of the wife's father, as for instance, the father's sisters.

    In such cases, the social position of the husband and his means are not of much importance. As the Hedaya lays down, the wife's age, beauty, fortune, understanding and virtue must be kept in mind when fixing proper dower. Thus, the Prophet once allowed the marriage of a poor Muslim for a silver ring, and on another occasion, merely on condition that the husband would teach the Koran to his wife!

    Under Shia law, the proper dower should not exceed 500 dirhams. (Baille, II, 71)
    In one case, a Muslim married a Christian woman in England. The Court observed that the marriage was governed by Muslim law, and therefore, the husband could divorce his wife by talak. The Court also held that the wife, in turn could also claim dower, although no dower was initially fixed at the time of the marriage. In such cases, proper dower could be claimed, i.e. dower which would be payable to a woman of similar status and circumstances. (Marina Jatoi v. Nuruddin Jatoi, P.L.D. 1967 S.C. 580)
     
  3. Prompt Dower (Marjjal):

    The amount of dower is usually split into two parts prompt and deferred. Prompt dower is that which is payable on demand and deferred dower is one payable on dissolution of marriage by death or divorce.

    Prompt dower is dower which is payable immediately on the marriage taking place, and it must be paid on demand, unless delay is stipulated for and agreed. Prompt dower may be realised at any time before or after consummation. Proof of intercourse between the parties is not necessary for its payment.

    It is only on payment of the prompt dower that the husband becomes entitled to enforce his conjugal rights, unless the marriage is already consummated. The right of restitution, so far from being a condition precedent to the payment of prompt dower, arises only after the dower has been paid.

    In Rabia Khatoon v. Mukhtar Ahmed, it was observed that the wife may refuse to live with her husband and to admit him to sexual intercourse, so long as the prompt dower is not paid. If the husband sues her for restitution of conjugal rights before sexual intercourse takes place, non-payment of dower is a complete defence to the suit, and the suit will be dismissed.
    If the suit is brought after sexual intercourse has taken place with her free consent, the proper decree to pass is not a decree of dismissal, but a decree for restitution, conditional on payment of prompt dower.

    (This principle was first laid down in Abdul Kadir v. Salima, (1886) 8 All. 148).
     
  4. Deferred Dower (Muwajjal):

    Deferred dower is payable on the dissolution of the marriage either (i) by the death of either of the parties, or (ii) by divorce.
    In a case in which no specific proportion of prompt and deferred dower has been fixed by agreement at the time of the marriage, or by custom:
    1. The whole is regarded as prompt according to Shia law;
    2. Part is regarded as prompt, and part as deferred according to Sunni law; the proportion is regulated by the status of the parties and the amount of the dower settled. The Court has, however, the power to award the whole as prompt. (Husein khan v. Gulab Khatun, (1911) I.L.R. 35 Bom. 386)

On the Dissolution of the Marriage:

  1. If the marriage was consummated, the wife is entitled to the immediate payment of the whole of the unpaid dower, both prompt and deferred;
  2. If the marriage was not consummated, she is entitled to only half the specified dower.

Wife's Interest in Deferred Dower:

The interest of the wife in the deferred dower is a vested interest, and not a contingent one. It is not liable to be displaced by the happening of any event, not even her own death, because her heirs can claim the dower, if she dies.

Wife's Rights and Remedies if Dower is not Paid:
Prompt Dower:
So long as the prompt dower remains unpaid, the wife may refuse:
  1. to live with the husband, and
  2. to admit him to sexual intercourse.

Non-payment of prompt dower is a complete defence in a suit for restitution of conjugal rights filed before consummation; if the suit is filed after consummation, the decree will be for restitution, conditional on payment of the prompt dower.

There is another remedy also to recover the unpaid prompt dower. The wife, (and after her death, her heirs) may sue for such dower within three years from the date when — (i) it is demanded and refused; or (ii) the marriage is dissolved by death or divorce.

Recovery of Dower

If the dower is not paid, the wife and after her death, her heirs may sue for it. The period of limitation for suit to recovery 'prompt' dower is three years from the date when the continuance of the marriage no such demand has been made, when the remarriage is dissolved by death or divorce. The period of limitation for a suit to recover 'deferred' dower is three years from the date when the marriage is dissolved by death or divorce.

The wife may refuse to live with her husband and admit him to sexual intercourse so long as the prompt dower is not paid. If the husband sues-her for restitution of conjugal rights before sexual intercourse take place, non-payment of eh dower is complete defence to the suit, and the suit will be dismissed. If the suit is brought after sexual intercourse has take place with her free consent, the proper decree to pass in not a decree of dismissal, but a decree for restitution conditional on payment of prompt dower;

The heirs of a deceased Muslim are not personally liable for the dower debt. As in the case of other debts due from the deceased, so in the case of a dower debt, each heirs is liable for the debt to the extent only of a share of the debt proportionate to his share of the estate. Each heir can recover his respective share upon payment of the quota, the dower debt proportionate to his share.

The widow can retain the possession of her husband's property under a claim for her dower. But this possession does not carry with it the right to alienate the property by sale, mortgatge, gift or otherwise. If she alienate the property, the alienation is valid to the extent of her own share, it does not affect the shares of the other heirs of her husband.

The rights which dower confesses on the wife are threefold:

  1. Refusal to cohabit
  2. Right to dower as a debt
  3. Retention of husband's property

Stridhan

Before 1956 the property of woman was divided into two heads i.e. stridhan and woman's estate. The Hindu Woman's Right to Property Act, 1937 conferred some new rights of inheritance on certain Hindu females which had the effect of increasing the bulk of woman's estate. Section 14 of Hindu Succession Act, 1956 has abolished woman's estate.

The word stridhan is composed of two words: Stri(woman) and Dhana (Property). The word means the property belonging to a woman or woman's property. This is the etymological sense but the word has a technical meaning given in law [1].

Thus conjunctively these two words imply that property over which a woman has an absolute ownership. By the authors of different schools and sects it has been used in different senses, yet it connotes a meaning which comes out from the word itself. This term was for the first time used in Smritis and in the Dharmasutra of Baudhayan which meant 'woman's absolute property'. In the entire history of Hindu law, woman's right to hold and dispose of property has been recognised.

No woman has been denied the use of her property as absolute owner. The difficulties in deciding as to what constitutes stridhan, arise from the fact that majority of sages and commentators give neither an exact definition nor an exhaustive enumeration, and if Mitakshara gives a simple definition that has been qualified and restricted in its application by our courts, in consequence of its disagreement with the view of other authorities.[2]

According to Smritikars, the stridhan constituted those properties which woman received by way of gift from relatives which include mostly movable property such as ornaments, dresses and jewellery though sometimes house or land was also given as gift. The gift made to her by strangers at the time of ceremony of marriage or at the time of bridal procession also constituted stridhan.

In effecting Partition if as an absolute gift or interest in a share is given to a woman whether during her maidenhood, marriage or widowhood the same amounts to her Stridhan. Property inherited by a woman becomes her Stridhan or property acquired by a woman by mechanical arts or by her own exertions during maidenhood, subsistence of marriage and during widowhood is Streedhan. Property obtained by a woman by compromise or family arrangement where there is no presumption of her taking only a life interest, becomes her Stridhan [3] Jimutvahana gave different enumeration of stridhan, so did sub-schools of Mitakshara.

For a married woman Stridhan falls under two heads [4]:
  1. The saudayika(gifts of love and affection) – gifts received by a woman from relations on both sides (parents and in-laws).
  2. The non-saudayika– all other types of Streedhan such as gifts from stranger, property acquired by self-exertion or the mechanical arts.
According to Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 property obtained by a woman from the following sources is her absolute property (unless contrary is mentioned in the terms of device, gift, decree, order or award)

Property acquired:

  • by inheritance
  • By device –through will or a settlement
  • At a partition
  • In lieu of maintenance
  • By gift
  • By personal Skill or exertion
  • Purchase and prescription –with the help of her own funds
  • Acquired in any other manner- property received under a decree or award, or through adverse possession

In the case of Pratibha Rani V. Suraj Kumar [5] the Supreme Court enlisted the following to constitute Stridhan-

  • Gifts made before the nuptial fire
  • Gifts made at the bridal procession, i.e. while the bride is being led from her residence of her parents to that of her husband.
  • Gifts made in token of love, that is, those made by her father-in-law and mother-in-law and those made at the time of the bride making obeisance at the feet of elders.
  • Gifts made by the father of the bride
  • Gifts made by the mother of the bride
  • Gifts made by the brother of the bride.

Enumeration Of Women Property

Gift and Bequests from relations: The gifts may be made to woman during maidenhood, coverture or widowhood by her parents and relations, or by husband and his relations. The Dayabhaga School does not recognize gifts of immovable property by husband as stridhan.

Gifts and Bequests from strangers: Property given by gift inter, by will by strangers to a woman, during maidenhood or widowhood constitutes her stridhan. Before 1956 the gifts received from strangers during coverture were stridhan but these were during her husband's lifetime under his control. On his death these became her stridhan.

Property acquired by self-exertion and mechanical arts: A woman may acquire property at any stage of her life by her self-exertion or by any mechanical art. According to all schools of Hindu law, the property thus acquired or maidenhood is her stridhan. Again during husband's lifetime, it is subject to his control.

Property purchased with stridhan: In all schools of Hindu law, it is a well settled law that the properties purchased with stridhan, or with the savings of stridhan, as well as accumulations and savings of income of stridhan constitute stridhan.

Property acquired by compromise: In Hindu law, there is no presumption that a woman who obtains property under a compromise takes it as a limited estate. Property obtained by woman under compromise whereunder she gives up her rights to stridhan is stridhan.

Property obtained by adverse possession: In all schools of Hindu law, it is a settled law that any property that a woman acquires at any stage of her life by adverse possession is her stridhan.
Property obtained in lieu of maintenance: Under all schools of Hindu law, the payments made to a Hindu female in lump sum or periodically for her maintenance and all the arrears of such maintenance constitute her stridhan. Similarly, all movable and immovable properties transferred to her by way of an absolute gift in lieu of maintenance constitute stridhan.

Property obtained by inheritance: A Hindu female can inherit property from her parent's or husband's side. Mitakshara considered all inherited property as stridhan but Privy Council held such property as woman's estate [6] According to Bombay school, the property inherited by a woman from females is stridhan [7]. After the coming into force of Hindu Succession Act, 1956, she takes all inherited property as her stridhan.

Share obtained on partition: In the Mitakshara jurisdiction including Bombay and Dayabhaga school, it is an established view that the share obtained on partition is not stridhan but woman's estate [8]. This property is now stridhan after coming into force of Hindu Succession Act, 1956.

Legal Status Of Stridhan

Indian Penal Code, 1860: The section 405 of IPC reads as follows:

Whoever, being in any manner entrusted with property, or with any dominion over property, dishonestly misappropriates or converts to his own use that property, or dishonestly uses or disposes of that property in violation of any direction of law prescribing the mode in which such trust is to be discharged, or of any legal contract, express or implied, which he has made touching the discharge of such trust, or willfully suffers any other person so to do, commits criminal breach of trust.

The offence under section 405 can be said to have committed only when all of its essential ingredients are found to have been satisfied. As in the case of criminal misappropriation, even a temporary misappropriation could be sufficient to warrant conviction under this section. Even if the accused intended to restore the property in future, at the time misappropriation, it is a criminal breach of trust [9].If her husband or any other member of his family who are in possession of such property, dishonestly misappropriate or refuse to return the same, they may be liable to punishment for the offence of criminal breach of trust under S. 405 & 406 IPC.

In Rashmi Kumar vs. Mahesh Kumar Bhada [10] the Supreme Court held that when the wife entrusts her StrIdhan property with the dominion over that property to her husband or any other member of the family and the husband or such other member of the family dishonestly misappropriates or converts to his own use that property, or wilfully suffers and other person to do so, he commits criminal breach of trust.

While 406 prescribes 3 years simple or rigorous imprisonment, both 407 and 408 prescribe 7 years simple or rigorous imprisonment, and section 409 prescribes very serious sentences of ten years to life imprisonment. 406 can be more correctly described as punishment for criminal breach of trust simpliciter.

For recovering the Streedhan, if a woman invokes Section 498-A, it would be deemed as miss-use of that section until the ingredients- harassment and physical or mental cruelty as laid down in that provision are not satisfied. It does not say, that refusal of returning Streedhan by husband or his relatives give scope to a wife to invoke S.498-A. Even civil law suit for recovery of Streedhan can also be used by the wife to recover Streedhan. In Reema Agarwal v. Anupam [11] If invoking Section 406 is utilized to recover Streedhan and further it is used only to protect the wives, who are facing physical and/or mental harassment, then genuine victims will get protection.

Domestic Violence Act, 2005:

Section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 provides for women right to her Streedhan in cases where she is a victim of domestic violence. The provisions of this law can be easily invoked for recovery of Streedhan. Under the residence orders: Prov. (8) the magistrate may direct the respondent to return to the possession of the aggrieved person her Streedhan or any other property or valuable security to which she is entitled.

Again u/s 18(ii) of the Domestic Violence Act the law says that a woman is entitled to receive the possession of the Streedhan, jewellery, clothes and other necessary items. The term 'economic abuse' has also been provided under the Act. It includes deprivation of all or any economic or financial resources to which the woman is entitled under al the existing customary laws whether payable at the concern of the court or in any other manner. These resources are however not limited to the household necessities of the aggrieved person.

The Supreme Court held that abused women judicially separated from their husbands had every right to invoke the domestic violence law to get back their streedhan.
A Bench, led by Justice Dipak Misra, said a husband had only a qualified right over a woman's streedhan the right to use it in times of distress.

The court clarified the law while pronouncing a judgment on Friday (November 20) in the case of a woman who wanted her 'streedhan' back from her husband's custody after they were judicially separated. In this case, the woman approached the local magistrate to get her streedhan back. But the magistrate ruled against her, saying that once she was judicially separated from her husband, she was no more an aggrieved person

This view was confirmed by Tripura High Court and she then moved to Supreme Court. Justice Misra held that judicial separation did not snap the matrimonial tie. The woman, who had suffered domestic and economic abuse at her matrimonial home, continued to be a victim or an aggrieved person under the domestic violence law even after her judicial separation.

Some of the precautionary steps in keeping the check on the Streedhan could involve[12]:

  1. The woman should make a list of all the gifts and properties received before, during and after marriage from her family, husband's family, friends and other acquaintances.
  2. The woman should keep evidence for all the gifts received such as wedding pictures. Also, ensure that the gifts and their bills are in her name and preserve these bills.
  3. The woman should have witnesses – statements of witnesses will be important evidence – for gifts of movables (including jewellery) at the time of marriage.
  4. The woman should maintain a separate account in her name for her salary.
  5. The woman should get involved in the family financial decision-making and keep a record of bank accounts and the investments made out of her Streedhan.
  6. The woman should ensure that the title to the property given to her and those bought from her Streedhan are clear and that the investments made from these assets are in her name.
  7. The woman should open a bank locker in her name for storing jewellery and instruments of money, property and so on.
  8. It is advisable for the woman's parents to gift her income-generating property, rather than expensive consumer items. It becomes often difficult to give full detail accounts for the consumer items.

End Notes:
  1. B.M Gandhi, Hindu law, 1999 p.178
  2. Hindu Law of Marriage and Stridhan, (3rd ed.), 280
  3. http://myshaadi.in/main/indian-wedding-blog/view/30/Streedhan-The-Misunderstood-Ritual
  4. http://wealthymatters.com/2011/08/31/stridhan
  5. 1985 AIR 628, 1985 SCR (3) 191
  6. Bhagwandeen v. Maya Baee, (1867) 11 M.A.I. 487
  7. Kasserbai v. Hunsraj, (1906) 30 Bom. 431; Gangadhar v. Chandrabhagbai, (1893) 17 Bom. 690
  8. Devi Prasad v. Mahadeo (1912) 39 I.A 121
  9. http://www.legalindia.in/criminal-breach-of-trust-under-ipc-a-critical-analysis
  10. (1997) 2 SCC 397
  11. 2004 Cri. L.J 892

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The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of th...

How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi

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How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi Mutual Consent Divorce is the Simplest Way to Obtain a D...

Whether Caveat Application is legally pe...

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Whether in a criminal proceeding a Caveat Application is legally permissible to be filed as pro...

The Factories Act,1948

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There has been rise of large scale factory/ industry in India in the later half of nineteenth ce...

Constitution of India-Freedom of speech ...

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Explain The Right To Freedom of Speech and Expression Under The Article 19 With The Help of Dec...

Copyright: An important element of Intel...

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The Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) has its own economic value when it puts into any market ...

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