Retention of Stridhan by Husband is A Continuing Offence

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In Krishna Bhattacharjee V.  Sarathi Choudhury, 2015 scc 1229, 2015 while dealing with a question whether the retention of stridhan by the husband or any other family members is a continuing offence or not, the division bench comprising of Dipak Misra and Prafulla C. Pant, JJ held that the concept of “continuing offence” gets attracted from the date of deprivation of stridhan, for neither the husband nor any other family members can have any right over the stridhan and they remain the custodians The respondent contended before the Magistrate that the claim is barred by time and that she should have claimed it prior to their judicial separation. The Magistrate admitted the fact that the respondent and the appellant had entered into the wedlock. The magistrate treated her as an aggrieved person. But concluded that no domestic relationship existed between the parties and hence she is not entitled to file the application under Sec 12 of the 2005 Act. The Court taking reference of various cases, namely-Jeet Singh and Others Vs. State of U.P. and Others (1993) 1 SCC 325, Hirachand Srinivas Managaonkar v. Sunanda (2001) 4 SCC 125, Bai Mani v. Jayantilal Dahyabhai AIR 1979 Guj 209, Soundarammal v. Sundara Mahalinga Nadar AIR 1980 Mad 294. Concluded that, there is distinction between divorce and judicial separation. In case of divorce the parties don’t live as husband and wife, whereas in case of judicial separation the relationship between husband and wife continues and the legal relationship continues as it has not been snapped. Thus the appellant wife ceased to be an aggrieved person has is wholly unsustainable. the Supreme Court proceeded to rule that stridhana property is the exclusive property of the wife on proof that she entrusted the property or dominion over the stridhana property to her husband or any other member of the family, there is no need to establish any further special agreement to establish that the property was given to the husband or other member of the family. The Supreme Court 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 2005 Act. The concept of “continuing offence” gets attracted from the date of deprivation of stridhan, for neither the husband nor any other family members can have any right over the stridhan and they remain the custodians. The Apex Court also mentioned that the application was not barred by limitation.

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