Saturday, November 9, 2013

HC directs man to return jewellery gifted to ex-wife

The Bombay high court has directed a Vile Parle resident to return the jewellery he had gifted to his former wife at the time of their wedding as it was a part of her streedhan. 

Dismissing Om Prakash Sawant's application, a division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Revati Dere upheld a family court order asking him to return the streedhan or pay the value of the ornaments at market rate to his former wife, S.Savitri. 

The streedhan comprised gold jewellery of 120 grams, including a mangalsutra. 

At today's prices, the jewellery would be worth over Rs 3.50 lakh. 

The judges said that after perusing the evidence they found "nothing on record to disbelieve the evidence" of S.Savitri and her brother with regard to non-return of the streedhan. 

The law says streedhan includes gifts given to the wife at the time of the wedding by her parents, brother, in-laws and husband. Rulings of the Supreme Court have held that the woman is the absolute owner of her streedhan and can deal with it in any manner she likes. 

In the event of a divorce, the wife is entitled to keep her streedhan. 

In the present case, Om Prakash and Savitri had married in October 2002. The relationship lasted a couple of months and the two started residing separately by December. In 2004, Om Prakash moved the family court for divorce. 

The couple mutually consented to divorce but asked the court to decide on the issue of streedhan. The family court directed Om Prakash to return the gold jewellery gifted by him to S.Savitri. Om Prakash challenged the order in the high court. 

He claimed that his wife had taken away a part of the jewellery in February 2003, while the remaining jewellery was handed over to her in March 2003. Signatures were taken on a revenue stamp from Savitri and her father during the March transaction confirming that Prakash had returned the jewellery given to his wife by her parents. 

The high court said that it "defies logic" that while documents were signed in March confirming the return of jewellery gifted to Savitri by her parents, there was no mention of the ornaments that Prakash claimed were taken away by her in February. 

"We find it incomprehensible that Om Prakash, a government servant working with the Central Excise and his mother, a school teacher, who signed the receipt, would fail to mention that Savitri was given her streedhan," said the judges. 
(Name of the party changed )

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