Echoing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s words that gold is a great tool for the empowerment of women, 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.’
The court said ‘streedhan,’ a gift in gold valuables given to a woman by her family, is her “exclusive and absolute property.”
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.
Judicial separation is a period of suspension of marriage granted by the court. This time may be used by the couple to explore the possibilities of reviving their broken marriage. If the result is negative, the court annuls their marriage with a decree of divorce.
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” as defined under the Domestic Violence Act of 2005.
The Tripura High Court confirmed the magistrate’s view. Then, she moved the Supreme Court.
In his 25-page judgment, Justice Misra set the record straight by holding 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. The court said the legal relationship of a husband and wife continued during the period of judicial separation.
High Court pulled up
Castigating the High Court for depriving an “agonised and perturbed wife” of her absolute right over her ‘streedhan,’ the Supreme Court said she had every right to invoke the domestic violence law to protect herself from both domestic and economic abuse she suffered at the hands of her in-laws.
The court held that the 2005 Act was a “beneficial as well as assertively affirmative enactment for the realisation of the constitutional rights of women and to ensure that they do not become victims of any kind of domestic violence.”
“Women judicially separated from their husbands can invoke the domestic violence law to get ‘streedhan’ back”