Stridhan and IPC Section 406

The cases filed at the CAW cell or the SPUWAC are not one-dimensional, which is to say that they do not have only one complaint in them. The most common ingredient of the CAW cell complaint is to accuse the husband and the in-laws of cruelty in relation to a demand or some demands for dowry. The specific details which validate or claim to validate these allegations are varied in nature, and differ from complaint to complaint.

Another common feature is that the wife accuses the husband of misappropriating her jewellery or clothes or personal effects. All such items are known as Stridhan. This includes all the gifts given by the husband to his wife before they become husband and wife, that is to say before their wedding; gifts given by the husband (groom) and his family, other guests or persons, and the wife’s parents to the wife at the time of wedding, and any gifts given to her after the wedding by anyone including her parents, the husband and his family, or anybody else. This may include jewellery, apartments, cars, anything. Stridhan is the exclusive property of the wife according to the Hindu Marriage Act, and this definition is by most accounts accepted by judicial authorities for other purposes too. This appears to be very unfair, and is indeed unfair unless you try to define fairness in your own terms as most people are wont to do.

Misappropriation of Stridhan by the husband’s side is a crime punishable by the provisions of IPC Section 406 (Criminal Breach of Trust). There are conflicting views regarding that component of the Stridhan which has been gifted by the husband’s side. Some experts say that taking back such gifts attracts only civil liability, while others maintain that this attracts IPC 406 (Criminal Breach of Trust), which is a criminal provision.

If criminal liability is attracted by the action described above, then we should all be extremely worried, because it implies that one can be jailed as a fairly direct consequence of one’s own generosity and/or expression of love towards ones wife/daughter-in-law. Such an interpretation also renders 406 more dangerous than 498a for the accused, because your house can never be raided as a consequence of dowry allegations, but it can in theory be raided if somebody makes cognisable allegations of misappropriation of movable property against you before law enforcement authorities. This did happen in earlier days, especially when the media fed ‘anti-dowry’ frenzy was at its peak. These days though one does not hear about houses being raided by the police in dowry cases.

On the other hand, any gifts given by the wife’s side to the husband’s side are to be returned if and when the marriage collapses. If these gifts are deemed by the court to have been given “in consideration of marriage” (as a price for marriage), then this is considered as dowry, and the husband’s side is liable under the Dowry Act for imprisonment and fine for demanding this or accepting this.

The way out of this problem lies at the beginning of the marriage. Take no gifts and give no gifts, and get this fact recorded by a minimum of four witnesses. After the wedding also, keep a record of all gifts given by you or your family to your wife, and do not give too many gifts until you are sure that she is a permanent member of your family and that she has started considering the joys and sorrows of your family as her own joys and sorrows. However, these days divorces are occurring after even 20 years of marriage. It is very difficult under such conditions to make a correct assessment as to when the wife finally becomes a permanent and loving member of her in-laws’ family, and when she starts considering their joys and sorrows as her own joys and sorrows.

The other provision that commonly is included in complaints at the CAW cell or the SPUWAC is Section 34 of IPC (Common Criminal Intention). The husband’s family is accused of having a common intention in the commission of crimes under Section 498a and Section 406 IPC.

The wife who makes allegations under all three sections of IPC has to prove irrefutably in all the four courts from the Trial Court to the Supreme Court that all her allegations are true, to get legal relief. The same is the case if she makes allegations under one or two sections only. The husband also has to prove that the wife is making nonsensical claims if he wishes to get legal relief.

Houses getting raided

It is difficult to imagine houses of IPC 406 accused getting raided in dowry / marital conflict cases. Reasons for this are many.

Put yourself in the shoes of a police officer. A job in the police is not as cushy as it seems. There are many competitors for this perceived juicy tidbit, including people who have friends or relatives within the force. All such friends and relatives are constantly engaged in undermining the position of those police employees who they do not like (which includes pretty much everyone) or those who give them an opportunity to undermine them.

{Courtsey: Mehnat.in}

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