The Punjab & Haryana HC recently dismissed the appeal filed by the husband, convicted for his wife's murder against the order of the Trial Court releasing dowry items in favour of the father of the deceased.

The bench of Justice MS Ramachandra and Justice Sukhvinder Kaur rejecting the contention of the appellant/accused that he was the owner of the dowry articles held that "So once the appellant has taken the plea that provisions of Section 15 (1) of Hindu Succession Act were to be applied, it amounts to implied admission on his part that he was not owner of these articles."

In this case the appeal was preferred by the accused/appellant against the order of Additional Session Judge whereby the Stridhan i.e., the gold ornaments and other articles given in the marriage of the deceased were ordered to be released to the father of the deceased.

Advocate Suvir Sidhu appeared for the appellant and contended that he was the owner of the ornaments/articles which were recovered by the police from his house and the same could not be released in favour of the complainant.

AAG J.S. Mehndiratta appeared for the State and Senior Advocate Sumeet Goel appeared for the complainant.

The Court observed that though the accused/appellant claimed to be the owner of dowry articles he failed to place any material on record to prove his ownership over the said dowry articles.

The accused/appellant had contended that the Trial Court had failed to appreciate that as per Section 15(1) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, after death of wife, he would become the owner of wife's belongings.

But the said contention being contrary to the arguments raised before the High Court, the Court observed that "if once the appellant had taken the plea that provisions of Section 15 (1) of Hindu Succession Act were to be applied, it amounted to implied admission on his part that he was not the owner of these articles."

The Court further observed that the position with regard to custody of dowry articles is quite different from the position of other property in the hands of deceased. The deceased died unnatural death within 7 years of her marriage. Thus, the case of the appellant fell within Section 6(3) of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, so as to maintain the custody of dowry articles with the complainant.

"The provisions of Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, cannot be overlooked by invoking the provisions of Hindu Law relating to Succession." held the Court.

The Court further said that "The trial Court has rightly placed reliance upon Balbir Singh's case supra, wherein it was held that husband was not entitled to retain dowry even if he was acquitted and dowry articles will remain with father of deceased."

"This prevents unjust enrichment of accused and is in consonance with Section 6 of Dowry Prohibition Act", observed the Court.

Moreover, in this case, the accused/appellant husband had been convicted by the Trial Court under Section 302 IPC for committing murder of the deceased.

Therefore, the Court found no illegality or irregularity in the order passed by the Trial Court and accordingly, dismissed the appeal.

Cause Title- Sandeep Tomar v. State of Punjab

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