Wife can claim property entrusted to husband even after divorce: HC

 The full bench of Kerala high court considering a matrimonial plea held that the husband as a trustee is bound to return the property of the wife which is entrusted to him even after the divorce stating that “once a trust is created, it continues to operate, even though there is the dissolution of marriage.”


The issue was brought before the three-judge bench consisting of Justice A.M. Shafique, Justice Sunil Thomas, and Justice Gopinath P. The question referred to the full bench was whether the wife was entitled to claim the property entrusted by her to her husband after the dissolution of the marriage between them and if she could initiate proceedings under section 10 of the limitations act, 1963 without any limitation of time.


The court referred to the case of Bindu K.P. v. Surendran C.K. where it was held by the division bench of the same court that the wife or ex-wife’s claim for dowry is not barred by any limitation of time. Further reliance was made on the Supreme Court case of Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar and another where it was held that the husband’s role as a trustee entails the wife’s right to claim the entrusted property and the same was actionable without any time limit under section 10 of the Limitations Act, 1963. Thus the court established that the husband was bound as a trustee to return the property claimed by the wife but further deliberated on the question of whether the same relationship of trust and trustee will remain after the dissolution of marriage. The court refers to the Indian Trust Act, 1882 noted that such a relationship of trusts and trustee may only be extinguished under section 77 of the statute and since no such circumstances had arisen in the present case, the court held that the trust would continue to operate, even after the divorce.


The court laid the rule for property which was brought by the wife during the marriage as dowry held that “In the case of ornaments which are given in the form of dowry, definitely, a statutory trust is created. Even otherwise, if the ornaments owned by the wife do not form part of the dowry and if there is an entrustment of gold ornaments by the wife to the husband or his parents, a trust gets created, in which event, the trustee or trustees, as the case may be, are liable to return the same and there is no limitation for claiming the same by the wife/divorced wife.” The court observed that the husband’s duty as a trustee is not extinguished with the dissolution of marriage and issued the order after expressing its agreement with Bindu KP's case.

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