Kerala High Court had Ruled that There is no Limitation Period for a Divorced Wife to Claim Property Entrusted with Husband

Kerala High Court had ruled that there is no limitation period for a divorced wife to claim property entrusted with husband

Even after the breakdown of the marriage, the husband will be deemed to hold in trust the properties entrusted with him by the wife before marriage in the form of dowry, ruled the full bench of Kerala High Court

Issue before the Court

Whether trust created by a wife entrusting her property to her husband gets extinguished after the dissolution of marriage and whether she can initiate proceedings invoking section 10 of the Limitation Act, 1963, without any limitation of time.

The issue was referred for the consideration by the Full Bench by a division bench as it doubted the correctness of the view in Bindu K.P. v. Surendran C.K (2018) wherein it was ruled that the claim of the wife or ex-wife for a dowry is not barred by any length of time. The full bench uttered its conformity with the pronouncement in Bindu K.P (supra) judgment.

Observation made by the Full bench

  • The Bench noted that, it is settled law that when the wife entrusts with the husband any property belonging to her, a trust is created and the husband is bound to return the same to his wife. When S.10 of the Limitation Act indicates that there is no limitation for initiating any such action, in the absence of any other statute providing for a limitation, the trustee cannot take a contention that he shall not return the trust property on account of any period of limitation. . The question posed is, when the relationship between the parties gets deranged and results in divorce, whether the trust gets extinguished and the divorced wife would be entitled to invoke S.10 of the Limitation Act and file a suit at her will and pleasure at any point in time. In such an event, the questions to be considered are (i) whether a trust had been created at any point of time, (ii) if a trust has been created and the husband remains in the position of a trustee, whether it gets extinguished on the dissolution of marriage or under any other circumstances.
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  • Also, according to Section 6 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, a statutory trust is created in respect of dowry.
  • Section 77 of the Indian Trusts Act, 1882, specifies the circumstances under which a trust is extinguished. Therefore, unless any of the eventualities mentioned u/s section 77 takes place, the trust continues to operate, even though there is dissolution of marriage, it added.

“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 further noted that, it is settled law and as laid down in the judgments aforesaid, when the wife entrusts with the husband any property belonging to her, a trust is created and the husband is bound to return the same to his wife. If the same is not returned, the wife has a right to demand the same by filing a suit or as in the present case file an application before the Family Court or take other necessary steps under the relevant statutes in force.

Case Name: Sheela KK vs N G Suresh

Citation: Mat Appeal No.358/209

Coram: Justices A M Shaffique, Sunil Thomas and P Gopinath

[ Kerala High Court had ruled that there is no limitation period for divorced wife to claim property entrusted with husband ]

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