STRIDHAN: A STUDY ON WOMEN’S PROPERTY UNDER HINDU LAW
Stridhan is an absolute property which a woman receives during her lifetime. It is a property meant for her sustenance and maintenance. Property includes everything held by her. From the ancient times itself, the women’s right to property was very limited but the husbands have major power on all the properties and even in stridhan.
The concept of stridhan was recognized in Hindu law from the earlier times itself, but at that time they do not have full ownership over the property. After the enactment of Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the properties belong to a Hindu female is considered as an absolute property of her and she have full right over it.
Types of Women’s Property
The property of a Hindu women is divided into two types:
1. Stridhan – In Stridhan, the women have absolute power over the property. She can enjoy it without any restrictions.
2. Women’s Estate – In Women’s Estate, the women have limited power over the property. She can enjoy it during her life but after death it will not pass to the heirs.
However under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, all property in the possession of a Hindu female either before or after the commencement of the Act will have absolute control and power to it. Thus it have dispensed the difference between stridhan and women’s property.
Meaning of Stridhan
The word Stridhan literally means women’s property. ‘Stri’ means women and ‘dhan’ means property togetherly constitute the word Stridhan. It includes all type of movable and immovable property such as ornaments, cash, deposits, etc. The historical background of Stridhan is as old as the Hindu law.
The earlier meaning of stridhana by the Mitakshara commentary is that, stridhan is what was given to a women by father, mother, husband, or her brother or received by her at the nupital fire (the wedding fire where the bridegroom take vows) or presented on her succession.While the Dayabhaga commentary, rejects the term stridhan and states that she has all the power upon the property given to her even during the life of her husband.
After the enactment of the Hindu Succession Act in 1956 there were clear provisions made relating to Hindu woman’s property. According to Section 14 of the Act, any property possessed by a female Hindu, whether acquired before or after the commencement of the Act, shall be held by her as the full owner thereof and not as a limited owner. This Act has bought major changes to women’s property and it gives absolute power to women over her property. In the case of Rajamma vs. Varidarajulu Chetti it was observed that a gift given to a Hindu woman before and after her marriage constitute a woman’s property .
Sources of Stridhan
There are different sources for Stridhan. According to ancient Hindu law as Manu said
1. what has given before the nupital fire
2. what was given at the bridal procession
3. what was given in token to love
4. what was received from a brother,
5. a mother, or
6. a father
These 6 forms were considered as a women’s property. There were lot of interpretations given to stridhan by different commentaries. In modern Hindu law, any property held by a women as stridhana before or after the commencement of Hindu Succession Act, 1956 comes under as property in Section 14 of the Act.
In the case of Vinod Kumar Sethi v. State of Punjab, Punjab and Haryana Court divided the gifts and dowry given to the bride under three heads:
1. Articles given to the bride for her exclusive use.
2. Articles given which are to be used by her and the husband.
3. Articles given which are to be used by her husband and laws .
In the first category, the bride has exclusive ownership and she have exclusive right over the property. In the second category, both spouses will have the right to enjoy it but the wife still have exclusive ownership over it and also if the marriage gets dissolved she has the right to get back those items and to keep it under her possession. Only the first and second category was considered as Stridhan and only in these categories the wife have exclusive rights. The properties meant for joint usage will be under joint custody.
Later in the case of Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar, the Supreme Court disagreed with the view of Punjab and Haryana court and held that all the articles, ornaments, clothes and all other items comes under Stridhan and the women will have all the absolute and complete power over it .
What includes in Stridhan
According to the ancient Hindu texts, the stridhan only includes the gifts such as ornaments and apparels received by a women in front of the nupital fire and bridal procession. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 does not defines what includes in stridhan. But a women’s property includes all the movable and immovable property received by inheritance, partition, maintenance, gift from any person before, at or after her marriage.
Sub – section (1) of Section 14 of the Act explains which type of property are included in this, they are:
i. by inheritence; or
ii. by devise, or
iii. at a partition; or
iv. in lieu of maintenance or
v. in lieu of arrears of inheritence; or
vi. a gift from any person whether a relative; or not, before at or after her marriage; or
vii. by her own skill or exertion; or
viii. by purchase
ix. by prescription;
x. in any other manner whatsoever; and
xi. any property held by her as stridhana immediately before the commencement of the Act
Difference between Dowry and Stridhan
Dowry means any property or valuable security given on demand by the bridegroom’s in-laws or his father while the Stridhan is given voluntarily and not on any demand. In some parts of the country the custom of dowry was existed but as the time changed it became a nuisance to the society and it was abolished. The giving or taking of dowry is prohibited in India by the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
Rights of Women over Stridhan
Stridhan implied absolute ownership of property for women. She had full rights over property when she is a maiden or a widow. But there are certain restrictions made on women on the disposal of such property. After marriage the stridhan was classified into two heads Saudayaka and Non – Saudayaka. Saudayaka refers to gifts of love and affection given by relatives to the woman and over which she has complete right of alienation. Non – Saudayaka refers to those gifts over which the woman has no rights of alienation without the consent of her husband.
The rights of a women over stridhan is as follows:
i. During maidenhood, a Hindu female can dispose of her stridhan of every description at her pleasure.
ii. During coverture, that is during the lifetime of her husband, she can dispose of gifts from relations except those made by husband.
iii. During widowhood, she can dispose of movable property given by her husband but not immovable property given by the husband.
After the enactment of Hindu Succession Act, 1956 it have repealed all the existing rules regarding property ownership of woman. Section 14 of the Act makes it clear about the women’s property and their rights and by this Act they have absolute and exclusive right and ownership regarding property including stridhan. After the amendment of Hindu Succession Act in 2005 the women can also claim for immmovable property in certain situations. In the case of Bhai Sher Jang Singh v. Smt Virinder Kaur, it was stated that if a women claims her property which are given to her at the time of marriage, then the husband and his family is bound to return back such property .
Also Read: OVERVIEW OF ADULTERY IN INDIA BY ANITA DEVI
The rights of women regarding the ownership of property is limited from the earlier times itself. After the enactment of Hindu Succession Act, 1956 which have bought major changes regarding the property ownership of women. This Act have bought changes to position of women regarding property. The word ‘Stridhan’ and ‘Dowry’ are mistakenly interpreted in many situations. These two have major differences and the giving or taking of dowry is prohibited by law, while the stridhan has been legally accepted and protected.
1. Rajamma v. Varadarajulu Chetty And Ors, AIR 1957, Mad 198
2. Vinod Kumar Sethi And Ors. v. State Of Punjab And Anr, AIR 1982 P H 372
3. Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar And Anr, 1985 AIR 628, 1985 SCR (3) 191
4. Bhai Sher Jang Singh And Anr. v. Virinder Kaur, 1979 CriLJ 493