Stridhan and Woman's Estate:
The Dowry system is one of the most common societal evils which has inflicted
our modern society. This evil has taken lives of many girls' already, although
many continue to suffer like a slow poison in their lives because of it. While
we have succeeded in creating awareness to great degree, there are large ethnic,
linguistic, cultural diversities in the country we live in. As such when it
comes to eradication of social evils, people in our society may not follow the
demands of any single given group or organization.
It is therefore essential that the task of eliminating these evils is carried
out the individual level. There is though, one more factor that we need to
consider and that includes the right to use Stridhan
. We should be mindful that even if the dowry is refused,
the bride does not forfeit her right to Stridhan
and her husband does not
absorb it has her own money where she has earned the Stridhan
. The word Stridhan
comes from the word Stri
which means lady and Dhana
which means property.
Therefore, by combining these two expressions, we get property of woman which is
. This is a term that came from Hindu Smritis over the
centuries, but today has engulfed in all kinds of marriage in recognizable
caste. In larger terms, Stridhan
is woman's property on which she has an
absolute ownership. Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 made
significant reforms to the Hindu law on woman's property.
Before 1956, woman's
property was split into two heads: Stridhan and woman's estate. But in Hindu
law, it has all been given a technical meaning. The right of a woman to hold and
dispose of the property has been recognized in Hindu law. The woman has not been
denied the use of property as an absolute owner at any stage. Stridhan is any
valued property which is exclusively owned by the woman.
It is a property over which she has absolute right of ownership and alienation.
from other property which is owned by a woman and which is said to be 'woman's
estate'. The Smritakars differ from each other as to what items of property
constitute her Stridhan
. According to Smritakars, the Stridhan
those properties which she received by the way the way of gift from relations
which included mostly movable property, such as ornaments, jewellery and
dresses. The gift made to her by strangers at the time of ceremony of her
marriage, or at the time of bridal procession also constituted as Stridhan
Enumeration of woman's property:
Characteristics features of Stridhan and Woman's estate:
- Gift and bequest from relations:
This is known as the head of Stridhan. During maidenhood, coverture or
widowhood, such gifts may be given to a woman by her parents and their
relations, or by husband or his relations. Such gifts can be offered by will
or inter-vivos. The school of Dayabhaga does not consider the husband's gift
of immovable property as Stridhan.
- Gifts and bequest from strangers:
Property given to a woman by gift
inter vivos or by the will by strangers, during her maidenhood or widowhood
constitutes Stridhan. Before 1956, the gift received from strangers during
coverture were Stridhan but under the control of her husband during her
husband's lifetime. On the death of her husband they became Stridhan.
- Property acquired by self-exertion and mechanical arts:
By her own
self-exertion woman can acquire property at any stage of her life it can be
through labor jobs, employment, singing, dancing, etc., or by any other
mechanical art. The property acquired by her during her maidenhood or
widowhood thus constitutes Stridhan according to the schools of Hindu law.
Any such property which is acquired by her during her coverture will not be
meant as Stridhan according to Mithila and Bengal schools, but according
to rest of the schools it is a Stridhan.
- Property purchased with Stridhan:
According to the Hindu law schools it
is said that any property which is purchased with Stridhan, or with the
savings of Stridhan as well as accumulations and savings Stridhan
revenue, constitutes as Stridhan.
- Property acquired by compromised:
There is no assumption under Hindu law
that a woman who obtains property under a compromise takes it as a limited
state. Property received by a woman under a compromise under which she gives
up her rights to her rights to Stridhan would also be Stridhan. When any
woman obtains a property under a family agreement, whether that property is
Stridhan or not depends up the terms of arrangement.
- Property obtained by adverse possession:
It is a settled norm in all
Hindu law schools that any property that woman acquires by adverse
possession at any phase of her life is her Stridhan
- Property obtained in lieu of maintenance:
The payments made to woman in
lump sum or periodically for her maintenance, including arrears of such
maintenance constitutes Stridhan, under all schools of Hindu law. In
addition, all movable and immovable properties transferred to her are still
Stridhan by means of an absolute gift in lieu of maintenance.
In Chinnappa Govinda v. Valliammal:1 , the father-in-law gave some
property to his widowed daughter-in-law for her maintenance. He passed away
in 1960 leaving behind his interest devolved by succession to his
daughter-in-law. The daughter-in-law filed a suit for partition in order to
get her share of inheritance. Other family members said that she would be
allowed to take her share only on one condition that she will include the
property given to her under the maintenance deed in the suit properties. The
Court held that there was no need for her to surrender the property given to
her by the father-in-law under the maintenance deed as it was her Stridhan.
- Property obtained by inheritance:
A Hindu female may inherit the
property from a male or a female. Such property can be inherited from the
side of her parents or from the side of her husband. Inherited property was
regarded as Stridhan by Mitakshara. But in the series of rulings such
property was held to be the estate of woman.
- Share obtained on partition:
The share acquired by a partition is known as Stridhan after the
commencement of Hindu Succession Act, 1956. According to section 14 of the
Act, any property acquired on the partition by Hindu woman after the
commencement of the Act will be considered as her absolute property and any
property which she receives it before the commencement of this Act will also
be her absolute property if she continues to be in possess of such property
during the commencement of this Act. In Krishnamma v. Kumara Krishnan, the
Court held that any such share from property received by a woman on a
partition will also be her absolute property. It is established view that
share obtained on partition is not Stridhan but woman's estate 2 .
considered to be an absolute property of woman and she has all the rights
including that of alienation. She can sell, gift, mortgage, lease, and exchange
in any manner she desires. However, some restrictions were recognized on her
power of disposal, if she was a married woman.
If woman is married, the Stridhan
was classified under two heads:
- The Saudayaka and
full rights over any property which received by the means of gift and affection
and the property which she received from stranger or acquired by self-exertion
or any other mechanical art cannot be alienated without the consent from her
husband. A Hindu female can acquire or secure the property from numerous sources
but every property cannot be Stridhan.
Whether a following property is Stridhan
depends upon the following factors:
- Source of acquiring the property,
- Status of female at the time of acquiring the property,
- The school to which she belongs.
In the matters of succession to Stridhan, it is laid
down in section 15 and section 16 of the Hindu succession Act, 1956 that if
Hindu female dies intestate leaving her all Stridhan behind then it will devolve
upon her own heirs.
Of the above enumeration of woman's property, the last two
heads constituted the Hindu female's limited estate known as woman's estate. It
is also sometimes called as widow's estate. The characteristics features of
woman's estate is that the female takes it as a limited owner. However, she is
an owner of this property in the same as any other individual can be owner of
his or her property, subject to two basic limitations: a) she cannot ordinarily
alienate the corpus and b) on her death it devolves upon the next heir of the
last full owner.
Power of management:
Woman enjoys the power of management, like
the Karta of Joint Hindu Family. In fact, her position is slightly superior to
the Karta as the Karta is merely a co-owner of the joint family but she is the
sole owner. Thus, she alone is entitled to the possession of the estate and its
entire income, she can spend it as per her own wishes. And if she saves the
income, the savings will also be her Stridhan.
Power of Alienation:
owner being the holder of limited estate has limited powers of alienation. Like
the Karta, her powers are limited and she can alienate the property only in 5
exceptional cases. The principal on which restrictions have been placed on
woman's power of disposal was thus explained by the privy council:
admitted on all hands that if there be collateral heirs of the husband, the
widow cannot, of her own will, alienate the property except for special
purposes. For religious and charitable purposes or those which are supposed to
conduce to spiritual welfare of her husband, she has larger powers of disposal
than she possesses for purely worldly purposes.
On the other hand, it may be taken as established that alienation by her, which
will not otherwise be legitimate, may become so if made with the consent of her
husband's kindred. But it surely is not necessary or logical consequences of
this latter proposition. That in the absence of collateral heirs of the husband
or on their failure, the fetters on the widow's power of alienation altogether
her power of alienation are an incident of the estate, and not for the benefit
of reversioners4 . She can alienate the property with the consent of presumptive
reversioners5 . she can alienate property only in exceptional cases.
alienate the property for:
- A legal necessity, i.e., for her own need and for the need of the
dependents of the last full owner,
- for the benefit of the estate, and
- for the discharge of indispensable religious duties such as
marriage of daughters, funeral rites of her husband, etc.
means renunciation of estate by the female owner6 . Surrender can be performed
voluntarily by a woman during her lifetime or immediately by her death. In
favour of her nearest successor, the woman has the right to renounce her estate,
and self-effacement on her part will act as her civil death. For a valid
surrender, the first condition is that it must be of entire estate7 .
some preconditions that need to be fulfilled for a valid surrender:
- The surrender must be of the entire estate,
- The surrender must be in favor of her nearest heir or the heirs of the
last owner and
- The surrender must be made with a bona fide intention.
surrender, the property will delve upon the reversioners. These reversioners
also have the right to prevent the female owner from using the property
wastefully or improperly alienating it.
If the female owner dies,
the estate shall revert to the heir or heir of the last owner as if the latter
had died before the limited estate had ceased. Such heirs may be male or female,
known as reversioners. When her estate comes to an end on her death, the
property of the female is passed on to the reversioners, but if she wishes to
surrender it can also come to end even during her lifetime.
Right of Reversioners:
Reversioners have right to prohibit the female owner from making
wasteful use or improper alienation of the property. Woman holder of the
property can be sued for an injunction to restrain her from making wasteful use.
They are in the capacity of a representative; they can sue for a declaration
that the alienation rendered by the widow is null and void and will thus not be
binding on them following her death. However, by such a declaration the property
does not go back to the widow nor does it go to the reversioners. After the
woman's death or the termination of the estate, if earlier, they filed a suit
for declaration that the alienation made by the widow was null and void and did
not bind them. The Supreme Court observed that when a Hindu female holder of a
woman's estate makes improper alienation, the reversioners are not bound to
institute a declaratory suit during the lifetime of the female holder. After the
death of the woman, they can sue the alienee for the possession of the estate
treating alienation as a nullity.
Judicial trend towards Stridhan:
- In Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar8 , the Supreme Court observed that Pratibha Rani
was tormented and denied stridhana by her in-laws. Pratibha Rani's parents had
fulfilled the demands of her in-laws by giving gold ornaments, Rs 60,000 cash
and other items to her husband's family. Few days after marriage, her
in-laws started harassing her for dowry and 7 kicked
her out of the house along with her two minor children without providing any
money for their survival. She had lodged two complaints against her husband and
in-laws under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
court favored her in the judgment but the High court reversed the judgment.
Later, the apex court gave the judgment in her favor. The Supreme Court said
that the joint holding of a stridhana property by husband does not constitute
any co-ownership. The Court further said that a woman can file a suit against
her husband if he denies returning stridhana property under Section 14 of the
Hindu Succession Act, 1956, as well as under Section 27 of the Hindu Marriage
Act, 1955. The Pratibha Rani case is the only remarkable judgment which
discusses the concept of stridhana and the applicability of Section 405 of the
Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- In the case of Bhai Sher Jang Singh v. Smt. Virinder
Kaur9 , Punjab & Haryana High Court stated that if a woman claims property,
ornaments, money, etc. which were given to her at the time of marriage, then the
husband and his family members are bound to return back such property. If they
deny to return back the property, then they will have to face strict punishment.
The Court held that Bhai Sher Jang Singh and his family had committed an offense
under Section 406 for committing criminal breach of trust as they had
dishonestly misappropriated the ornaments which were the stridhana that Virinder
had given to her husband for safe-keeping.
- In Santosh v. Saarswathibai 10, the
ambit of Section 14(1) of HSA was expanded to include not only the land which is
in the possession of the Hindu female, but also the land over which she has
the right to possess.
enactment of the Hindu Succession Act is a welcome step towards strengthening
the property rights of Hindu women. As a part of this Act, women are given
certain privileges that have been denying them for decades. It is also a
colossal step in the defense of women's rights, as it has abolished a woman's
disability to gain and keep land as its absolute owner. Section 14 of the Hindu
Succession Act, 1956 has definitely been a safety guard for the women especially
the Hindu women. It has provided women with those rights, which were denied to
her for centuries.
This section removes the disability of a female to acquire
and hold property as an absolute owner and to convert any estate already held by
a woman on the date of commencement of this act as a limited owner, into an
absolute estate. In case of her death intestate, she becomes a fresh stock of
descent and the property devolves by succession on her own heirs.Bibliography:
- Status referred Hindu Succession Act, 1956 Books referred Modern Hindu
Law- Dr, Paras Diwan, 24th edition, 2020, Allahabad Law Agency
- Chinnappa Govinda v. Valliammal, AIR 1969 Mad 187.
- Devi Prasad v. Mahadeo (1912) 39 I.A. 121.
- Collector of Masulipatam v. Covery Venkata, (1861) 8 M.I.A 529.
- Jaisri v. Rajdewan, (1962) S.C.J. 578.
- Sahu v. Mukand, 1955 S.C. 481.
- Natwar v. Dadu, 1954 S.C. 61
- Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar, 1985 AIR 628, 1985 SCR (3) 191.
- Santosh v. Saarswathibai, AIR 2009 SC 636.
- Bhai Sher Jang Singh v. Smt. Virinder Kaur, 1979 CriLJ 493
- AIR 1969 Mad 187
- Devi Prasad v. Mahadeo (1912) 39
- Collector of Masulipatam v.
Covery Venkata, (1861) 8 M.I.A 529
- Jaisri v. Rajdewan, (1962) S.C.J. 578.
- Sahu v. Mukand, 1955 S.C. 481.
- Dayabhaga XI, I, 56-57
- Natwar v. Dadu, 1954 S.C. 61. 6
- 1985 AIR 628, 1985 SCR (3) 191.
- 1979 CriLJ 493.
- AIR 2009 SC 636 8