The Hindu Women's Right to Property Act of 1937 established a set of new
inheritance rights on Hindu females, thus raising the value of women's wealth.
As stated in Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act of 1956, the Hindu
Succession Act of 1956 made important modifications to women's property rights.
The notion of "women's estate" has been abolished, and Vijnaneshwara's
interpretation of Stridhan has been implemented. The source from which each is
derived determines the distinction between Stridhan and women's estate. To
remedy gender inequality in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the Hindu Succession
(Amendment) Act, 2005 (39 of 2005) was approved.
According to the amendment, a
coparcener's daughter, like his son, becomes a coparcener in her own right upon
birth. This article will look at the problem of women's property under Hindu law
through the lenses of case law and judicial perspectives.
Women's property under Hindu Law
As a consequence of the efforts of numerous social reformers, the Hindu Women's
Right to Property Act was passed in 1937. As a result of the aforesaid Act, the
theory of all schools of Hindu law was revised, granting Hindu women more
rights. This Act had a revolutionary impact on not just the law of coparceners,
but also the laws of alienation, inheritance, division, and adoption. It
permitted a widow to share an equal share of her estate with her son while also
preventing her from becoming a coparcener. As a result, widows only possessed a
limited estate in their late husband's property, with the option to split it.
Despite the popular belief that the Hindu Women's Right to Property Act of 1937
was intended to improve the property rights of all Hindu women, it was
exclusively concerned with widows' rights. The aforesaid Act of Legislature had
no effect on the status of a daughter's ability to inherit. The Hindu Women's
Right to Property Act of 1937 drew a lot of criticism, so the Parliament decided
to make a stronger legislation to preserve women's property rights, and the
Hindu Succession Act of 1956 was enacted.
The Smritikars defined "Stridhan" as the property that a female got as a gift
from her kin, which mostly consisted of moveable property. During both the
bridal procession and the wedding ceremony, Stridhan is said to be carrying
gifts provided by her wedding guests. In the case of Bhagwandeen Doobey v. Maya
Baee (1869), the Privy Council stated that the possessions that a Hindu female
acquires from men are not covered by Stridhan. Instead, the properties will be
categorised as "women's estate."
In the case of Kasserbai v. Hunsraj (1906)
, The Bombay High Court created the
Bombay School doctrine, according to which property inherited from other females
is termed Stridhan. The Allahabad High Court observed in the well-known case of
Debi Mangal Prasad Singh v. Mahadeo Prasad Singh
(1912) that any share gained by
a female via partition is not a Stridhan but women's land in both the Mitakshara
and Dayabhaga schools.
The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 declared the joint
property received by partition to be an absolute property, or Stridhan. As the
owner of absolute property, a woman has complete control over its alienation,
which means she may give, sell, lease, trade, mortgage, or do whatever she wants
The Supreme Court of India had observed in the case of Pratibha Rani v. Suraj
Kumar & Anr
(1985) that according to Mitakshara and Dayabhaga Schools, Stridhan
consists of the following items in the hands of a woman (maiden, married, or
- Gifts given before the nuptial fire.
- Gifts given at the time of the bridal procession.
- Gifts given as a gesture of love by her mother-in-law or father-in-law
at the occasion of her marriage.
- Gifts created by the women's mothers, fathers, and brothers.
According to the Supreme Court in Smt. Rashmi Kumar vs. Mahesh Kumar Bhada, when
a wife entrusts her Stridhan property to her husband or any other member of the
family with dominion over that property, and the husband or such other member of
the family dishonestly misappropriates or converts that property to his or her
own use, or wilfully allows another person to do so, he or she commits criminal
breach of trust (1996).
Sections 15 and 16 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, respectively, provide
forth basic norms of succession for female Hindus, as well as the sequence of
succession and mode of distribution among a female Hindu's heirs. In the 1980s
case of Sundari and Ors v. Laxmi and Ors, the Supreme Court of India said that
Sections 15 and 16 of the Act of 1956 allow for the succession of a female Hindu
who dies intestate. The phrase "inherited" is used in Section 15(2) to mean "to
receive as heir" or "succession by descent," but it does not apply to devolution
under the Will of the deceased owner. This was observed by the Madras High Court
in the case of Komalavalli Ammal & Another v. T.A.S Krishnamachari & Another
Stridhan vis a vis dowry
Despite the fact that 'Stridhan' and 'Dowry' are two distinct terms, they are
sometimes used interchangeably. Under domestic law, dowry refers to any property
or valuable security given or agreed to be given by the bride's family to the
bridegroom's family before, after, or during the marriage.
The most important
contrast between 'dowry' and 'Stridhan' is that the former includes "demand,
undue influence, or force," whilst the latter does not. Stridhan is a gift given
willingly to women rather than as a consequence of coercion, undue influence, or
force. The difference between Stridhan and dowry has been established by Indian
courts. The main reason for this distinction is because if a future marriage
fails, the lady will be able to collect the things she got as Stridhan, whereas
dowry gifts would not be recoverable.
After seeing the sorrow of an estranged woman in the case of Pratibha Rani v.
(1985), the Apex Court established the distinction between dowry
and Stridhan. It was agreed that the lady would be the sole proprietor of her
Stridhan and may use it whatever she pleased. While the husband had no right or
interest in the Stridhan under normal circumstances, it was determined that he
might use it in times of extreme sorrow and must return it when he was able.
The Protection of Women Domestic Abuse Act of 2005, Section 12, guarantees a
woman's right to her Stridhan if she is a victim of domestic violence. The
provision can be simply triggered in order to reclaim such a Stridhan. Under
Section 18(ii) of the Act, a woman has the right to own the Stridhan in the form
of jewellery, clothes, and other appropriate things. The term 'economic abuse'
is also defined in the Act. It involves the woman losing all or any economic or
financial resources to which she is entitled under all existing customary laws,
whether or not they are payable at the court's discretion.
The Privy Council earlier decided in Bhugwandee Doobey v. Myna Baee (1869) that
a property obtained by a woman from her husband is not her Stridhan, and that
such property will fall upon the heirs of her husband, not her heirs, following
her death. Furthermore, the Privy Council declared in Debi Sahai vs Sheo Shanker
Lal And Anr
(1900) that property gained by a daughter from her mother is the
mother's Stridhan, not the daughter's, and that after the mother's death, such
property will belong to the mother's heirs, not the daughter's.
As a result, the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 represents a great step forward in
safeguarding Hindu women's property rights. Women are being granted rights that
have been denied to them for years as a result of this Act. It is a watershed
moment in the protection of women's rights since it removes a woman's incapacity
to acquire and hold property as single owner. Along with the legislation, equal
credit should be given to the judiciary, which has given the terms of the
legislation a broad interpretation while taking into consideration the nation's
overall socioeconomic progress.
- Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar and Anr., AIR 1985 SC 628
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