The word “Stridhan” has been derived from the words “stri” meaning a woman and the word “dhana” means property. This concept came down all the centuries from the Hindu Smritis but has today, engulfed all forms of marriages in all visible castes and religions. Stridhan is the property that a woman obtains at the time of her marriage, it differs from dowry in the way that it is the voluntary gifts given to a woman before or after her marriage and has no element of coercion. Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 deals with the concept of stridhan.
HINDU SUCCESSION ACT,1956
Section14: Property of a female Hindu to be her absolute property-
- Any property possessed by a female Hindu, whether acquired before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be held by her as full owner thereof and not as a limited owner. Explanation. – in this sub-section, ”property” includes both movable and immovable property acquired by a female Hindu by inheritance or devise, or at a partition, or in lieu of maintenance or arrears of maintenance, or by gift from any person, whether a relative or not, before, at or after her marriage, or by her own skill or exertion, or by purchase or by prescription, or in any other manner whatsoever, and also any such property held by her as stridhan immediately before the commencement of this Act.
- Nothing contained in sub-section(1) shall apply to any property acquired by way of gift or under a will or any other instrument or under a decree or order of a civil court or under an award where the terms of the gift, will or other instruments or the decree, order or award prescribe a restricted estate in such property.
KINDS OF STRIDHAN
- Dayabhaga: According to Dayabhaga school, there are two kinds of Stridhan:
- Yautaka: it means whatever is given at the time of the marriage when the bride and groom are sitting upon the same seat means all the gifts given during marriage
- Ayautaka: it includes gifts and bequests made by father and other relations before marriage and relations other than the father after marriage
- Mitakshara: According to Mitakshara school, the property may be divided into two categories on the basis of the women’s independent power of disposal over it:
- Saudayika stridhan: Property obtained by a married or unmarried girl, from the husband, or parents, at the husband’s or father’s place, is called Saudayika. All sorts of Saudayika is absolutely at the woman’s disposal and she may spend, sell or give it away at her own pleasure. Her husband does not have any control in the dealings or use of Saudayika.
- Non-Sauyadika stridhan: All the remaining kinds of Stridhana fall under this category. A woman does not have the power to dispose of this Stridhanaproperty during coverture without the husband’s consent.
- Stridhan according to Smrities: Manu enumerates the following kinds of Stridhan:
- Adhyagni: gifts made before the nuptial fire
- Adhyavahanika: gifts made at the bridal procession
- Pritidatta: gifts made by the father-in-law and mother-in-law out of affection. (including padavandanika i.e., gifts made at the time of taking blessings of the elders just after the marriage)
- Gifts made by the father
- Gifts made by the mother
- Gifts made by the brother
- Adhivedanika: gifts made on supersession
- Anwadheyaka: gifts made by the husband’s relatives after marriage
- Sulka: gratuity or marriage fee
- Gifts from sons and relatives
- Food and vesture
- Ornaments given by the husband
Before 1956, the property of the woman was divided into two:
- Stridhan: gifts from relations, gifts from strangers at the time of ceremony of marriage or at the time of bridal procession.
- Women’s estate: property obtained by inheritance; share obtained on partition.
The character of property whether it is stridhan or women’s estate depends on source from which it has been obtained. They are:
- Gifts and bequests from relations: such gifts may be made to woman during maidenhood, coverture or widowhood by her parents and their relations or by the husband and his relations.
- Gifts and bequests from non-relations: property received by way of gift from strangers, other than relatives, to a woman, during her maidenhood or widowhood constitutes her stridhan.
- Property acquired by self-exertion, science and arts: A woman may acquire property at any stage of her life by her own self exertion such as by manual labour, by employment, by singing, dancing etc., or by any mechanical art. According to all schools of Hindu Law, the property thus acquired during widowhood or maidenhood is her stridhan.
- Property purchased with the income of stridhan: In all schools of Hindu Law it is a well settled law that the properties purchased with stridhan or with the savings of stridhan as well as all accumulations and savings of the income of stridhan, constitute stridhan.
- Property purchased under a compromise: When a person acquires property under a compromise; what estate he will take in it, depends upon the compromise deed. In Hindu Law there is no presumption that a woman who obtains property under a compromise takes it as a limited estate. Property obtained by a woman under a compromise where under she gives up her rights, will be her stridhan.
- Property obtained by adverse possession: Any property acquired by a woman at any stage of her life by adverse possession is her stridhan.
- Property obtained in lieu of maintenance: Under all the schools of Hindu Law payments made to a Hindu female in lump sum or periodically for her maintenance and all the arrears of such maintenance constitute stridhan. Similarly, all movable or immovable properties transferred to her by way of an absolute gift in lieu of maintenance constitute her stridhan.
- Property received in inheritance: A Hindu female may inherit property from a male or a female; from her parent’s side or from husband’s side. The Mitakshara constituted all inherited property a stridhan, while the Privy Council held such property as woman’s estate.
- Property obtained on partition: When a partition takes place except in Madras, father’s wife mother and grandmother take a share in the joint family property. In the Mitakshara jurisdiction, including Bombay and the Dayabhaga school it is an established view that the share obtained on partition is not stridhan but woman’s estate.
POWERS OF A HINDU FEMALE OVER STRIDHAN:
- Power of management: Woman has full power of management. She is the sole owner. She alone is entitled to the possession of the entire estate and its income. Her power of spending the income is absolute. She need not save and if she saves, it will be her stridhan. She alone can sue on behalf of the estate and she alone can be sued in respect of it. Any alienation made by her proper or improper is valid and binding so long as she lives. She continues to be its owner until the forfeiture of estate by her re-marriage, adoption, death or surrender.
- Power of alienation: She has limited powers of alienation, Like Karta her powers are limited and she can alienate property only in exceptional cases. She can alienate the property for the following:
- Legal necessity
- For the benefit of estate
- For the discharge of indispensable duties
- Surrender: Means renunciation of estate by the female owner. She has the power of renouncing the estate in favour of the nearest reversioner. This means that by a voluntary act she can accelerate the estate of the reversioner by conveying absolutely the estate thereby destroying her own estate.
- Reversioners: On the death of the female owner the estate reverts to the heir or the heirs of the last owner as if the latter died when the limited estate ceased. Such heirs may be male or female known as reversioners.
- Right of reversioners: The reversioners have a right to prevent the female owner from using the property wastefully or alienating it improperly. The reversioners have the following three rights:
- They can sue the woman holder for an injunction to restrain waste
- They can in a representative capacity sue for a declaration that alienation made by the widow is null and void and will not be binding on them after the death of the widow.
- They can after the death of the woman or after the termination of estate, if earlier, file a suit for declaration that an alienation made by the widow was improper and did not bind them.
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