Reference – http://everysuffererisasaviour.blogspot.in/2014/01/know-all-about-stridhan-and-how-to.html Stridhan is a combination of two Sanskrit words ‘Stri=Woman’ and ‘Dhan=Wealth’ which put together means ‘Woman’s property’. Stridhan is a traditional property right of Hindu women accepted by Indian Hindu Society.Stridhan ensures a women’s economic independence. Except for a few restrictions during coverture, a Hindu woman is the absolute owner of her stridhan.Any dues from her can also be recovered from her stridhan.Also, a woman who does not wish to accept stridhan cannot be forced to do so; she can choose to accept or reject the gifts given to her as part of the stridhan.Usually stridhan is passed from a mother to her daughters as per her wishes but as the sole owner of her stridhan a woman can will it away as she pleases.On her intestate death, all types of Stridhan, devolved upon her heirs in the following order:
- upon the sons and daughters (including the children of any pre-deceased son or daughter) and the husband,
- upon the heirs of the husband.
- upon the heirs of the father, and
- upon the heirs of the mother.
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. It also includes property inherited by the woman from her family or husband’s family; property received by her under a compromise, adverse possession or in lieu of maintenance as long as she doesn’t merely enjoy a restricted estate in the said property; property obtained in partition; and property bought with savings or accumulations of stridhan or using proceeds from stridhan is stridhan. Property acquired by a woman by mechanical arts or by her own exertions during maidenhood, subsistence of marriage and during widowhood is Stridhan.
However, gifts to the husband by the woman or her relatives before,during and after the wedding are not part of her stridhan. Also the Dayabhaga School doesn’t recognize gifts of immovable property by a husband to his wife as stridhan.Also a woman’s inheritance of ancestral property forms her woman’s estate or widow’s estate and is not stridhan.
Stridhan has all the characteristics of absolute ownership of property. The stridhan being her absolute property, a woman has full rights of its alienation. This means that she can sell,gift, mortgage, lease, and exchange her property,in part or whole. This is entirely true when she is a maiden or a widow. Some restrictions are recognised on her power of alienation, if she is a married woman. For a married woman stridhan falls under two heads:
• The saudayika (gifts of love and affection)- gifts received by a woman from relations on both sides (parents and in-laws).
• The non-saudayika– all other types of stridhan such as gifts from stranger, property acquired by self-exertion or the mechanical arts.
Over the former she has full rights of disposal but over the latter she has no right of alienation without the consent of her husband during coverture. During the pendency of the marriage he has the right to it’s equal use.On the woman’s death it passes on to her heirs.
A woman’s right to her stridhan is protected under law.This comes in handy in case of matrimonial discord as a woman can have her stridhan or its value returned to her. In the case of Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar, 1985 (2) SCC 370 the Supreme Court of India held that “a Hindu married woman is the absolute owner of her stridhan property and can deal with it in any manner she likes and, even if it is placed in the custody of her husband or her in-laws they would be deemed to be trustees and bound to return the same if and when demanded by her”.The position of stridhan of a Hindu married woman’s property during coverture is absolutely clear and unambiguous; she is the absolute owner of such property and can deal with it in any manner she likes-she may spend the whole of it or give it away at her own pleasure by gift or will without any reference to her husband. Ordinarily, the husband has no right or interest in it with the sole exception that in times of extreme distress, as in famine, illness or the like, the husband can utilize it but he is morally bound to restore it or its value when he is able to do so. This right is purely personal to the husband and the property so received by him in marriage cannot be proceeded against even in execution of a decree for debt, such being the nature and character of stridhan of a woman.If her husband or any other member of his family who is in possession of such property, dishonestly misappropriates or refuses to return the same, they may be liable to punishment for the offence of criminal breach of trust under sections 405 and 406 IPC. The offence of criminal breach of trust is punishable with imprisonment up to 3 years or fine or both.It is a cognizable, compoundable (up to Rs.250 only) and a non-bailable offence.
While the laws give Hindu women the means to be economically independent,due to ignorance of the law and a of lack of knowledge on how to move the courts women frequently lose out on their Stridhan.The following precautionary steps will ensure a woman will keep most of her stridhan in case of a break down in her marriage.
- She should make a list of the gifts and/or properties received before, during and after marriage from her family, husband’s family, friends and other acquaintances.
- She should keep evidence for the gifts received such as wedding pictures. Also, ensure that the gifts and their bills are in her name and preserve these bills.
- She should have witnesses – statements of witnesses will be important evidence – for gifts of movables (including jewellery) at the time of marriage.
- She should maintain a separate account in her name for her salary.
- She should get involved in the family financial decision-making and keep a record of bank accounts and the investments made out of her stridhan.
- She should ensure that the title to the property given to her and those bought from her stridhan are clear and that the investments made from these assets are in her name.
- She should open a bank locker in her name for storing jewellery and instruments of money, property and so on.
- It’s advisable for her parents to gift her income-generating property, rather than expensive consumer items which are difficult to account for.