Stridhan: A Study On Women’s Property Under Hindu law

A Hindu woman can categorically have two types of property viz Stridhan: one where she is the absolute owner and Women’s Estate: one where she is the limited owner. It is to be noted that The Hindu Succession Act,1956 via Section 14 has repealed the concept of limited ownership of rights and has conferred absolute ownership of property to her notwithstanding the fact whether the property was acquired either before or after the commencement of the Act.

The word Stridhana is a combination of two words: ‘Stri’ means ‘women’ and ‘dhana’ means ‘property’. Etymologically, the term conveys women’s property. In modern Hindu law the term means not only the distinct properties as referred to in the Smritis, but it also includes properties in the nature where she is an absolute owner or where the property devolves upon her by virtue of she being a legal heir. Literally, it means that the women is all and all in the properties held by him and that she can use and dispose it at any time, in whatever manner she likes according to her own will, not subject to obtaining any permissions.

C opines, “What is given to a women by her father, mother, her husband or her brother, or received by her at nupital fire or presented on her adhivedanika, and the like is denominated women’s property.”

On the other hand, Jimutvahana of Dayabhaga law school chalks out Stridhan in following words, “ That alone is Stridhan which a woman has power to give, sell or use independently of her husband’s control.” His definition is quite vague on the dimension that he has not categorically stated which properties of Stridhan can be disposed by her without taking the consent of her husband and what not?  The Dayabhaga school of law classifies Stridhan in three classes:

  • The yautaka: It consists of the gifts given during marriage. In case of Bistoo Prasad vs Radha Sunder Nath, it was held by the Hon’ble High Court of Calcutta that the term Stridhan implies all those gifts given during the marriage ceremonies.
  • The Anvadheyaka: It refers to those gifts and bequests made by father subsequent to marriage.
  • The Ayautaka: This not only includes gifts and bequests made by relatives including the father both in pre-marriage as well as post-marriage state.

In case of Bhugwandeen vs Mynabayee, the Privy Council opined that a property obtained by a women from her husband is not Stridhan and hence, it passed to the heirs of the husband after her death, and not to her heirs. Again, in the case of Sheo Shankar vs Devi, the Privy Council held that the property obtained by a daughter from her mother was Stridhan in the hands of the mother was not Stridhan in the hands of the daughter and, therefore, on death it passed to the heirs of the mother and not to her heirs.

A women may hold and acquire properties com various sources. But the test pf finding Stridhan property lies upon the following criteria:

  1. From which source the property was obtained?
  2. Whether the women has acquired the property during maidenhood, coverture or widowhood?
  3. To what school of Hindu law does she belongs?

The various sources of Women’s Properties are:

  • Gifts and bequeaths from relations.
  • Gifts and bequeaths from strangers during maidenhood.
  • Property obtained on partition.
  • Property given in place of maintenance.
  • Property acquired by inheritance.
  • Property acquired by mechanical arts.
  • Property acquired by adverse possession.
  • Property purchased with the savings her income.

Rights of women over her Stridhan:

Whether a woman is a maiden, coverture or widow is above all a determining factor to draw out the rights of the women over the property held by her. If the woman is maiden, a Hindu couple could dispose of her Stridhan of every description at her pleasure. The power of the women to dispose of her property during coverture depends upon the nature of Stridhan. If the nature of Stridhan is Saudayika, she has the absolute power to dispose it, but if he holds Non-Saudakiya property, she cannot dispose of such properties without her husband’s consent. If the women holds the property during widowhood, she can dispose of her properties whether acquired before or after her husband’s death.

With the passage of the Hindu Succession Act,1956, Section 14 has inter alia repealed all the archaic laws and made it crystal clear that all such properties ownership is fully vested upon the women , whether acquired before or after the passage of the Act. The Act confers absolute heritable capacity on the female heir. Section 14 dispenses with the traditional limitations on the powers of the Hindu female to transmit and dispose of property. If she dies leaving behind intestate succession, a uniform succession order shall follow via Section 15 of the Act of 1956.

Hence, now a women enjoys the full proprietorship of the property held by her.

Subham Chatterjee

Subham Chatterjee is a penultimate year law student from Tezpur Law College, Assam. Apart from excelling in academics, he has presented papers in national seminars, contributed chapters in edited books published internationally. He also brought accolades by winning Moot Court Competition, Client counselling competition and Quiz Competitions apart from participating in various competitions. He has recently authored an ISBN book 'Land Laws of Assam: A Reference Book for the students of Gauhati University" He is also a trained Hindustani Classical (Vocal) and Rabindra Sangeet singer.

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