The Hindu Law has certain concepts like HUF (Hindu Undivided Family), Karta, Succession rules, Streedhan etc., These were created for smooth functioning of the Household and aimed at protecting the interest of different members of the family.
The concept of Streedhan refers to the right of (hindu) women about the Wealth that belongs only to them by Law.
In this post let us understand – What is Streedhan? Differences between Streedhan & Dowry, What are the constituents of Stridhan? What are the precautionary measures to be taken by Women to protect her Stridhan wealth?….
What is Streedhan?
The word ‘’Streedhan’ has been derived from the Sanskrit words ‘Stri’ meaning a woman and the word ‘dhan’ means property. Therefore on combining these two words, we get ‘property of woman’ her ‘Streedhan’. (Streedhan, sometimes also spelt as Stridhan in English.)
These two words imply that property over which a woman has an absolute ownership. The ‘Streedhan’ must be without any consideration in return thereof. Stridhan is a concept of Hinduism only.
Constituents of Stridhan
According to the age-old Smritis, all old schools of Hindu law such as Dayabhaga, Mitakshara etc. and recent Amendments to the law, the following is Streedhan in the hands of a woman whether she is a maiden, married woman or widow;
According to Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 property obtained by a woman from the following sources is her absolute property (unless contrary is mentioned in the terms of device, gift, decree, order or award). Property acquired-
- by inheritance
- By device –through will or a settlement
- At a partition
- In lieu of maintenance
- By gift
- By personal Skill or exertion
- Purchase and prescription –with the help of her own funds
- Acquired in any other manner- property received under a decree or award, or through adverse possession
Gifts that are –
- Made to a woman before the nuptial fire (Adhayagni).
- Gifts made to a woman at the bridal procession (Adhyavaharika).
- Gifts made after marriage by a woman’s husband (Patidatta) husband’s relations or parent’s relations and gifts from sons and relations .
- Made in token of love by father-in-law, mother-in-law.
- Gifts made by father, mother and brother.
- Gifts given by her friends etc.,
The wealth includes both movable and immovable assets. There is no upper cap to stridhan. It can be whatever amount.
If a woman gifts a property to her husband during and after marriage, those are not part of Streedhan.
Streedhan Vs Dowry
‘Stridhan’ becomes a necessity of every woman. It is the right of women to claim their wealth any time and use it in whichever way.
Stridhan is very often misinterpreted as dowry but both are different. The domestic law perceives dowry as any property or valuable security given or agreed by the bride’s side to the family of the bridegroom before, during or after marriage, by exploiting or threatening the girl or her family.
Whereas, Stridhan is voluntary gift given by members of bridal side to the bride as a stepping stone to establish her own property. Dowry, is a kind of demand made by the groom or his family.
Whether articles given as Dowry are Stridhan? – It is a matter of fact and it has to proved in court of law that such article is Streedhan or not.
If a woman dies within seven years of her marriage, under suspicious circumstances (unnatural death, especially in cases like dowry deaths), her property / stridhan would go to her children (if she was a mother) else to her parents.
(In case of natural death, the rules prescribed under the Hindu Succession Act are applicable. Besides this, the source of the acquisition of such a property is given importance.)
Rights of a Woman over her Streedhan
- A woman has an absolute right over her Stridhan wealth. She has the power to sell sell, bifurcate or give it away as she wishes during here lifetime and thereafter.
- Her husband and in-law’s family members have no rights over a woman’s Stridhan.
- A woman’s husband may use Stridhan during the time of distress or emergency but he is under moral and legal obligation to restore it the same or its vale to his wife.
- Gifts received by a woman from her close relatives can be tax-exempt. There is no tax-liability to her. But, she is liable to pay tax on the income arising from any of the assets passed to her under Stridhan.
- One can avoid provisions of “Clubbing of Income” in case of jointly held property or if wife is a home-maker. A husband can transfer / purchase a share in the property in exchange for wife’s jewellery or Streedhan.
- As per the Supreme Court’s judgement, women can claim stridhan even after separation (divorce) from husband.
- In most of the scenarios, Stridhan property is not liable for Court attachment.
What are the precautionary steps to be taken to protect Streedhan?
- The woman should make a list of all the gifts and properties received before, during and after marriage from her family, husband’s family, friends, and other acquaintances. And let there be two witnesses. (But it is not necessary that court will always accept, remember, anything can be challenged in court of law.)
- Advisable to keep evidence for all the gifts received such as wedding pictures and preserve bills/documents (if any) in her name.
- A working woman should maintain a separate bank account.
- If a woman’s family uses Stridhan to buy any assets, advisable to keep a record of such investments.
- A woman can request her parents to gift her income-generating assets rather than expensive consumer items/gifts. It is easy to have a documentation for non-consumption items.
As there is no formal documentation exists for Streedhan, it can be subject to questioning in the Court of Law.
Always get your assets/gift received /income documented. Make a will just to be safe. (If there is no will, a woman’s stridhan/property will generally be distributed as per the Hindu Succession Act.)
As the times have changed, relationships are tested. And in troubled times you need your Stridhan to help you sail and at present (given the current law/rules) the onus of proving it as yours rests with you.
Also, the women protective laws like Streedhan should not be mis-used by women to blackmail, harass, humiliate and falsely implicate the innocent members of the in-laws family. So, as much as possible advisable to try to document all your (men/women) investments and gifts.
Continue reading :
- Life Insurance & Married Women’s Property Act (MWP Act) – Details & Benefits
- Maintenance & Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (MWPS) Act | Details & Guidelines
- Nominee Vs Legal Heir : Who will inherit (or) own your Assets? | Importance of WILL
- How to write a WILL & Sample WILL?
(Kindly note that this article is for information purposes only and do not treat it as a legal advice.)
(Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
(References : womensweb.in, lawctopus.com & racolblegal.com) (Post first published on : 15-November-2019)
Thanks for this article. Found very useful.