Stridhan: Constituents and Protection
The expression ‘Stridhan’ says it all. ‘Stri’ means woman and ‘Dhan’ means property. In a nutshell, Stridhan includes all the moveable (like jewelry, AC, refrigerator, money) and immovable property (like land) which a woman acquires from her relations and non-relations either before her marriage, during her marriage or after her marriage (whatever she receives during her lifetime). In general, it is perceived as the property that is received at the time of marriage. (It is different from dowry which is received by force or coercion and is illegal).
A woman has full right over its disposal or alienation. It is a traditional practice under Hindu law which was meant to provide economic security and independence to a woman in hostile situations like divorce, widowhood etc.
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)
- 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
In the case of Pratibha Rani V. Suraj Kumar [1985 AIR 628, 1985 SCR (3) 191] the Supreme Court enlisted the following to constitute Stridhan-
- Gifts made before the nuptial fire
- Gifts made at the bridal procession, i.e. while the bride is being led from her residence of her parents to that of her husband.
- Gifts made in token of love, that is, those made by her father-in-law and mother-in-law and those made at the time of the bride making obeisance at the feet of elders.
- Gifts made by the father of the bride
- Gifts made by the mother of the bride
- Gifts made by the brother of the bride.
Apart from these- Gifts given by relatives of Mother and Father, Gifts from her husband after marriage, Money received for marriage are also recognized as sources of Stridhan by schools of Hindu laws.
Protection of the right to Stridhan
Stridhan is the absolute and personal property of the woman and no one gets the right to alienate the property without her consent. After marriage, such property is not the joint property of her in-laws and her although her husband or any other person can be entrusted to keep such property.
To protect this right here are safeguards provided in law in favor of the woman in cases where Stridhan is misappropriated or her right to Stridhan is denied by anyone.
One such protection is under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 – in cases where she is a victim of domestic violence it falls under the economic abuse of a wife. Another protection is under Section 406 of IPC- Criminal Breach of Trust in cases where the husband or any other person misappropriates or refuses to return the entrusted property.
Although there are safeguards to protect such rights yet these rights are often left unexercised either due to lack of awareness of the existence of such rights or dearth of substantive evidence to prove the property which constitutes Stridhan.
There can be a number of precautionary steps that can be taken by a woman in order to protect her rights-
- List- A list of all the items/ articles/ property received as gifts before, during or after marriage can be made.
- Witnesses- statements by witnesses can be a substantive evidence
- Separate Bank Locker- A separate bank locker in the name of the woman can be opened. This will ensure easy accountability of the properties.
- Wedding pictures and Bills in the name of the female
- 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.
- Record of Bank accounts and investments made out of her Stridhan must be kept.
With an increase in the awareness of these rights and taking up of the above mentioned precautionary steps the essence of age-old practice of Stridhan will be kept intact – Economic -liberty, security and independence of a woman.
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