What is Stridhan? And a woman's right on it? Get aware!
Dowry system has proved to be a slow poison in our modern society. No matter how broad our thought processes become, this one thing surfaces every greed and selfishness. But what about the voluntary gifts received by the bride? In this blog post, we shall discuss what actually is Stridhan to a woman and what are her legal rights on it.
What is Stridhan?
Stridhan is composed of two words: ‘Stri’ (woman) and ‘Dhan’ (property) meaning the property of a woman. It constitutes of every single property received by a woman during her maidenhood, subsistence of marriage or widowhood. These are gifts (financial/non-financial) to the bride, primarily with an object to ensure financial security for an independent life, once she leaves her parental home for good. Stridhan can be both movable and immovable. This is a concept, which came down all the centuries from the Hindu Smritis but has today, engulfed all forms of marriages in all visible castes and regions. The following things are included under Stridhan:
1. Gifts include all kinds of jewellery (gold, silver, precious or semi-precious stones etc), property and other valuables like cash, a car, paintings, utensils, artefacts, appliances, furniture etc. gifted to the woman at marriage, before marriage and during the course of her marriage. (Gifts can come from anyone—parents, in-laws, relatives, friends and acquaintances.)
2. Woman’s earnings before or after marriage from employment or business. Any savings or investments made from her earnings.
3. Gifts made in token of love by father-in-law, mother-in-law.
4. Gift and Bequests from relatives (including in-laws)
5. Gifts and Bequests from strangers(guests).
6. Property acquired by self-exertion and mechanical arts- A woman may acquire property at any stage of her life by her self-exertion or by any mechanical art. According to all schools of Hindu law, the property thus acquired or maidenhood is her Stridhan. (for example, a pot you made during your school days, or a gift acquired by your grandfather, or anything you bought with your salary).
7. Any Property purchased with Stridhan is also a Stridhan. (for example, if you bought a necklace from the cash (Stridhan) your parents gave you during your wedding, then the necklace will also be called your Stridhan)
8. Property obtained in lieu of maintenance- Under all schools of Hindu law, the payments made to a Hindu female in a lump sum or periodically for her maintenance and all the arrears of such maintenance constitute her Stridhan. (If a woman has married for the second time, after separation and divorce from the first husband, then the amount that she used to get as maintenance under Sec.125 of CrPC,1973; will also be her Stridhan.
9. Property obtained by inheritance- A Hindu female can inherit property from her parent’s or husband’s side.
What does not come under Stridhan?
1. Any jewellery, like a ring or gold chain, and other valuables gifted to the husband by the wife’s parents at the time of marriage and through the duration of the marriage.
2. Earnings of the woman spent on the household cannot be claimed back.
Kinds of Stridhana and incidents thereof:
(i) Adhayagni—gifts given at the time of nuptial fire.
(ii) Adhyavaharika—gifts given to bride while going to her husband’s house.
(iii) Pritidatta—gifts given to the daughters-in-law by mother and father-in-law out of love and affection.
(iv) Patidatta—gifts given to her by her husband.
(v) Padvannadanika—gifts given by the elders while wishing them and paying them respect.
(vi) Anvadhyeyaka—gifts received from husband after her marriage.
(vii) Adhivedanika—gift given to first wife when the second wife was brought.
(viii) Shulk—money received for marriage.
(ix) Bandhudatta—gifts given by relatives of mother and father.
(x) Vritti—money given for maintenance and properties purchased from the money given towards her maintenance.
(xi) Yavtaka—when the bride and bridegroom sat together after marriage and received gifts i.e., the gifts given to wife during marriage.
(xii) Ayavtaka—those which did not fall in the yavtaka category mentioned above.
(xiii) Savdayika and Asavdayika—this kind of Stridhan covers those properties which are received by a woman from her husband, father or at husbands’ or father’s house. The division of, Stridhan by Katyayana into Saudayika and Asaudayika depends upon right of alienation. She has an absolute right over all the Saudayika properties. Over Asaudayika Stridhan the husband too has the right of ownership.
(xiv) Paribhashit and aparibhashit(Technical Stridhan)—Mayukha law divides the Stridhan into paribhashit and aparibhasit categories. The paribhasit one is given to the woman before the fire or at the time of her departure for the husband’s home. Other properties given to her fall under aparibhashik category.
(Don’t worry, you are not expected to know these terms by heart, this is only for you to know as to what all does Stridhan include).
What is the difference between Stridhan and Dowry?
Stridhan is very often misinterpreted as dowry but both are completely different concepts. Dowry is Money or any kind of property demanded by the bridegroom’s family from the bride’s family, whereas Stridhan is Property voluntarily gifted to a bride that solely belongs to her and stays with her throughout her life. Dowry is illegal in nature, unlike Stridhan which is legal in every sense. Dowry is given on demand under the pressure of compulsion, but Stridhan is given as a token of affection. Stridhan protects the Liberty, Security, and Independence of a woman, whereas dowry protects none. Dowry should not be given, there are no rights attached to it, whereas in case of Stridhan the girl can legally claim her Stridhan after/before her divorce, or at any time she wishes to. For Dowry, no witness is required, but for Stridhan at least two witnesses are required.
What is the difference between Alimony and Stridhan?
Alimony is spousal support after separation, whereas Alimony is a property that a woman gets at the time of her marriage from parents and relatives. To decide the amount of Alimony (1) There must be a substantial difference between the income of her and her husband, (2) If she is not earning then her qualification and her ability to earn is considered,but for Stridhan no such requirements exist the property possessed by a woman belongs solely to her. Alimony can be availed only after separation, whereas Stridhan can be received as well as used, during or after marriage.
Is Stridhan taxable?
Stridhan is attached to your income. You do not get any ta benefit, but you are liable to pay tax on the income arising from any of the assets passed to you under Stridhan. For example, you got some property as a gift from your father in his will, and the property is leased out. The income form the property is added to your income and you are liable to pay income tax on the same.
Stridhan and Law
A woman is the absolute owner of her Stridhan, and no other person has any kind of right on it. She has all control over it, and can use, alienate or dispose of it in any way and at any time she wants. And she doesn’t require anybody’s permission to deal with the same. There are several laws and regulations to protect women’s right to Stridhan. The laws are as follows:
LEGAL STATUS OF STREEDHAN
1. The application under Section. 405 of IPC
The Section. 405 of IPC states:
“Whoever, being in any manner entrusted with property, or with any dominion over property, dishonestly misappropriates or converts to his own use that property, or dishonestly uses or disposes of that property in violation of any direction of law prescribing the mode in which such trust is to be discharged, or of any legal contract, express or implied, which he has made touching the discharge of such trust, or willfully suffers any other person so to do, commits ‘criminal breach of trust.”
The offence under Section 405 can be said to have committed only when a dishonest misappropriation is committed. But what does it mean? Misappropriation means taking advantage of something that you have been asked to take care of and using it for yourself. For example, if you as a wife give your jewellery to your husband or mother in law to keep it in safer custody, and they sell it and used the money themselves without letting you know, that act will be called misappropriation of the jewellery. To file a case under this law, misappropriation can be of a temporary nature also. That means if even if the jewellery is provided as a mortgage without your knowledge, with an intention to bring it back, that would also amount to misappropriation and criminal breach of trust (because you trusted them with your jewellery), and you may file a case against it.
2.The application under allied laws
A woman’s right to her Streedhan is protected under law. S. 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. And also, S. 27 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 make a female Hindu an absolute owner of such property. A Hindu married woman is the absolute owner of her Streedhan 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 act just like custodian and are bound to return the same if or when demanded by her. The position of Stridhan in a Hindu married woman life is very clear. 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.
3. Section. 12 of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 provides for women right to her Streedhan in cases where she is a victim of domestic violence. The provisions of this law can be easily invoked for the recovery of Streedhan. So if you are a victim of domestic violence, you can legally ask for all your Stridhan to be returned back to you it is not with you, and if still not returned you may file a case under Section. 12 of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
4. Again under Section 18(ii) of the Domestic Violence Act, the law says that a woman is entitled to receive the possession of the Streedhan, jewellery, clothes, and other necessary items. The term ‘economic abuse’ has also been provided under the Act. A woman cannot be legally deprived of all or any economic or financial resources to which she is entitled under all the existing laws. These resources are however not limited to the household necessities of the aggrieved person, which means they cannot just give you the things which you need to survive and keep everything else. They have to return back each and everything which is yours.
*Some of the precautionary steps in keeping the check on the Streedhan could involve:
1. 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.
2. The woman should keep evidence for all the gifts received such as wedding pictures. Also, ensure that the gifts and their bills are in her name and preserve these bills.
3. The woman should have witnesses – statements of witnesses will be important evidence – for gifts of movables (including jewellery) at the time of marriage.
4. The woman should maintain a separate account in her name for her salary.
5. The woman should get involved in the family financial decision-making and keep a record of bank accounts and the investments made out of her Streedhan.
6. The woman should ensure that the title to the property given to her and those bought from her Streedhan are clear and that the investments made from these assets are in her name.
7. The woman should open a bank locker in her name for storing jewellery and instruments of money, property and so on.
8. It is advisable for the woman’s parents to gift her income-generating property, rather than expensive consumer items. It becomes often difficult to give full detail accounts for the consumer items.