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Hindu Succession Act: Demystifying Stridhan and Women’s Estate By: Milind Rajratnam

prasad1

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In ancient times, the property rights of women were suppressed to a large extent. According to Manu, a son, a wife and a slave do not have property rights and if they acquire any property by their own, then that property will belong to the male under whose protection they are living. The daughter’s right to inherit was also disputed as she was entitled to inherit only if she was a ‘putrika’, meaning brother-less girl. It was only because of the efforts of some social reformers that the Hindu Women’s Right to Property Act was enacted in the year 1937https://www.latestlaws.com/articles...and-women-s-estate-by-milind-rajratnam/#_edn1. Under the said Act, the ideology of all the schools of Hindu Law was amended in a way so as to give greater rights to the Hindu women.

This Act brought about revolutionary changes by affecting not only the law of coparcenary but also the law of alienation, inheritance, partition and adoption[ii]. It enabled a widow to take an equal share to that of her son but disentitled her from becoming a coparcener and therefore, the widows had only a limited estate in the property of her deceased husband with the right to ask for partition. Although the object of the Hindu Women’s Right to Property Act was to enlarge the property rights of all the Hindu women in general, it only satisfied with strengthening the rights of widow and not the rights of women as a class. The position of daughters right of inheritance was also left untouched as by the said Act of legislature[iii].

After facing a lot of criticism on the Hindu Women’s Right to Property Act, the Parliament decided to come up with an improved legislation dealing with the property rights of women and enacted the Hindu Succession Act, 1956[iv] (hereinafter ‘HSA’). Section 14 of HSA conferred absolute property rights on women. In this article, the author is analyzing the nature, scope and objective of Section 14 of HSA in light of Stridhan.

What is Stridhan?

Under Hindu law, the property that can be held by a woman is divided into two categories, i.e., Stridhan and Non-Stridhan. The word ‘Stridhan’ is constituted of two words namely, ‘stri’ meaning woman and ‘dhana’ meaning property. Stridhan is the property that is given to a women at the time of her marriage. According to Mitakshara and Dayabhag, the following in the hands of a women (maiden, married or widow) constituted Stridhan;

  1. Gifts that are made before the nuptial fire.
  2. Gifts that are made at the time of bridal procession.
  3. Gifts that are made by mother-in-law or father-in-law as a token of love at the time of her marriage. And,
  4. Gifts that are made by the mother, father and brother of the women.[v]
The question of whether a particular property is the Stridhan or not is also dependent upon the source of acquisition of that particular property and the marital status of woman at the time of such acquisition. The gifts and bequests that are made from strangers to the women when she was maiden, married or widow is also her Stridhan.
 
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