What is Stridhan [Provate asset of a woman]

What is Stridhan? This subject though common in parlance is noticed as one of the important as also equally difficult one in uncodified Hindu Law. This difficulty was visualised due to its different meaning in various schools recognised in Hindu Law. Its literal meaning is woman’s property. Acquisition of the property by a woman may be from various sources but to make that property Stridhan, its source as to how that property came to be acquired; the status of woman at the time of acquisition, and the school to Which she belongs is decisive. There has however been a concensus that the gifts received by a woman before or at the time of marriage from strangers, relatives, father, mother, brother are held to be her Stridhan property.

The concept of “Stridhana” was well recognised from the most ancient times. It refers to women’s separate property. Stridhana in its etymological sense includes all kinds of properties of which woman has become the owner, whatever the extent of her rights over it, She forms the stock of descent in respect of such property, which devolves on her heirs. Therefore, under Shastric Hindu Law, the right of women to acquire and possess property was well recognised and the restriction imposed was only with reference to the right to dispose of the properly so held. Their rights of dispositions over many and minor species of properties too were admitted, though over others, restrictions were imposed on fairly rational grounds. It is to be remembered that restrictions were imposed over males also in respect of dispositions of property and especially of immovable property. The whole purpose and object of legislations brought about dealing with the properties of the women is to give her an absolute right to dispose of her properties without any such restriction.

In my opinion, therefore, any gift to a woman by her parents at the time of engagement (Sagai) is her Stridhan property. [ (2000) 2 DMC 702-MADHYA PRADESH HIGH COURT RAJ KUMAR PATNI Vs. SMT. MANORAMA PATNI ]

Dowry is not Stridhan

‘Dowry’ – means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly – (a) by one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage; or (b) by the parent of either party to a marriage or by any other person, to either party to the marriage or to any other person at or before (or any time after the marriage) (in connection with the marriage of the said parties, but does not include) dower or mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal law (Shariat) applies, as would be evident from Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. Due to omission of Explanation 1 of Section 2 the definition of dowry have now become wider which includes all sorts of properties, valuable securities, etc., given or agreed to be given directly or indirectly. Question remains even after omission of Explanation 1 to Section 2 of the said Act, whether any gift or presentation by one party to marriage to other party to the marriage or by the parent to either party to the marriage or by any other person to either party to the marriage or by any other person has come within the purview of dowry if the same is not provided as a price of marriage. According to this Court, the property given by either of the parties in connection with marriage of the parties as a price of marriage only would come within the purview of dowry as there is a difference between dowry, and gift. We have to think seriously whether property given in marriage by either of the parties or their parents, as a consideration for the marriage, is straightaway would be treated as dowry. According to this Court, when property given in a marriage by either of the parties, not as a consideration/price for marriage then that would not come within the purview of dowry, rather it would come within the purview of gift or presentation, more specifically, a property given in a marriage by either of the parties itself cannot be treated as dowry, unless the same is given as a price for marriage.

In Satvir Singh and Others Vs. State of Punjab and Another, the hon’ble Apex Court considered the definition of ‘dowry’ as defined u/s 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, with reference to the offence u/s 304B of the IPC and held that it should be any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given in connection with the marriage. Customary sift or payment in connection with birth of child or other ceremonies unrelated to the marriage ceremony, held, do not fall within the ambit of “dowry”. Relevant paragraph 21 of the said judgment reads as under –

Thus, there are three occasions related to dowry. One is before the marriage, second is “at and time” after the marriage. The third occasion may appear to be an unending period. But the crucial words are ‘in connection with the marriage of the said parties”. This means the giving or agreeing to give any property or valuable security on any of the above three stages should have been in connection with the marriage of the parties. There can be many other instances or payment of money or giving property as between as spouses. For example, some customary payments, in connection with birth of a child or other ceremonies are prevalent in different societies. Such payments are not enveloped within the ambit of “dowry”. Hence, the dowry mentioned in Section 304B should be any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given in connection with the marriage.