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Analysis of Stridhan Under the Indian Laws



INTRODUCTION


India encompasses a history of suppressing the women’s property rights to a considerable extent. According to Manu a son, a slave and a wife do not have any property rights in ancient times, and if they do acquire Property, it will be owned by the male under whom they are living. Also, the Daughter has the right to inherit property only if she is the brotherless girl. Dowry has become a serious social problem and many women have died as a result of it, so the giving and receiving of dowry is forbidden by the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 and Stridhan is different from Dowry.


The Hindu community in India follow the Hindu Law and under Hindu law before 1956, the property of women are categorized into two kinds i.e. Stridhan where Woman have right to get the complete ownership over the property and woman’s estate where Woman have right to get only limited control over the property. The commencement of Hindu Succession Act, 1956 has repealed the concept of women’s estate where she is the limited owner of the property. Under Section 14 of the Act, women have been guaranteed to have absolute right over the property[1]. In the case of Rajamma v Varidarajulu Chetti[2], it has been decided that all the gifts received by a woman Prior to or after marriage constitute a woman's property and she has absolute right over that property.


WHAT IS STRIDHAN?


Stridhan is taken from the Hindu Smritis. Stri means Woman and Dhan indicates property when these two words are combined, we get Stridhan, which signifies women’s property. Under Dayabhaga there are two kinds of Stridhan :

1. Yautaka : All the gifts given during the wedding ceremony to the bride while the bride and the groom are sitting together.

2. Ayautaka: Gifts and legacies provided by the father or other relatives before marriage, as well as gifts and legacies, are given by relatives other than father after marriage.


Under Mitakshara there are two kinds of Stridhan

1. Sandayika: The gifts given by a spouse or parents to a married or unmarried woman, and she has complete choice on how she disposes, uses or sells that property.

2. Non-Saudhayika: All Stridhan’s other forms fall under this category. Without her husband’s permission, the woman has no authority to dispose of the property while undercover.


Women can gain absolute right under Section 14 (1) of the Act if the property is [3] :

1. By inheritance

2. By device

3. At a partition

4. In lieu of maintenance or arrears of maintenance

5. Gift from any person

6. Own skill or exertion

7. By purchase

8. By prescription

9. Any property she had as stridhan immediately prior to the Act's enactment


In Chinappa Govinda v Valliammal[4] for the maintenance of his widowed daughter in law, the father in law provided some property and He died, leaving his interest to his daughter in law to inherit. In order to collect her share of the inheritance, the daughter in law filed a partition suit. Other members of the family said that she will be allowed to collect the share which she wants on one condition, if she included that the property was given to her as the maintenance deed as part of the suit properties. Because it was her Stridhan, Court determined that the property given as the maintenance deed by her father in law did not have to be returned.


DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DOWRY AND STRIDHAN


There is a misrepresentation in society that Stridhan and Dowry are the same but they are not. Dowry is the Valuable security is given to the groom’s family by the bride’s family. Stridhan refers to presents given voluntarily by someone before or after the wedding to the bride.The distinction between dowry and Stridhan is that dowry has a demand from the family, whereas Stridhan has none and it is done by the people voluntarily. The Punjab High Court divided dowry and gifts given to the Woman into three categories in Vinod Kumar Sethi v. Punjab State [5] :


1. Items given voluntarily to the bride for personal use only.

2. Items voluntarily given to the bride that she and her husband will use.

3. Items which are to be utilized by her husband and in laws.


The Supreme Court did not agree with the decision of High Court of Punjab in Prathibha Rani v Suraj Kumar holding that a married woman’s Stridhan Property does not acquire the character of a joint property of both spouses as soon as she enters her husband’s home and she has an absolute right over her Stridhan Property, which means she can do anything with that property without any reference to her husband and her husband has no right over that Property.


ANALYSIS OF STRIDHAN AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT


Any woman who is a victim of Domestic Violence has the right to claim Stridhan under section 12 of the act [6]. Even If a wife is living separately from her husband under Judicial Separation, they still have a legal relationship until the decree of divorce, as a result she continues to be an aggrieved party[7]. The Magistrate has the authority to order that the Stridhan be returned to the aggrieved party. A woman has right to get the ownership of the jewellery, Stridhan, Clothing and other required goods under Section 18(ii) of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005. The concept of Economic Absure is also defined in the Act. It entails the woman losing all or any economic or financial resources to which she is entitled under all the customary regulations, whether payable at the discretion of the court or not. However, these resources are not confined to the aggrieved person's household needs. In Krishna Bhattacharjee v Sarathi Choudhary[8], the Supreme Court decided that a woman can claim her Stridhan even if she lives apart from her husband under the decree of Judicial Separation under Section 12 of the Act[9].


ANALYSIS OF STRIDHAN AND TAX LAWS


Working women's income is also included in the Stridhan, and there is a common misconception that if the income is included in the Stridhan, there will be tax benefits, but there are no such benefits. For example, if a woman earns money from her stridhan property, which was given to her by her father or anyone else, she must pay income tax on the money she earns. In the case of Binita Dass v Uttam Kumar[10], the Delhi High Court declared that a wife's qualifications and earning potential cannot be utilised to deny interim maintenance to a wife who is financially dependent and has no other means of support. The Stridhan given by her relatives is exempt from wealth tax up to a specific level.


ANALYSIS OF STRIDHAN AND IPC


Under Section 14 of the Act[11], Women can use, dispose of, or do whatever with their Stridhan Property. If she decides to leave her Matrimonial house and requests that her Stridhan Property be returned, and her husband or any of his relatives declines to return. Then she has the right to file a suit against them under Section 405 of the Act which is Criminal breach of trust[12]. Also, they shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both under Section 406 of Indian Penal Code, 1860[13].


CONCLUSION


Prior to the Hindu Succession Act of 1956, women had only little control over their stridhan property, but once the statute was enacted, the act allowed women entire control over their stridhan property[14]. Even if she is a widow she has the right to claim her Stridhan. There is a misconception that Dowry and Stridhan are same and also there are some tax benefits on the Stridhan property with the above analysis it can be made clear that Dowry is different from Stridhan and also there are no tax benefits on Stridhan Property. Anyone who earns money from that Property is liable to pay income tax on it. Also, the husband has no right over her Stridhan property but he can use that Stridhan Property in times of grave difficulty and must return it when he is liable to do so.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Hindu Succession Act 1956, S.14

[2] Rajamma vs Varadarajulu Chetti And Ors, AIR 1957 Mad 198


[3] Section 14(1) in The Hindu Succession Act, 1956,

Indiankanoon.org<https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1871141/>accessed 8 october 2021


[4] Chinappa Govinda v Valliammal, AIR 1969 Mad 187


[5] Vinod Kumar Sethi v State of Punjab, AIR 1982 P&H 372


[6] Domestic Violence Act 2005, S.12


[7] Domestic Violence Act 2005, S.2(a)

[8] Krishna Bhattacharjee v Sarathi Choudhary, (2016) 2 SCC 705

[9] Domestic Violence Act 2005,S.12


[10] 'Domestic Violence: Qualification And The Capacity To Earn Cannot Be A Ground To Deny Interim Maintenance To A Wife' (latest laws.com, 2021) <https://www.latestlaws.com/latest-news/interim-maintenance-to-qualified-wife/ > accessed 8 October 2021.


[11] Hindu Succession Act 1956,S.14

[12] Indian Penal Code 1860,S.405

[13] Indian Penal Code 1860, S.406

[14] Hindu Succession Act 1956, S.14


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