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What is Stridhan?

             


Ajay Durgapal

Definition of Stridhan:

 

Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 states that:

"Property of a female Hindu to be her absolute property-

 

(1) Any property possessed by a female Hindu, whether acquired before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be held by her as full owner thereof and not as a limited owner.

 

Explanation - In this sub-section, "property" includes both movable and immovable property acquired by a female Hindu by inheritance or devise, or at a partition, or in lieu of maintenance or arrears of maintenance, or by gift from any person, whether a relative or not, before, at or after her marriage, or by her own skill or exertion, or by purchase or by prescription, or in any other manner whatsoever, and also any such property held by her as Stridhana immediately before the commencement of this Act.

 

(2) Nothing contained in sub-section (1) shall apply to any property acquired by way of gift or under a will or any other instrument or under a decree or order of a civil court or under an award where the terms of the gift, will or other instrument or the decree, order or award prescribe a restricted estate in such property."

 

 

Ingredients of Stridhan:

         Any property possessed by a Hindu female acquired before or after commencement of the Act, as absolute owner.

         The property includes both movable and immovable property.

         The Hindu female may acquire the property by-

o   inheritance or devise; or

o   at partition; or

o   in lieu of maintenance or arrears of maintenance; or

o   in the form of gift; or

o   by purchase; or

o   by her own skill or exertion; or

o   by prescription; or

o   in any other manner,

from any person need not be a relative before, at or after the marriage.

However, any property acquired by way of-

o   gift; or

o   under a Will; or

o   any other instrument; or

o   under a decree or order of a Civil Court; or

o   under an Award,

where the terms of the gift, will or other instrument or the decree, order or award prescribe a restricted estate in such property will not be considered as Stridhan under Section 14 (1) of the Act.

Section 405 and 406 of the Indian Penal Code provides the penal provisions in respect to Stridhan. These Sections apply in cases where Dowry and traditional presents are made to the wife or entrusted to her husband or in-laws at the time of marriage (which would be considered as Stridhan). In case her husband or in-laws refuse to give it back to her on her demand this would amount to criminal breach of trust.

Section 405 defines Criminal Breach of Trust as-

"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 wilfully suffers any other person so to do, commits "criminal breach of trust"."

 

Section 406 of Indian Penal Code deals with the Punishment for criminal breach of trust.

"Whoever commits criminal breach of trust shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both."

 

Landmark cases:

1.       Rashmi Kumar v. Mahesh Kummar Bhada, Judgement dated 18 December 1996

The Hon'ble Supreme Court has explained the term Stridhan in this Landmark case. Stridhan includes properties gifted to a girl before marriage, at the time of marriage or thereafter and that it shall be her absolute properties with all rights to dispose of at her own will and pleasure. It does not become joint property with her husband and he may use it during time of distress and he has moral obligation to restore it. This decisions of Supreme Court stringent the absolute right of women over Stridhan, which cannot be disposed of or applied by the husband or his relatives for their personal benefit.

 

2.       Krishna Bhatacharjee vs Sarathi Choudhury and Anr, Judgement dated 20 November 2015

In this case the Supreme Court observed that the concept of 'continuing offence' gets attracted from the date of deprivation of Stridhan, for neither the husband nor any other family members can have any right over the Stridhan and they remain the custodians.

3.       Pratibha Rani vs Suraj Kumar, 1985 S.C. 628

In this case the Apex Court held that if any item of Stridhan is entrusted to the husband or in-laws at the time of marriage (which would be considered as Stridhan) and in case her husband or in-laws refuse to give it back to her on her demand they would be guilty of criminal breach of trust under Section 405 of IPC.


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