By Nihit Nagpal and Avik Gopal
The ideology that women are not entitled to any property was followed till women were not considered as an equal part of the society. With the advancement in time, as women started to gain a reputable status, Stridhan got recognized in Hindu Law. Initially, as it was recognized, women did not have full ownership over the property and the consent to alienate/dispose the property was required from the husband. It was the enactment of Hindu Succession Act, 1956, that led to the women under Hindu law to be considered as absolute owners of the properties and gave them full right over it. The Act divided the women’s property into two categories-
1. Stridhan- Property in which women have the absolute power to enjoy and alienate it without any restrictions.
2. Women’s Estate- Property in which women have limited power that is restricted to using, but does not extend to alienation as per her wishes.
Stridhan vs. Dowry
Stridhan and Dowry are at times confused to mean the same thing.
|Stridhan is whatever a woman receives in her lifetime. It includes all movable, immovable property gifts etc. received prior to marriage, at the time of marriage, during child birth and during her widowhood.
|Dowry means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly by one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage.
|Stridhan is given voluntarily, instead of being pressured by undue influence or force.
|Dowry is not given voluntarily as they are pressured undue influence or compulsion.
|Breakdown of Marriage
|If the marriage breaks down in the future, the woman has the right to recover the goods received as Stridhan.
|If the marriage breaks down in the future, the woman can’t recover the goods her family has given as Dowry, however, can seek alternative reliefs against such dowry paid.
|Act of giving Stridhan is Legal.
|Act of giving Dowry is Illegal.
|Hindu Succession Act, 1956
|Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
Development of Stridhan Law in Indian Courts
In the landmark case of Pratibha Rani v/s Suraj Kumar  the Hon’ble Supreme Court differentiated between Dowry and Stridhan. The brief facts are that the Petitioner’s parents had fulfilled the demands of the Respondents parents by giving dowry to the tune of whatever was demanded by them, worth nearly Rs. 60,000/-. Few days after marriage, her in-laws started harassing her for dowry and turned her out of the house along with her two minor children without providing any money for their survival. The woman filed proceedings under Section 125 CrPC which were challenged by the Respondent husband before the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking quashing of the proceedings. The same was allowed and the proceedings were quashed. Hence, she appealed to the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The Hon’ble Supreme Court holding the decision of the High Court as erroneous laid down the constituents of Stridhan which are as follows-
• Gifts made before the nuptial fire;
• Gifts made at the bridal procession;
• Gifts made in token of love;
• Gifts made by the father of the bride;
• Gifts made by the mother of the bride;
• Gifts made by the brother of the bride.
The Supreme Court held that the joint holding of a stridhan property by husband does not constitute any co-ownership. The Court further said that a woman can file a suit against her husband if he denies returning stridhan property under Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, as well as under Section 27 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court came to an understanding that anything gained by the women during marriage including gifts will form the part of the Stridhan-
a) First, such things that are provided for her exclusively use to the bride (exclusive right);
b) Second, items that are meant to be used jointly by her with her spouse (exclusive ownership); and
c) Third, includes such gifts which entitled to be used by her husband and his relatives. 
The court in another judgment held that if a woman claims property, ornaments, money, etc. which were given to her at the time of marriage, then the husband and his family members are bound to return such property. If they deny to return the property, they are liable to face strict punishment.
Weapon to Woman Empowerment
Stridhan has given women the power to have their own property and gain a sense of independence. In the yester years women were overshadowed by their husbands as they handled everything. After the developments of the stridhan law in India, which was enacted with the sole intent of the legislature to provide women a sense of security, it provides women with a sense of authority and ownership of property. Owning a property acts as a status symbol in the society, with stridhan laws in the picture women have risen to that status level which is equal to men. The powers of a woman associated with her stridhan property include-
1. Power of Succession
If Hindu female dies intestate leaving her all Stridhan behind then it will devolve upon her heirs
2. Power of Management
Women enjoy the power of management of property. She alone is entitled to the possession of the estate and its entire income, she can spend it as per her own wishes.
3. Power of Alienation
A female owner being the holder of limited estate has limited powers of alienation. Alienation can be done for-
• A Legal Necessity;
• For the Benefit of the Estate;
• For the Discharge of Indispensable Religious Duties.
4. Power of Surrender
Surrender can be performed voluntarily by a woman during her lifetime or immediately by her death. In favor of her nearest successor, the woman has the right to renounce her estate, and self-effacement on her part will act as her civil death. For a valid surrender, there are some preconditions that need to be fulfilled as under-
• The surrender must be of the entire estate;
• The surrender must be in favor of her nearest heir or the heirs of the last owner;
• The surrender must be made with a bona fide intention.
After such surrender, the property will be given to reversioners. They have the right to prevent the female owner from using the property wastefully or improperly alienating it.
The enactment of the Hindu Succession Act is a welcome step towards strengthening the property rights of Hindu women. As a part of this Act, women are given certain privileges that have been denying them for decades. It is also a colossal step in the defense of women’s rights, as it has abolished a woman’s disability to gain and keep land as its absolute owner. Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 has definitely been a safety guard for the women especially the Hindu women. It has provided women with those rights, which were denied to her for centuries. This section removes the disability of a female to acquire and hold property as an absolute owner and to convert any estate already held by a woman on the date of commencement of this act as a limited owner, into an absolute estate. In case of her death intestate, she becomes a fresh stock of descent and the property devolves by succession on her own heirs.
 Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956
 Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1956
 1985 SCC (2) 370
 Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar (1985 SCC (2) 370)
 Vinod Kumar Sethi v. Punjab State (AIR 1982 P H 372)
 Bhai Sher Jang Singh v. Smt. Virinder Kaur (1979 CriLJ 493)
 Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956
 Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956
 Section 16 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956
 Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar, 1985 AIR 628