Stridhana-The Parting Gift

Centuries of subversion has pushed Indian women into a degenerative backslide and their emancipation depends largely on favourable legislation and their effective implementation. Stridhana is a respite for the economic uncertainty that most woman face in India created through their confinement to non-quantified housework. It is a practical solution that harmonizes gender disparity by weeding out the financial difference in a matrimonial arrangement. However, it is distressing that most women are unaware of such a crucial piece of legislation adopted for their empowerment. Moreover, in a country obsessed with male dominance, the idea of Stridhana is either alien to the lower strata or confused with dowry in the upper sections of the society.


The word Stridhana is a combination of two words: ‘Stri’ means ‘woman’ and ‘dhana’ means ‘property’. Literally, the word Stridhana means woman’s property. Stridhana comprises the movable and immovable property gifted to a woman by her family before, during, or after her marriage ceremony.

Rights Under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956

In traditional Hindu law, a Hindu female’s property was of two kinds; Stridhana and woman’s estate.  Stridhana was the absolute property that a woman had, which she could dispose of or even alienate according to her own wish or discretion. There was yet another exception to it, she could alienate her property but subject to her husband’s dominion during distress. The estate that was held by the female was known as the “Woman’s Estate” which she could only enjoy during her lifetime and could not have a personal interest in terms of alienation or disposal. Hindu Women’s Right to Property Act, 1937 amended the old Hindu Law of all the schools so as to give greater and absolute rights to women to alienate property but unfortunately, the statute gave only limited interest to the women in the property and came to be known as “Limited Estate”. Later in 1956, the Parliament decided to enact a different legislation known as the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (“Act”) conferring absolute property rights on women through section 14 of the Act.


Section 14

Thus Section 14 has introduced fundamental changes to the way a Hindu woman can hold property which reads as follows:

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.”

Sources of Stridhana:

  • Gifts and bequests – Inter-vivo or by will, given during maidenhood, coverture or widowhood.
  • Acquired by self-exertion
  • Compromise – However, property obtained under a family arrangement depends on the terms of the arrangement.
  • Property purchased with the income of Stridhana
  • Adverse Possession
  • Inheritance
  • Maintenance – All properties transferred by way of absolute gift in lieu of maintenance, including arrears.
  • Partition – If an absolute gift or interest in a share is given.


In Pratibha Rani vs. Suraj Kumar[i], the Apex Court had clarified that mere joint holding by a husband of the ‘Streedhan’ property did not constitute any legal partnership or co-ownership between the husband and his wife. The court opined that a wife can file a civil suit under the S. 14 of Hindu Succession Act and under S. 27 of the Hindu Marriage Act if the husband declines to return the ‘Streedhan’ property of his wife.

This provision has inter alia overruled all the old laws and made it crystal clear that the ownership of all her property is fully vested upon the women, whether acquired before or after the passage of the Act. The Act confers absolute right of inheritance on a female heir. Section 14 dispenses with the traditional limitations on the powers of the Hindu female to transfer and dispose of the property. If she dies intestate, a uniform succession order shall follow via Section 15 of the Act. Hence, now a woman enjoys the full proprietorship of the property held by her.

In 2015, the apex court ruled that creating even a limited interest in a property in favour of a woman towards her right to maintenance would give her an absolute right to the property.[ii]


Sections 15 And 16

Sections 15 and 16 of the Act, govern the way in which the property of a Hindu woman devolves on her heirs:

Section 15 (1) and 16
Explains the devolution of the woman’s property as per the following priority: 

  1. First preference to sons and daughters, including children of any predeceased son or daughter, and the husband; 
  2. Heirs of the husband; 
  3. Father and mother; 
  4. Heirs of the father; or 
  5. Heirs of the mother 

Section 15 (2) and 16
This explains the distribution of property depending on whether she has inherited it from her parents, or husband, or in-laws. 
Any property inherited by a Hindu woman from her father or mother devolves, in the absence of any son or daughter of the deceased (including kids of predeceased son or daughter), not upon the heirs referred to in sub-section (1), but upon the father’s heirs. 
Any property inherited by a Hindu woman from her husband or father-in-law devolves, in the absence of any son or daughter of the deceased (including kids of predeceased son or daughter) not upon the heirs referred to in sub-section (1) in the order specified, but upon the heirs of the husband. 


Rights Under Indian Penal Code, 1860

Section 405

Section 405 of IPC reads as follows:

“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”.

The offense under Section 405 can be said to have been committed only when all its essential ingredients are found to have been satisfied. As in the case of criminal misappropriation, even a temporary misappropriation could be enough to warrant a conviction under this section. Even if the accused intended to restore the property in the future, at the time of misappropriation, it is a criminal breach of trust.

In Rashmi Kumar vs. Mahesh Kumar Bhada[iii] the Supreme Court held that when the wife entrusts her Stridhana property to her husband or any other member of the family and the husband or such other member of the family dishonestly misappropriates or converts the same to his own use, or wilfully suffers and cause other people to do so, he commits criminal breach of trust.

Ordinarily, the husband has no right or interest in his wife’s Stridhana with the sole exception that in times of extreme distress, as in famine, illness or the like, the husband can utilize it but he is morally bound to restore it or its value when he is able to do so. This right is purely personal to the husband and such property cannot be proceeded against in execution of a decree for debt. If her husband or any other member of his family who is in possession of such property, dishonestly misappropriates or refuse to return the same, they may be liable for punishment for the offense of criminal breach of trust under S. 405 & 406 IPC. Even if Stridhana is kept with a woman’s husband or his parents, when a woman demands it, it must be given back to her.

A list of these gifts received at the time of marriage must be made and the bride, the groom and their parents must sign this document and it must be kept safely with the girl‘s family or a trusted friend so that there is no dispute regarding the gifts received as Stridhana later.

Rights Under Domestic Violence Act, 2005

Section 18

Under Section 18 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, a Magistrate may, after giving the aggrieved person and the respondent an opportunity of being heard and on being prima facie satisfied that domestic violence has taken place or is likely to take place, pass a protection order in favour of the aggrieved person and prohibit the husband from alienating his wife’s Stridhana. Further, under section 19, the Magistrate may direct the respondent to return to the possession of the aggrieved person her Stridhana. The claim for the same can be filed under Section 12 of the Act.

In the case of Krishna Bhattacharjee vs. Sarathi Choudhury[iv], the Supreme Court held that a wife who is living separately from the husband even under a decree of judicial separation can claim her Stridhana back from the husband under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.

Section 3

The term ‘economic abuse’ used in the Act includes deprivation of all or any economic or financial resources to which the woman is entitled under all the existing customary laws whether payable at the behest of the court or in any other manner. Consequently, deprivation or disposal of Stridhana by a husband or in-laws amounts to ‘economic abuse’ and they would be held under custody in such situations.

Application of Taxation Laws

Stridhana that has been given by a woman’s close relative, as a form of a gift, at the time of marriage, is not liable to be taxed. Stridhana must be without any consideration in return thereof. Stridhana from persons other than relatives is liable for income tax to be borne by the bride. In case you are a working woman and you have received some property from your parents then the income from that property would be added to your income and you would, therefore, be liable to pay tax for that.

The High Court of New Delhi in a landmark judgement, Ashoke Chadha vs. IOT[v], has held that ‘Stridhana’ in the form of jewellery given over a span of 25 years cannot be said to be an unexplained investment u/s. 69A of Income Tax Act, 1961. It is a very normal feature in India for women to receive jewellery in the form of gifts on various occasions during childbirth and marriage and therefore a large amount of jewellery cannot be held to be abnormal.


The position of a woman as an equal in the society can only be revived through continuous and constructive engagements. This includes favourable legislations and empathizing disposition of authorities to aid with requisite upliftment. Section 14 is undoubtedly a giant step towards the protection of the women’s right to property, which was denied to her earlier. This section removed the disability of a female to acquire and hold property and converted the status of a woman holding an estate on the date of commencement of this Act as a limited owner into an absolute owner. In case of her death intestate, she becomes a stock of descent and the property devolves by succession on her own heirs. In conclusion, it is apt to say that there are laws to protect our interest. It is imperative that we must be aware of them and use it judiciously to safeguard and protect our rights.


[i] AIR 1985 SC 628

[ii] Jupudy Pardha Sarathy vs Pentapati Rama Krishna & Ors, (2016) 2 SCC 56

[iii] (1997) 2 SCC 397

[iv] (2016) 2 SCC 705 : 2016 Cri LJ 330


[v] Reported in 14 57 (Delhi.)/202 Taxmann 395




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The position of a woman as an equal in society can only be revived through continuous and constructive engagements. This includes favourable legislations and empathizing disposition of authorities to aid with requisite upliftment. Section 14 is undoubtedly a giant step towards the protection of the women’s right to property, which was denied to her earlier. This section removed the disability of a female to acquire and hold property and converted the status of a woman holding an estate on the date of commencement of this Act as a limited owner into an absolute owner


Property Rights of an Unborn Child in India

While most debates surrounding the existence of a person before birth and after death are theological or philosophical in nature which could go on endlesslythe debate concerning the right of yet-to-be-existent person needs to be settled conclusively. Especially, ascertaining property rights of an unborn is essential as it has a direct implication on the rights of other existent individuals. Although the Indian laws recognize the existence of an unborn as a legal person, rights are not granted until the birth of the child. Further, while a child in a mother’s womb is considered as person for many purposes, the extent of the unborn child’s personal or proprietary rights has not been categorically determined. The unborn is regarded by legal fiction as already born for creation of interest in property.  

Moreover, the right to life has been guaranteed as a fundamental right to everyone under Article 21 of the constitution of India, which may be deemed to include an unborn child. Renowned scholars have also opined that ‘the State should not discriminate between persons who have taken birth and persons who are still in the womb of a mother’. Therefore, the State is under an obligation under Article 21 not only to protect the life of an unborn child from arbitrary and unjust destruction but also not to deny it equal protection under Article 14.i  

Further, judicial pronouncements have tried to shed some light on the status and rights of an unborn child. In the case of Tagore V. Tagoreii, the Supreme Court observed that foetus/infant in a womb is a person in existence for the purpose of making a gift to an unborn child. Subsequently, in the case of Jabbar V. Stateiii, the Court has also held that the term ‘person’ would include an unborn child in the mother’s womb after seven months of pregnancy. This would mean that it is capable of being spoken of as a person if its body is developed sufficiently.  

Property Rights of an Unborn under the Transfer of Property Act, 1884 (“TP Act”): 

Under the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, any property (movable or immovable) can be bequeathed in favour of an unborn child. However, an interest created in favour of an unborn is contingent on the occurrence of birth. Further, interest cannot be transferred directly to an unborn, it must be transferred to another living person or a trust must be created for the purpose.  

Section 13 of the Transfer of Property Act reads as follows: 

‘Where, on a transfer of property, an interest therein is created for the benefit of a person not in existence at the date of transfer, subject to a prior interest created by the same transfer, the interest created for the benefit of such person shall not take effect, unless it extends to the whole of the remaining interest of the transfer in the property.’ 

As the above provision defines an unborn child is a child or a baby in its mother’s womb. A person yet to be born does not have any existence and is not counted as a living person, still the property can be transferred to the unborn child/baby. 

Section 20 of the Transfer of Property Act reads as under:  

Where, on a transfer of property, an interest therein is created for the benefit of person not then living, he acquires upon his birth, unless a contrary intention appears from the terms of the transfer, a vested interest, although he may not be entitled to the enjoyment thereof immediately on his birth.’ 

Therefore, an unborn child i.e. an Infant En Ventre Sa mere can attain definite rights and inherit property only if he/she is born alive and such rights can be vested in the hands of his/her trustees.   

Conditions required for the transfer of property to an unborn child: 

  1. Absolute interest must be made in the favour of unborn child; 
  1. Creation of prior life interest in favour of a person who is in existence on the transfer date. 

As soon as the unborn child takes birth, the property rights immediately get transferred in his/her name. Post which he or she will be the sole owner of the property. 

Property Rights of an Unborn under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956: 

According to the Mitakshara school of law, a son by birth acquires an interest in the ancestral property of the joint family. Whereas, under the Dayabhaga school, the son has no automatic ownership right by birth but acquires it on the demise of his father.iv 

The conflict has been somewhat resolved by the express acknowledgment under Section 20 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 which recognises the rights of a child in the womb; 

A child who was in the womb at the time of the death of an intestate and who is subsequently born alive shall have the same right to inherit to the intestate as if he or she had been born, before the death of the intestate, and the inheritance shall be deemed to vest in such a case with effect from the date of the death of the intestate.’ 

In the case of FM Devaru Ganapati Bhat V. Prabhakar Ganapati Bhatv, the Court held that ‘There is no ban on the transfer of an interest in favour of an unborn person. Section 20 permits an interest being created for the benefit of an unborn person who acquires interest upon his birth. Where the donor gifted the property in favour of the appellant, then living, and also stipulated that if other male children are later born to her brother they shall be joint holders with the appellant, the court also held that such stipulation is not hit by Section 13 of the Act. Creation of such a right is permissible under Section 20 of the Act. 

Mulla on Hindu Law, Fifteenth Edition, contains a commentary by the author while dealing with Section 20 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956  The commentary reads thus: 

It is by fiction or indulgence of the law that the rights of a child born justo matrimonio are regarded by reference to the moment of conception and not of birth and the unborn child in the womb if born alive is treated as actually born for the purpose of conferring on him benefits of inheritance. The child in embryo is treated as in esse for various purposes when it is for his benefit to be so treated. This view is not peculiar to the ancient Hindu law but one which is adopted by all mature systems of jurisprudence. This section recognises that rule of beneficent indulgence and the child in utero although subsequently born is to be deemed to be born before the death of the intestate and inheritance is to be deemed to vest in the child with effect from the date of the death of the intestate.” 


Therefore, it is pertinent that the status of a human being in the making and the related rights are expressly clarified through adequate legislation. Judicial pronouncements, though binding, have been varying and evolving. In a country where even a defamed deceased has right to sue, it is essential that the property rights of future citizens are secured adequately.  


Image Credits: Photo by Ashton Mullins on Unsplash

It is pertinent that the status of a human being in the making and the related rights are expressly clarified through adequate legislation. Judicial pronouncements, though binding, have been varying and evolving.