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In a recent matter before the Honourable Supreme Court, it was reiterated by the Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Dutta that the ‘Stridhan’ property of a woman does not mean it is under the control of the husband. The husband holds neither title nor independent authority over the property gifted to the woman before marriage as her’ Stridhan’.[i]This necessitates a thorough examination of the concept of Stridhan and its historical development and evolution.

Stridhan is an absolute right of a woman that she holds over the property exclusively. As a concept, Stridhanhas been practiced since ancient periods and as evolved with time it started being misinterpreted and misunderstood under the concept of dowry. The enactment of the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 gave women the absolute right to have ownership of their stridhan property but the major amendment was made in the year 2005, when coparcenary rights over the ancestral property were given to daughters.


The term “Stridhan” is derived from the combination of the words “stree” and “dhan,” which translate to “woman” and “property” respectively. Legally defined, Stridhan refers to property over which a woman holds absolute ownership. This includes any form of property that a woman receives, particularly those gifts and assets bestowed upon her by her relatives. The concept of Stridhan predominantly involves movable property, such as jewelry, cash, and other valuables.

The Smritikars, ancient Hindu lawgivers, have delineated “Stridhan” as the property given to a woman by her family members and other relatives. This definition underscores the importance of Stridhan in a woman’s life, emphasizing its role as a form of economic security and independence. During significant life events, such as the nuptial procession and the matrimonial rites, Stridhan is prominently featured. It includes the gifts and valuables conferred by the attendees of her wedding, which become her exclusive property.

In the case of Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar & Anr,Stridhanwas defined to include gifts given before the wedding ceremony, gifts presented during the bridal procession, gifts given by the mother-in-law or father-in-law as a token of affection on the occasion of her marriage, and gifts bestowed by the woman’s mother, father, and brothers.

Stridhan is not merely a legal concept but is deeply rooted in ancient Hindu traditions. References to Stridhan can be found in the Vedas and Puranas, ancient Hindu scriptures that outline various aspects of life and law. These texts mention how women were entitled to receive Stridhan, highlighting its significance as a practice that ensured women had their property and financial autonomy. This ancient practice has been preserved through centuries, reflecting the enduring recognition of a woman’s right to own and control her property independently of her marital status.


The Hindu Women’s Right to Property Act of 1937 was enacted as a result of the endeavors of the various social reformers. This Act brought in amendments to the laws of partition, inheritance, alienation, and adoption and provided greater rights to women. Notwithstanding, the widows were bequeathed merely a limited estate in the property of their deceased husbands. This legislative measure primarily aimed to augment the property rights of widows specifically, rather than enhancing the property rights of women in general. Consequently, the inheritance rights of daughters remained largely unaffected. In response, Parliament subsequently enacted the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Before this Act, women’s property was generally classified into Stridhan and Women’s estate. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, introduced significant reforms: Section 14 of the Act incorporated Vijnananeshwara’s concept of “women’s estate,” granting women rights over Stridhan, and Section 27 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1956, conferred upon women absolute ownership of their Stridhan. Moreover, Section 19(8) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, empowers the Magistrate to direct the respondent to relinquish possession of Stridhan to the woman being restrained.[ii]


The concept of Stridhan has been practiced since ancient times; however, over time, the concept has been misconstrued by individuals as equivalent to dowry. Dowry constitutes a social ill, wherein the groom’s family demands money, luxury items, or property from the bride’s family. This scenario underscores the critical distinction between dowry and Stridhan. Dowry is characterized by the elements of ‘demand,’ ‘undue influence,’ or ‘compulsion,’ where the groom’s family exerts pressure on the bride’s family to provide money, luxury items, or property as a precondition or consequence of the marriage. This coercive practice often leads to financial strain, emotional distress, and in extreme cases, even violence and exploitation of the bride and her family.[iii]

Stridhan, on the other hand, represents a woman’s exclusive entitlement. It consists of gifts voluntarily given to her by her family, friends, or relatives at the time of her marriage or during her life, without any form of coercion or expectation. These gifts are bestowed out of love and affection, and the woman retains full ownership and control over her Stridhan. She can use, enjoy, or dispose of these items as she sees fit, independent of her husband’s or in-laws’ influence.Indian Courts have consistently affirmed the distinction between dowry and Stridhan, ensuring that in the event of marital dissolution, women are entitled to reclaim goods received as Stridhan, a provision not applicable to dowry gifts. The case of Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar elucidated the differentiation between dowry and Stridhan. A woman is to be recognized as the sole owner of her Stridhan, and it is to be utilized at her discretion. Despite this clear legal framework, a certain mentality and lack of awareness among the populace continue to blur the lines between Stridhan and dowry, leading to misinterpretations and perpetuation of the social evil of dowry. It is imperative to enhance public awareness and understanding of these legal distinctions to eradicate the practice of dowry and uphold women’s rights to their Stridhan.[iv]


The Privy Council in the case of Bhagwandeen Doobey v. Maya Baee(1869) had observed that the property inherited by a Hindu female from males would not be considered within the ambit of Stridhan. Rather, it will fall under the “women’s estate” category.

The Bombay High Court in the case of Kasserbai v. Hunsraj(1906) had laid down the principle of the Bombay School which observes that a property inherited by a woman from other females will be taken within the ambit of Stridhan. Further, in the case of Debi Mangal Prasad v. Mahadeo Prasad Singh(1912), the Allahabad High Court had observed that both Mitakshara and Dayabhaga schools states that any share obtained by a woman from partition is not to be considered as Stridhan but instead as women’s estate. Upon Hindu Succession Act, 1956 the shared property which is obtained from partition becomes an absolute property as Stridhan.

In the case of Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar the Supreme Court determined that any Hindu married woman has complete ownership of her Stridhan property and has the right to manage it as she sees fit. Even if she designates her husband or in-laws as trustees of the property, she retains the right to reclaim it. Should the trustees fail to return the property, they will be held liable under Section 406 of the IPC, which prescribes a penalty of up to three years of imprisonment, a fine, or both for the criminal breach of trust, as defined under Section 405 of the IPC.

In the case of Bhai Sher Jang Singh v. SmtVirinder Kaur, Jang Singh was held liable under Section 406 of IPC for Criminal Breach of Trust as he dishonestly misappropriated the ornaments that he was given as trustee and refused to return the Stridhan.  In the case of Rashmi Kumar v. Mahesh Kumar Bhada it was held by the Court that if a woman handovers her Stridhan to her husband or in-laws for safekeepingpurposes then if it is found that it was dishonestly misappropriated, they will be held liable for criminal breach of trust.

Recently, in the case of Maya Gopinathan v. Anoop S.B. & ANR. dated 25 April 2024 “It is her absolute property with all rights to dispose at her pleasure” and this absolute ownership ensures that the property remains solely under her control and does not, under any circumstances, become a part of the joint property shared between the husband and wife. Therefore, the husband has no legal claim or rights over the property, and it cannot be treated as jointly owned by the couple.


The Indian women’s property rights were significantly enhanced by the Hindu Succession Act of 1956. Women now have more legal standing and property rights thanks to this landmark legislation, which addresses past gender differences in property inheritance rules. However, the Act’s 2005 Amendment, which acknowledged females as coparceners from birth, signified a dramatic shift in the legal landscape and greatly increased the scope of these rights. By granting daughters the same rights as sons in joint Hindu family property, this amendment secured gender parity in areas of inheritance and property ownership.

In addition to these legislative advancements, the judiciary has played an instrumental role in interpreting these laws liberally, thereby reinforcing the property rights of women. The courts have consistently upheld the spirit of the legislation, emphasizing the need to treat daughters on par with sons concerning property rights. Moreover, the judiciary has also provided a nuanced understanding of the concept of Stridhan, affirming it as a woman’s exclusive property, which she has the right to control and dispose of at her discretion.

It is essential to educate society about the distinctions between stridhanand dowry to eradicate the detrimental practice of dowry and reduce the exploitation of women. The forced demands made by the groom’s family for money, lavish items, or property from the bride’s family is known as the “dowry,” a social evil that often leads to emotional and financial abuse as well as gender imbalance. However, Stridhan talks about gifts and property that a woman willingly accepts from her friends and relatives and maintains as her only belonging.A two-judge bench’s recent decision has made it even clearer that Stridhan is the woman’s exclusive property, and the husband does not have any shared ownership rights.

This decision strengthens Stridhan’s financial autonomy and legal rights by highlighting the idea that she still maintains complete ownership and control over her.
All of these judicial and legal actions are intended to empower women by protecting their property rights and advancing gender equality. However, societal acceptance of these legal distinctions and broad public awareness are necessary for these campaigns to succeed. It is essential to educate the public about the differences between dowry and Stridhan to dismantle regressive practices and uphold the rights and dignity of women.



[iii] Ibid


This blog is authored by Aishwarya Agnihotri, a student at the Institute of Law, Nirma University.

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