According to Sn. 14 : 'Property' means property' acquired by a .female Hindu by inheritance, partition, maintenance, gift from any person before, at or after her marriage. It includes whatever she gets by her own skill or exertion or by purchase, prescription, etc. It also
includes any property held by her as Stridhana before 1956.
Origin and development:
Stridhana is from "sin", woman and dhana" property Hence, it is literally woman's property. The history of Stridhana is as old as Hindu law itself. A clear enumeration of it is in Manu Smriti: Gifts before nuptial fire, gifts made at bridal procession, gifts made in token of love, gifts made by father, mother and brother. Later commentators accepted these but added a few more i.e, gifts made subsequent to marriage, sulka, ornaments etc. Vijnaneswara expanded Yagnavalkya's Text, to include property acquired by inheritance. The Privy Council deviated from Vijnaneswara and held.
(1) Property inherited by a woman from a male or a female was not Stridhana. (Bhagavan Dev Vs. Mina Bai, Shivshankar Vs. Devi Sahid).
(2) The share obtained on partition was not Stridhana (Mangala Prasad Vs. Mahadeva Prasad). However, the other 3 items were accepted by the courts.
Whether a property was Stridhana or not depended on
1) The source of acquisition
2) Her status : maiden, wife or widow at the time of acquisition and
3) The school to which she belonged
In stridhana the female has
(1) absolute power of alienation to any person and
(2) by succession the property goes to the stridhana heirs, after her death. This is called Soudayika.
Property of female Hindu : Sn. 14 :
The property of a female Hindu is held by her as absolute owner according to Sn. 14 of the Hindu Succession Act 1956. This abolishes the old Hindu Law doctrine of Widow's limited estate and makes her the absolute owner with retrospective effect. Further, the concept of
'Stridhana' is enlarged to include all properties which she acquires, and she is the absolute owner of this property also. Hence, Sn. 14 has defined the total property of the female in which she has absolute rights.
i) Widows limited estate abolished. Sn. 14 provides that any property possessed by a female Hindu whether acquired by her before or after 1956, shall be held by her as full owner and not as a limited owner.
Exception: The female Hindu will not be a full owner if she has acquired property by gift or under a will or a court decree which has imposed certain restrictions on the property or estate. In this section 'any property possessed' by a female Hindu is given wide meaning by the Supreme Court. The woman must have ownership with a right to possession, possession thus need not be actual, it may be constructive. It is enough if it is juridical possession. Possession should be claimed as a right and not as a trespasser. Where she is in possession in law, it would be deemed to be in possession. Hence if she is dispossessed, she has a right to recover, [of course, if her right is barred by limitation (i.e., 12 years), she cannot recover the immovable property].
The wide meaning to 'possession' was given by the Supreme Court in Kotturuswami V. Veeravva (1959).
A by a will authorised his wife W, to take a boy in adoption and died. W adopted 'C'. D, relative of A and a reversioner claimed the property stating that the adoption was invalid. The Supreme Court rejected and held that
(i) W became the absolute owner by virtue of Sn. 14
(ii) Even if the adoption was invalid, W was in constructive possession of A's property which is permissive. Hence, it was held that 'W was the full owner of the property. Adoption was held validand C succeeded.
This interpretation has been affirmed by the Supreme Court in other cases :
Eramma V. Virupanna 1959.
Mangal Singh V. Ratno 1960
Dina Dayal V. Rajaram 1970
Hence, under Sn. 14, the female Hindu becomes an absolute owner if the conditions are fulfilled. Further, Sn. 14 is retrospective in operation and hence dates back to the date of her possession. Under old Hind law, the widow's limited estate called "non- saudhayika" was a typical form of an estate. The Hindu widow was entitled to the full beneficial enjoyment of her husband's property for her life. On her death, the property reverted back to her husband's
heirs called reversioners. The widow had only a right to enjoy the property but had no power to alienate, except for legal necessity. This had given birth to ruinous litigation. Sn. 14 has abolished this limited estate and has made her the full owner and hence, the reversioners have disappeared.