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DV Act entitles woman to the right of residence in a shared household : SC

Right to Residence to Woman in a Shared Household
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Thursday, the Supreme Court held that, Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (DV Act) entitles women to the right of residence under the shared household. The court also overruled the judgement in SR Batra case, according to which the house belongs to the in-laws was not considered as shared household.

The Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, MR Shah and Subhash Reddy in the matetr of Satish Chander Ahuja Vs Sneha Ahuja held that DV Act “grants an entitlement in favour of the woman of the right of residence”. In the matter the father-in-law claimed that the property owned by him and was not a shared household and his son and his wife had no right in the property.

“The Act, 2005 has been enacted to provide for more effective protection of the rights of the woman who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family. The Act has to be interpreted in a manner to effectuate the very purpose and object of the Act. Section 2(s) read with Sections 17 and 19 of Act, 2005 grants an entitlement in favour of the woman of the right of residence under the shared household irrespective of her having any legal interest in the same or not.”

The bench categorised the definition of Section 2(s) of the DV Act into two parts. The first part which follows the word “means” and the second part which follows “includes”. The second part further categorised into two and defined shared household in its first part.

“The first part reads shared household means a household where the person aggrieved has lived or at any stage has lived in a domestic relationship either singly or along with the respondent”. Thus, first condition to be fulfilled for a shared household is that person aggrieved lives or at any stage has lived in a domestic relationship.”

The second part further categorised into two, – (a) owned or tenanted either jointly (b) household belongs to joint family.

“The second part subdivided in two parts is- (a) includes such a household whether owned or tenanted either jointly by the aggrieved person and the respondent and owned or tenanted by either of them in respect of which either the aggrieved person or the respondent or both jointly or singly have any right, title, interest or equity and (b)includes such a household which may belong to the joint family of which the respondent is a member, irrespective of whether the respondent or the aggrieved person has any right, title or interest in the shared household. In the above definition, two expressions, namely, ‘aggrieved person’ and ‘respondent’ have occurred. From the above definition, following is clear:- (i) it is not requirement of law that aggrieved person may either own the premises jointly or singly or by tenanting it jointly or singly; (ii) the household may belong to a joint family of which the respondent is a member irrespective of whether the respondent or the aggrieved person has any right, title or interest in the shared household; and (iii) the shared household may either be owned or tenanted by the respondent singly or jointly.”

The learned counsel for the appellant on “shared household”, relied on the judgement of S.R. Batra Vs. Taruna Batra.

“18. Here, the house in question belongs to the mother-in-law of Smt Taruna Batra and it does not belong to her husband Amit Batra. Hence, Smt Taruna Batra cannot claim any right to live in the said house.”

“28. Learned counsel for the respondent Smt Taruna Batra has relied upon Section 19(1)(f) of the Act and claimed that she should be given an alternative accommodation. In our opinion, the claim for alternative accommodation can only be made against the husband and not against the husband’s (sic) in-laws or other relatives.”, in the above case.

The bench on point 26 in the above case stated that, “at any stage has lived” has been used with intent to not to deny protection of aggrieved person.

“The expression ‘at any stage has lived’ has been used to protect the women from denying the benefit of right to live in a shared household on the ground that on the date when application is filed, she was excluded from possession of the house or temporarily absent… As observed above, the use of the expression ‘at any stage has lived’ was only with intent of not denying the protection to aggrieved person merely on the ground that aggrieved person is not living as on the date of the application or as on the date when Magistrate concerned passes an order under Section 19.”

The bench observed that, the share household could belong to any relative of the husband with whom the wife has lived in a domestic relationship.

“The respondent in a proceeding under Domestic Violence Act can be any relative of the husband. In event, the shared household belongs to any relative of the husband with whom in a domestic relationship the woman has lived, the conditions mentioned in Section 2(s) are satisfied and the said house will become a shared household.”

The bench also overruled the judgement in above case of SR Batra.

“We, thus, are of the opinion that the interpretation of definition of shared household as put by this Court in S.R. Batra Vs. Taruna Batra (supra) is not correct interpretation and the said judgment does not lay down the correct law.”

Over the mandatory and permanent injunction suit, the bench said that competent court can decide eviction from the shared household.

“Thus, in appropriate case, the competent court can decide the claim in a properly instituted suit by the owner as to whether the women need to be excluded or evicted from the shared household. One most common example for eviction and exclusion may be when the aggrieved person is provided same level of alternate accommodation or payment of rent as contemplated by Section 19 sub-section (f) itself…We need not ponder for cases and circumstances where eviction or exclusion can be allowed or refused. It depends on facts of each case for which no further discussion is necessary in the facts of the present case.”

The bench also stated regarding the instances where “conflict may arise in the orders issued under D.V. Act, 2005 as well as the judgement of Civil Court”.

“In the facts of the present case, where there are pleadings in the suit in question regarding proceeding under Section 12 the existence of orders passed under Act, 2005 are relevant and admissible in Civil Proceedings. …. 130. The proceedings under D.V. Act, 2005 are proceedings which are to be governed by Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.”

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