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criminal_laws:domestic_violence

Wife's Right Of Residence Which Belongs To Relatives Of Husband

[Qsn No. 1] Whether Under Domestic Violence Act Wife Is Entitled To Claim Right Of Residence Which Belongs To Relatives Of Husband ?

{NOTE : This Judgment Overrules Its 2006 'SR Batra' Judgment}

Background of the case :-

(1) The appellant/ plaintiff father-in-law filed a Suit No.792/2017 impleading the respondent/defendant daughter-in-law as sole-defendant for mandatory and permanent injunction and also for recovery of damages/mesne profit.

(2) In the plaint, he pleaded that defendant has filed a complaint under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 in which interim order directing the plaintiff not to alienate and not to dispossess the defendant without order of the competent court has been passed.

(3) In the written statement, the daughter in law claimed that the suit property is a shared household as per provision of Section 2(s) of the Act, 2005, and thus she has right to stay/reside in the shared household.

(4) The trial court decreed the suit by allowing his application filed under Order XII Rule 6 CPC., taking note of the admission made by the defendant in her pleadings filed in the domestic violence case that the plaintiff to be the owner of the suit property.

(5) Aggrieved with the judgment of Trial Court the defendant filed appeal in the High Court of Delhi. The Delhi High Court, while setting aside the Trial Court judgment, observed that question the suit could not have been simply decreed by the Trial Court on the basis of the title without weighing the effect of the statutory right in favour of the the daughter in law.The High Court heard the appeal and by a common judgment dated 18.12.2019 set aside the decree of the Trial Court and remanded the matter to the Trial Court for fresh adjudication.

(6) An appeal was filed before the Apex Court against the above mentioned Delhi High Court judgment.

Contention before the court :-

(1) Learned counsel for appellant contends that suit property which is exclusively owned by the appellant is not a shared household. The son of the appellant, Raveen has no right in the property and the son as well as respondent-daughter-in-law were only gratuitous licencees of the appellant.

(2) It is submitted that the respondent can claim right to reside only in house which is either joint family property or the husband of the respondent has a share in it . In the property belonging to father of the husband, she has no right to reside.

(3) Learned counsel for the appellant has relied on judgment of this Court in S.R. Batra and Anr. vs. Taruna Batra, (2007) 3 SCC 169, where two-judge Bench of this Court held that the wife is entitled only to claim a right under Section 17 (1) to residence in a shared household and a shared household would only mean the house belonging to or taken on rent by the husband, or the house which belongs to the joint family of which the husband is a member.

What was held in S.R. Batra and Anr. Vs. Taruna Batra, (2007) 3 SCC 169?

(1) In S.R. Batra vs Taruna Batra , the Supreme Court bench of Justices SB Sinha and M.Katju had rejected the contention that the definition of shared household includes a household where the person aggrieved lives or at any stage had lived in a domestic relationship.

(2) It held that the wife is only entitled to claim a right to residence in a shared household, and a 'shared household' would only mean the house belonging to or taken on rent by the husband, or the house which belongs to the joint family of which the husband is a member.

(3) The court had further observed that claim for alternative accommodation can only be made against the husband and not against the husband's in-laws or other relatives.

Definition of 'aggrieved person, 'domestic relationship', 'shared household' :-

According to Section 2(a),

“aggrieved person” means any person, who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the respondent and who alleges to have been subjected to any act of domestic violence by the respondent .

“Domestic Relationship” has been defined in Section 2 (f) in following words: -

“domestic relationship” means relationship between two persons who live or have, at any point of time, lived together in a shared household, when they are related by consanguinity, marriage, or through relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family;“

Shared household in Section 2(s) is defined in following words: -

“shared household” means a household where the person aggrieved lives or at any stage has lived in a domestic relationship either singly or along with the respondent and includes such a household whether owned or tenanted either jointly by the aggrieved person and the respondent, or 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 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 interest in the shared household”'

Questions before the court :-

(A) Whether definition of shared household under Section 2(s) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 has to be read to mean that shared household can only be that household which is household of joint family or in which husband of the aggrieved person has a share?

(B) Whether judgment of this Court in S.R. Batra and Anr. Vs. Taruna Batra, (2007) 3 SCC 169 has not correctly interpreted the provision of Section 2(s) of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and does not lay down a correct law?

Held :-

(1) Referring to the the words “lives or at any stage has lived in a domestic relationship”, the bench said that it has to be given its normal and purposeful meaning.

(2) The court also, referring to precedents in Bharat Coop. Bank (Mumbai) Ltd. Vs. Coop. Bank Employees Union, (2007) 4 SCC 685, Pioneer Urban Land and Infrastructure Limited and Anr. s. Union of India and Ors., (2019) 8 SCC 416, The South Gujarat Roofing Tiles Manufacturers Association and Anr. Vs. The State of Gujarat and Anr., (1976) 4 SCC 601, and Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation and Anr. Vs. Ashok Iron Works Private Limited, (2009) 3 SCC 240 observed that 2(s) is an the first part of definition begins with expression “means” which is undoubtedly an exhaustive definition and second part of definition, which begins with word “includes” is explanatory of what was meant by the definition and the use of both the expressions “means and includes” in Section 2(s) clearly indicate the legislative intent that the definition is exhaustive and shall cover only those which fall within the purview of definition and no other.

(3) The bench observed:

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.

(4) “The living of woman in a household has to refer to a living which has some permanency. Mere fleeting or casual living at different places shall not make a shared household. The intention of the parties and the nature of living including the nature of household have to be looked into to find out as to whether the parties intended to treat the premises as shared household or not. As noted above, Act 2005 was enacted to give a higher right in favour of woman. 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.”

(3) The court also observed that use of the expression “at any stage has lived” 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. The court said that the object not that wherever the aggrieved person has lived with the relatives of husband, all such houses shall become shared household, which is not the legislative intent.

(4) Disagreeing with the Batra judgment observations, the bench said that apprehensions expressed by the bench were not true. The court said:

The shared household is contemplated to be the household, which is a dwelling place of aggrieved person in present time. When we look into the different kinds of orders or reliefs, which can be granted on an application filed by aggrieved person, all orders contemplate providing protection to the women in reference to the premises in which aggrieved person is or was in possession. Our above conclusion is further fortified by statutory scheme as delineated by Section 19 of the Act, 2005. In event, the definition of shared household as occurring in Section 2(s) is read to mean that all houses where the aggrieved person has lived in a domestic relationship alongwith the relatives of the husband shall become shared household, there will be number of shared household, which was never contemplated by the legislative scheme. The entire Scheme of the Act is to provide immediate relief to the aggrieved person with respect to the shared household where the aggrieved person lives or has lived. 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 apprehension expressed by this Court in paragraph 26 in “S.R. Batra Vs. Taruna Batra”, thus, was not true apprehension and it is correct that in event such interpretation is accepted, it will lead to chaos and that was never the legislative intent. We, thus, are of the considered opinion that shared household referred to in Section 2(s) is the shared household of aggrieved person where she was living at the time when application was filed or in the recent past had been excluded from the use or she is temporarily absent.

(5) The observation of this Court in “S.R. Batra Vs. Taruna Batra” that definition of shared household in Section 2(s) is not very happily worded and it has to be interpreted, which is sensible and does not lead to chaos in the society also does not commend us. The definition of shared household is clear and exhaustive definition as observed by us. The object and purpose of the Act was to grant a right to aggrieved person, a woman of residence in shared household. The interpretation which is put by this Court in “S.R. Batra Vs. Taruna Batra” if accepted shall clearly frustrate the object and purpose of the Act. 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 is not correct interpretation and the said judgment does not lay down the correct law.

[Qsn No. 2] What is the meaning and extent of the expression “save in accordance with the procedure established by law” as occurring in Section 17(2) of the Act, 2005?

Para 116. Drawing the analogy from the above case, we are of the opinion that the expression “save in accordance with the procedure established by law” , in Section 17(2) of the Act, contemplates the proceedings in court of competent jurisdiction . Thus, suit for mandatory and permanent inj unction/eviction possession by the owner of the property is maintainable before a Competent Court. We may further notice that in sub-section (2) the injunction is “shall not be evicted or excluded from the shared household save in accordance with procedure established by law” . Thus, the provision itself contemplates adopting of any procedure established by law by the respondent for eviction or exclusion of the aggrieved person 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.

[Qsn. No.3] Whether The Principle Of Res Judicata Can Be Pressed In Respect To Any Decision Inter Parties In Respect To Criminal And Civil Proceedings?

Para126. The applicability of principle of res judicata is well known and are governed by provisions of Section 11 C.P.C., which principle also has been held to be applicable in other proceedings . There can be no applicability of principle of res judicata when orders of Criminal Courts are pitted against proceedings in Civil Court. With regard to criminal proceedings Code of Criminal Procedure also contains provision that a person who has once been tried by a Court of competent jurisdiction for an offence and convicted or acquitted of such offence shall, while such conviction or acquittal remains in force, not be liable to be tried again for the same offence nor on the same facts for any other offence. The principle enumerated in Section may be relevant with respect to two criminal proceedings against same accused, which might have no relevance in reference to one criminal proceeding and one civil proceeding.

[Qsn No.4] Whether 'Residence Order' Under Domestic Violence Act Is An Embargo For Initiating Or Continuing Civil Proceedings In Relation To Same Subject Matter ?

(1) The Supreme Court has held that the pendency of proceedings under Domestic Violence Act or any Residence order interim or final, passed under it, is not an embargo for initiating or continuing any civil proceedings, which relate to the subject matter of such orders/proceedings.

(2) The order passed under D.V. Act whether interim or final shall be relevant and have to be given weight as one of evidence in the civil suit but the evidentiary value of such evidence is limited

(3) Referring to the statutory provisions of the Domestic Violence Act, the apex court observed that the initiation of the proceedings in Civil Court and relief available under Section 19 of the Act, 2005 is contemplated by the statutory scheme delineated by the Act, 2005

Section 17(2) itself contemplates eviction or exclusion of aggrieved person from a shared household in accordance with the procedure established by law. The conclusion is inescapable that a proceeding in a competent court for eviction or exclusion is contemplated by the Statutory Scheme of Act, 2005. Thus, there is neither any express nor implied bar in initiation of civil proceedings in a Court of competent jurisdiction. Further, Section 26 also contemplate grant of relief of right of residence under Section 19 in any legal proceedings before a Civil Court or Family Court or Criminal Court affecting the aggrieved person. The proceedings might be initiated by aggrieved person or against the aggrieved person herself before or after the commencement of Act, 2005. Thus, initiation of the proceedings in Civil Court and relief available under Section 19 of the Act, 2005 is contemplated by the statutory scheme delineated by the Act, 2005.

(4) On conjoint reading of Sections 12(2), 17, 19, 20, 22, 23, 25, 26 and 28 of the D.V. Act, it can safely be said that the proceedings under the D.V. Act and proceedings before a civil court, family court or a criminal court, as mentioned in Section 26 of the D.V. Act are independent proceedings, like the proceedings under Section 125 of the Cr. P.C. for maintenance before the Magistrate and/or family court and the proceedings for maintenance before a civil court/ family court for the reliefs under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act. However, as observed hereinabove, the findings/orders passed by the one forum has to be considered by another forum.

(5) The bench concluded as follows:

(A) The pendency of proceedings under Act, 2005 or any order interim or final passed under D.V. Act under Section 19 regarding right of residence is not an embargo for initiating or continuing any civil proceedings, which relate to the subject matter of order interim or final passed in proceedings under D.V. Act, 2005.

(B) The judgment or order of criminal court granting an interim or final relief under Section 19 of D.V. Act, 2005 are relevant within the meaning of Section 43 of the Evidence Act and can be referred to and looked into by the civil court.

(C) A civil court is to determine the issues in civil proceedings on the basis of evidence, which has been led by the parties before the civil court.

(D) In the facts of the present case, suit filed in civil court for mandatory and permanent injunction was fully maintainable and the issues raised by the appellant as well as by the defendant claiming a right under Section 19 were to be addressed and decided on the basis of evidence, which is led by the parties in the suit.

CASE DETAILS :-

Case: SATISH CHANDER AHUJA vs. SNEHA AHUJA

[CIVIL APPEAL NO.2483 of 2020 ]

Coram: Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah

Dated : 15-10-2020.


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Created on 2020/10/22 22:29 by • Last modified on 2020/11/07 18:33 (external edit)