The Supreme Court of India claimed in a new judgement that, under the Domestic Violence Act 2005, women can demand residence in a joint household that not only belongs to the husband but also to his family. This means that even though she is divorced from him, a woman will live in her husband’s family home. The husband or his family members can not evict her. An earlier decision was overruled by the Supreme Court that a woman can only have access to the home of her husband or a home where she has a share.
This judgement was given by the Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah on Thursday, October 15, 2020. The Supreme Court thus outlawed the 2006 judgement in S.R. Batra vs. Taruna Batra, which described shared households as only those in which the husband has a share or remains.
An appeal filed by one Satish Chander Ahuja challenging a 2019 Delhi High Court judgement dismissed the judgement, ruling that his daughter-in – law Sneha Ahuja had the right of residence even though she was in the process of divorcing Raveen Ahuja from her husband.
“In the case, shared household belongs to any relative of the husband with whom in a domestic relationship the wife has stayed, the conditions stated in Section 2(s) are fulfilled and the said house will become a shared household,” the bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah observed.
Justices SB Sinha and M.Katju interpreted Section 2(s) in the case of S.R. Batra vs. Taruna Batra and noted that a wife may only claim legal rights and residency in the house or leased apartment that belongs to the husband or to the family of which the husband is a member. The bench denied that the concept of ‘shared household’ is that during her relationship with her husband, the wife can demand residence in either of the houses where she is currently living or has lived at any point in time.
But the three-judge-led-bench scrapped the previous interpretation in the new judgement and said that the concept of ‘shared household’ can not only include the house in which the husband has a share. The bench claimed that “not very happily worded” was the meaning of Section 2(s) and “frustrates the object and intent of the Act.”
The bench claimed, reinterpreting Section 2(s) of the Domestic Violence Act of 2005, that the mutual household is not just the one in which the aggrieved individual (the individual who filed the complaint about domestic violence) has a share, alone or jointly. The household belonging to the respondent’s common family (the party against whom the case of domestic abuse or eviction has been brought) is also a joint household, regardless of whether the respondent and the aggrieved individual have any “right , title or interest” in the household.
In addition, a shared household is often the one owned or tenanted by the respondent alone or jointly.”In conclusion, the bench noted,” In case the concept of shared household as in Section 2(s) is read as meaning that all houses where the 60 aggrieved individual has lived in a domestic relationship together with the husband’s relatives are to become shared households. The whole scheme of the Act is to provide the aggrieved person with immediate relief with regard to the shared household where the aggrieved person lives or has lived.
Domestic violence is rampant in the country and some women face violence in some form or another every day, the court said. Under such circumstances, as a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a husband or a single woman in her life, a woman resigns herself to the never-ending cycle of experiencing violence and discrimination.
Read the full judgement here.