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Woman’s Right to Shared Household under the Domestic Violence Act

INTRODUCTION:

India is a developing nation. Developing not only economically but also socially. With the country’s evolving history, these developments are almost necessary. These changes impact a lot of other things like the standard of living to an extent it even creates an impact on how the judiciary delivers a judgement. Over the years there have been several landmark judgements been passed that has created an impact on the Indian society, one such judgement that broke new grounds was the verdict pronounced in Satish Chander Ahuja v. Sneha Ahuja.[1]

THE ACT OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:

Recently the Supreme Court ruled certain provisions in favour of women facing domestic violence in a shared household. It’s now time to shed some light on the Domestic Violence, an inhumane act that has been going on and on for centuries in our country. A woman faces violence in some form or the other almost every day, she resigns her wait to the never-ending cycle of facing discrimination and violence and this makes a woman more vulnerable. Over the years the laws addressing these issues have not been paid attention and didn’t realise the severity of the problem, a woman’s non retaliate nature  due to social stigma is the main reason for an increase in the rate of domestic violence and offences committed against women across the country. Recognising the historical abuse faced by women, the court relied on that history to give importance to equal status and rights in regards to domestic violence, it was then that the 2005 Act of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence[2] which was blessing in disguise for all the women suffering from the pain of violence.

SHARED HOUSEHOLD UNDER DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT:

It all started when a petition was filed by a 76 year old resident of Delhi, Satish Chander Ahuja (father-in-law) who claimed that the property was exclusively owned by him and was not a ‘shared household’ and his son did not have a rights over the property. The petition was filed challenging the judgment of Delhi High Court when setting aside an order of a Trial Court directing the daughter-in-law to vacate the premises. Later the daughter-in-law filed a case after her divorce against her in-laws under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and claimed that she cannot be removed from the house as it was a shared household and she had all the rights to reside in it. Section 2(s) of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 defines the term ‘shared household’ by highlighting three terms, “aggrieved person” is when a women has been in a “domestic relation” with the respondent, further the domestic relation means two persons who live or at a point of time lived together in a “shared household “. Shared household means a household in which the aggrieved person lives in a domestic relationship either singly or with the respondent with whom the house is owned or tenanted either jointly or by either of them.[3] These expressions have been used to protect the women from denying their right to live in a shared household.

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EFFECTS OF THE JUDGEMENT:

A three-judge bench in the Satish Chader Ahuja v. Sneha Ahuja case observed the exhaustive definition of “shared household” under section 2(s) of the Act.  It was held that it cannot only be the house in which the husband has a share in along with the joint family but shared household could belong to any relative of the husband with whom the women has been in a domestic relation with.[4] The bench overruled the judgment given in S.R Batra v. Taruna Batra[5] and held that the wife will be entitled to reside and claim the property which belongs to the relatives of the husband although her husband does not own the property. It would not matter if the woman has decided to leave the house as the property will still be treated as shared household entitling her to live in it once she files a complaint under the Domestic Violence Act.

The court saw two issues: i) whether the definition of shared household can be that household which the husband of the aggrieved person has a share and ii) whether the judgment in S.R Batra case interested the law correctly?  It was time that the bench resolved the highlighted issues and they did. In the first issue the court paid attention on the permanency of safeguarding the interest of a woman under the Act. The court made sure that the Act gave a higher and effective protection for women’s rights. Section 2(s) read with sections 17 & 19[6] of the Act grants entitlement and right of residence to the women under shared household irrespective of their legal interest. The issue with S.R Batra case had the definition of shared household in section 2(s) where the Court thought they needed interpretation as they were not happily worded. It states that an aggrieved woman will have a right to reside in a house only if it is owned or tenanted by the husband. Keeping the Act in mind, the judgement was an incorrect understanding of the legislative intent and needed some desperate changes to ensure the victims do not feel defeated.

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CONCLUSION:

Over the years the patriarchal setup is the main reason for the gap between a woman and her in-laws, progress of any society all depends on the ability on how it is protecting the rights of women. The 2005 Act of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence was a milestone in protection of women in the country. Also, there was a great sign of relief when the judgement was overruled in S R Batra case that changed many lives. Women especially go through all kinds of abuse and even the most minor change in terms of legality and rules and make just a positive change in their lives. These changes are just starting to prove that women are no more the weaker section of the society.


[1] Civil Appeal. No. 2483 of 2020.

[2] Indra Sarma v. V.K.V Sarma, (2013) 15 SCC 755.

[3]The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, No. 43, Acts of Parliament, 2005 (India).

[4]Ibid.

[5] (2007) 3 SCC 169.

[6]Supra, n 3.


Cite this article (The Bluebook 20th ed.)-

Priyanka Shahani, Woman’s Right to Shared Household under the Domestic Violence Act, Ex Gratia Law Journal, (November 13, 2020), https://exgratialawjournal.in/blawg/women-and-law/womans-right-to-shared-household-under-the-domestic-violence-act-by-priyanka-shahani/.

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Author

Priyanka Shahani
Student - K C Law College, Mumbai