Boutique Litigation Law Firm - Retain Lawyers - Research based Law Firm - Complete legal services

Supreme Court: Overrules earlier view - Shared household can only be that household which is household of the joint family of which husband is a member or in which husband of the aggrieved person has a share

The SC on October 15, 2020 {SATISH CHANDER AHUJA vs. SNEHA AHUJA} held that the domestic violence in this country is rampant and several women encounter violence in some form or the other or almost every day, however, it is the least reported form of cruel behavior. It was held that a woman resigns her fate to the never ending cycle of enduring violence and discrimination as a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a partner or a single woman in her lifetime.

It was observed by the Bench, comprising of Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice R. Subhash Reddy and Justice M. R. Shah, that the right to residence under Section 19 is not an indefeasible right of residence in shared household especially when the daughter-in-law is pitted against aged father-in-law and mother-in-law. It was held that the senior citizens in the evening of their life are also entitled to live peacefully not haunted by marital discord between their son and daughter-in-law. It was held that while granting relief both in application under Section 12 of Act, 2005 or in any civil proceedings, the Court has to balance the rights of both the parties.

This appeal before the SC raised important questions of law pertaining to the interpretation and working of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (hereinafter referred to as “Act, 2005”).

The SC held that definition of shared household given in Section 2(s) cannot be read to mean that shared household can only be that household which is household of the joint family of which husband is a member or in which husband of the aggrieved person has a share.

It was held that the earlier judgment of the Court in S.R. Batra Vs. Taruna Batra  has not correctly interpreted Section 2(s) of Act, 2005 and the judgment does not lay down a correct law.

The SC held that the claim of the defendant that suit property is shared household and she has right to reside in the house ought to have been considered by the Trial Court and non-consideration of the claim/defence is nothing but defeating the right, which is protected by Act, 2005.

It was held that the power under Order XII Rule 6 is discretionary and cannot be claimed as a matter of right. In the facts of the present case, it was held that the Trial Court ought not to have given judgment under Order XII Rule 6 on the admission of the defendant as contained in her application filed under Section 12 of the D.V. Act.

It was held that one of the conditions to treat a person as a respondent is that “against whom the aggrieved person has sought any relief under the Act”. It was held that the defendant in her pleadings having claimed that she has right of residence in the suit property, she for successful resisting the suit has to plead and prove that she has been subjected to any act of domestic violence by the respondent, which is implicit in the definition of the aggrieved person itself as given in the Section 2(a) of the Act, 2005.

It was held that to treat a person as the “respondent” for purposes of Section 2(q) it has to be proved that person arrayed as respondent has committed an act of domestic violence on the aggrieved person.

It was held that for the purposes of determination of right of defendant under Sections 17 and 19 read with Section 26 in the suit in question the plaintiff can be treated as “respondent”, but for the grant of any relief to the defendant or for successful resisting the suit of the plaintiff necessary conditions for grant of relief as prescribed under the Act, 2005 has to be pleaded and proved by the defendant, only then the relief can be granted by the Civil Court to the defendant.

It was held that 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.

It was held that in case, the shared household of a woman is a tenanted/allotted/licensed accommodation where tenancy/ allotment/license is in the name of husband, father-in-law or any other relative, the Act, 2005 does not operate against the landlord/lessor/licensor in initiating an appropriate proceedings for eviction of the tenant/allottee/licensee qua the shared household. However, it was held that in case the proceedings are due to any collusion between the two, the woman, who is living in the shared household has right to resist the proceedings on all grounds which the tenant/lessee/licensee could have taken in the proceedings. It was held that the embargo under Section 17(2) of Act, 2005 of not to be evicted or excluded save in accordance with the procedure established by law operates only against the “respondent”, i.e., one who is respondent within the meaning of Section 2(q) of Act, 2005. 

It was held that that direction to the Courts to implead in all cases the husband of an aggrieved person cannot be given and it is the Trial Court which is to exercise the jurisdiction under Order I Rule 10. It was held that even the Civil Court has to take into consideration the relief already granted by the Magistrate in the proceedings under the D.V. Act and vice versa.

It was held — (1) the previous judgment which is final can be relied upon as provided under Sections 40 to 43 of the Evidence Act; (2) in civil suits between the same parties, principle of res judicata may apply; (3) in a criminal case, Section 300 CrPC makes provision that once a person is convicted or acquitted, he may not be tried again for the same offence if the conditions mentioned therein are satisfied; (4) if the criminal case and the civil proceedings are for the same cause, judgment of the civil court would be relevant if conditions of any of Sections 40 to 43 are satisfied, but it cannot be said that the same would be conclusive except as provided in Section 41. It was held that Section 41 provides which judgment would be conclusive proof of what is stated therein.

In Vishnu Dutt Sharma Vs. Daya Sapra, (2009) 13 SCC 729, the Supreme Court earlier reiterated that a judgment of a criminal court in civil proceedings will have only a limited application and finding in a criminal proceeding by no stretch of imagination would be binding in a civil proceeding.

The SC held that it needs to observe that in event a judgment of criminal court is relevant as per Sections 40 to 43 of Evidence Act in civil proceedings, the judgment can very well be taken note of and there is no embargo on the civil court to place reliance upon it as a corroborative material.

It was held that there is no embargo in referring to or relying on an admissible evidence, be of a civil court or criminal court both in civil or criminal proceedings.

The SC held that 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.

It was held that 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.

It was held that 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. 

It was held that 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.

The SC held that High Court has rightly set aside the decree of the Trial Court and remanded the matter for fresh adjudication. The appeal was dismissed. 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published