Navneet Arora was living with her husband and daughter in a household shared with several of her in-laws. The house was legally owned by Navneet Arora’s mother-in-law, Surender Kaur, when Navneet’s husband died.
Surender Kaur filed a suit for mandatory injunction against Navneet Arora. In an order dated March 21, 2014, the judge ruled in Surender Kaur’s favor, citing several Supreme Court decisions wherein it was held that an estranged daughter-in-law has no right to stay in the property owned by either her mother-in-law or her father-in-law.
Navneet Arora filed an appeal, claiming that under Section 2 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, her living situation with her in-laws qualifies as a “shared household,” and thus she has the right to reside there.
The Supreme Court pointed to the fact that all of the residents of the residence in question shared a common kitchen and ate meals together from a joint income, and that they all lived on the same floor in commensality. It further pointed out that Navneet Arora continued to reside their with her daughter after her husband’s death. They thus ruled in Navneet Arora’s favor, stating that this does legally qualify as a “shared household,” and thus she has a right to reside there.
1. Late Sh. Harpal Singh Arora was the registered owner of property bearing municipal No. B- 44, Vishal Enclave Rajouri Garden, New Delhi. He acquired ownership under a perpetual lease dated June 07, 1974 executed in his favour by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. When he purchased the property on perpetual lease-hold basis, it consisted of only the ground floor. He constructed two floors above and sold them during his lifetime. He lived in the ground floor with his family comprising his wife Ms. Surinder Kaur and two sons named Raman Pal Singh and Gurpreet Singh and a daughter Sherry, who upon her marriage left the house.
2. Gurpreet Singh was married to Navneet Arora on May 15, 2001 and out of the wedlock a daughter was born to the couple on March 17, 2008. On a date not disclosed, Raman Pal Singh got married to Ms. Neetu. The family comprising Harpal Singh Arora, his wife Surinder Kaur, two sons Gurpreet Singh and Raman Pal Singh together with their wives resided together as one family, with one kitchen, on the ground floor of B-44, Vishal Enclave.
3. Harpal Singh died intestate on June 01, 2008 and was survived by his wife, two sons and daughter as the legal heirs. Each one inherited one forth share in the said property and other assets of the deceased Harpal Singh. On June 13, 2008 the three siblings executed a relinquishment deed in favour of their mother and thus in the official records Surinder Kaur became the owner of the property.
4. Tragedy struck the family when Gurpreet Singh died on May 20, 2012. Unfortunately, difference cropped between Surinder Kaur and her daughter-in-law Navneet Arora wife of Gurpreet Singh. Navneet Arora and her daughter were occupying one out of the three bed rooms on the ground floor. One room was occupied by Raman Pal Singh and Neetu Arora. The third by Surinder Kaur.
5. Surinder Kaur filed a suit for permanent and mandatory injunction against Navneet Arora, Raman Pal Singh and his wife Neetu Arora. It related to the ground floor.
6. As was to be expected, Raman Pal Singh and Neetu Arora, obviously collusively, informed the Court that they would move out of the room occupied by them, but we take on record the fact that the two continue to reside on the ground floor of the property.
7. Navneet Arora filed a written statement pointing out that she had filed a civil suit registered as number 203/2013 challenging the relinquishment deed executed by her husband in favour of Surinder Kaur which was pending before the Civil Judge, Tis Hazari Courts, Delhi. She pleaded that on the death of her husband his share would devolve upon her and her daughter and since the relinquishment deed was questioned by her, the suit filed by Surinder Kaur should await the decision in the suit filed by her. She claimed that she was living in her matrimonial house in her own right.
8. The learned Single Judge has held, vide impugned order dated March 21, 2014, that since Surinder was the owner of the property, it would not be a ‘shared household’ of in view of the law declared by the Supreme Court in the decision reported as MANU/SC/0007/2007 : (2007) 3 SCC 169 S.R. Batra & Anr. vs. Taruna Batra. The learned Single Judge has noted a few other decisions wherein it was held that an estranged daughter-in- law has no right to stay in the property owned by either her mother-in-law or her father-in-law. The learned Single Judge has held that at the old age of 60 Surinder Kaur would be entitled to a peaceful life.
11. Pithily stated, the question arising for the consideration of this Court revolves around the interpretation of the term ‘shared household’ as envisaged under Section 2(s) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and if the present case stands squarely covered by the authoritative pronouncement of the Supreme Court of India reported as MANU/SC/0007/2007 : (2007) 3 SCC 169 S.R. Batra & Anr. v. Taruna Batra (Smt.).
12. Section 2(s) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 reads as under:-
14. Since Ms. Surinder Kaur has planked her submissions on the decision of the Supreme Court in Taruna Batra’s case (Supra) and we find that the conclusion expressed by the learned Single Judge in the impugned order is also essentially premised on the said decision, it would therefore be incumbent upon us to carefully examine the dictum in Taruna Batra’s case (Supra) with a view to ascertain the factual conspectus and the issues which fell for consideration of the Supreme Court, in order to appreciate the observations contained in the said judgment.
15. A microscopic analysis of the said decision would reveal that Ms. Taruna Batra was married to the son of S.R. Batra and his wife on April 14, 2000. After the marriage the couple started residing together as husband and wife at second floor, B-135, Ashok Vihar, Phase-I, Delhi. It was not in dispute that the said property exclusively belonged to S.R. Batra’s wife i.e. the mother-in-law of Taruna Batra. It would be pertinent to note that S.R. Batra and his wife resided separately on the ground floor of the said property. It was an admitted position that Ms. Taruna Batra had shifted to the residence of her parents owing to matrimonial acrimony with her husband. It was only much later that she sought to re-enter the suit property only to find a lock at the main entrance. In wake of such attending circumstances, she filed a suit seeking mandatory injunction to enable her to enter the house. It was the case of S.R. Batra and his wife before the Supreme Court and the Courts below that before any order came to be passed in the said suit, Ms. Taruna Batra along with her parents forcibly broke open the locks of the suit property. It was also contended by S.R. Batra and his wife that their son-Amit Batra, the husband of Taruna Batra, had shifted to his own flat at Mohan Nagar, Ghaziabad before the litigation between the parties had ensued.
16. Perusal of the judgment further reveals that the learned Trial Judge vide order dated March 04, 2003, had held that Ms. Taruna Batra was in possession of the suit property and consequently granted temporary injunction in her favour. The said order of the learned Trial Judge was assailed in appeal before the learned Senior Civil Judge, Delhi, who vide order dated September 17, 2004 held that Ms. Taruna Batra was not residing in the second floor of the suit premises and also observed that her husband-Amit Batra was not living in the suit property, therefore, the matrimonial home could not be said to be a place where only the wife was residing. Laying a challenge to the order of the Appellate Court, Ms. Taruna Batra invoked the supervisory jurisdiction of this Court by filing a petition under Article 227 of Constitution of India. The learned Single Judge of this Court was pleased to hold that the second floor of the suit property was the matrimonial home of Ms. Taruna Batra and the fact that her husband shifted to Ghaziabad later would not make Ghaziabad the matrimonial home.
17. The Supreme Court after taking into consideration the factual matrix highlighted above, was pleased to observe in paragraph 21 of its judgment that this Court fell in error by interfering with the findings of the learned Senior Civil Judge who had categorically held that Ms. Taruna Batra was not residing in the suit premises. The Supreme Court was of the considered view that findings of fact rendered by Courts below could not be upset in exercise of jurisdiction under Article226 and 227 of the Constitution.
18. We may notice that the provisions of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 were not pressed into service or taken into consideration by the Courts below, for the simple reason that the said Act was not enacted at the relevant point of time. However, at the stage of arguments before the Supreme Court the said Act was in force and consequently the learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of Ms. Taruna Batra invited the attention of the Supreme Court to the provisions of the said Act, in order to contend that the definition of the ‘shared household’ in terms of Section 2(s) of the said Act includes a household where the person aggrieved lives or at any stage had lived in a domestic relationship.
23. In paragraph 29 of the judgment the Supreme Court adverted their consideration to Section 17(1) of the Act and opined that the wife would only be entitled to claim a right of 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. The Court proceeded to observe that the property in question neither belonged to the husband nor was it taken on rent by him and neither was the said property a joint family property of which the husband was a member. The said property was exclusively owned by the mother-in-law of Ms. Taruna Batra and thus could not be treated as a ‘shared household’.
27. As highlighted earlier, while deciding Taruna Batra’s case (Supra) the Supreme Court took into consideration the fact that after the marriage Ms. Taruna Batra and her husband-Amit Batra started living at the second floor of the suit premises, whereas the in-laws resided separately on the ground floor of the suit property. In view of the said state of affairs, it is palpably evident that Ms. Taruna Batra and her husband were not living together with Ms. Taruna Batra’s in-laws, as members of ‘joint family’ in the legal-sense and the second floor of the suit-property would not qualify as the ‘shared household’ in terms of Section 2(s) of the Act. The fact that the husband and wife resided on a separate floor altogether is indicative of the fact that they were not living as a ‘joint family’ with the in-laws of Ms. Taruna Batra.
28. It is a settled proposition that to constitute a ‘joint family’ the members thereof must not only reside together but partake meals prepared from a common kitchen, whereas it appears from the perusal of the judgment rendered in Taruna Batra’s case (Supra) that there was nothing to indicate that the kitchen was common.
38. It thus bears no reiteration that in Taruna Batra’s case (Supra), Ms. Taruna Batra and her husband-Amit Batra were not residing with the Appellants as members of ‘joint family’ in a ‘shared household’ as understood in the legalistic sense, the residence and kitchen being separate.
39. Thus, Ms. Taruna Batra could not derive any benefit from the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 as she or her husband, either singly or jointly, had no right, title, interest or equity in the second floor of the suit property and neither was the couple residing as members of ‘Joint Family’ with her in-laws and her mother-in-law was the exclusive owner of the suit property.
44. However, in the later eventuality, if a couple live as members of ‘joint family’ in a domestic relationship with the relatives of the husband in a premises owned by such relatives of the husband, statutory prescription would indeed enable the wife to claim ‘right of residence’ since it would fall within the realm of ‘shared household’ as contemplated under Section 2(s) of the Act irrespective of whether she or her husband has any right, title or interest in the ‘shared household’.
45. We may notice that Section 19(1)(a) of the Act clears the cloud, if any, as it mandates in unequivocal terms that a Magistrate disposing an application under sub-Section (1) of Section 12, may, on being satisfied that domestic violence has taken place, pass a residence order restraining the respondent from dispossessing or in any other manner disturbing the possession of the aggrieved person from the ‘shared household’, whether or not the respondent has a legal or equitable interest in the ‘shared household’.
58. On the first blush it may appear quite jarring to certain quarters of the society that by enacting the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 the legislature has invested a ‘right of residence’ in favour of wives qua premises in which they or their husband admittedly have no right, title or interest and such premises are in fact owned by the relatives of the husband.
59. It may be highlighted that the Act does not confer any title or proprietary rights in favour of the aggrieved person as misunderstood by most, but merely secures a ‘right of residence’ in the ‘shared household’. Section 17(2) clarifies that the aggrieved person may be evicted from the ‘shared household’ but only in accordance with the procedure established by law. The legislature has taken care to calibrate and balance the interests of the family members of the respondent and mitigated the rigour by expressly providing under the provision to Section 19(1) that whilst adjudicating an application preferred by the aggrieved person it would not be open to the Court to pass directions for removing a female member of the respondents family from the ‘shared household’. Furthermore, in terms of Section 19(1)(f), the Court may direct the respondent to secure same level of accommodation for the aggrieved person as enjoyed by her in the ‘shared household’ or to pay rent for the same, if the circumstances so require.
60. The seemingly ‘radical’ provisions comprised in the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 must be understood and appreciated in light of the prevalent culture and ethos in our society.
61. The broad and inclusive definition of the term ‘shared household’ in the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 is in consonance with the family patterns in India, where married couple continue to live with their parents in homes owned by parents.
84. With a view foster better understanding of the legislation, cognizance may be taken of the attending circumstances in wake of which the legislation was enacted. The Statement of Object and Reasons accompanying the Bill and the parliamentary debates that ensued on the floor of the House provide valuable insights and bring to fore the circumstances engulfing our nation which necessitated the legislation.
93. [The] said Bill was introduced by Smt. Kanti Singh, the then Minister of State in the Ministry of Human Resource Development and it would be noteworthy to extract certain introductory remarks of her address to the Lok Sabha on 23.08.2005.
95. Attention of the members of the House was drawn to the fact that the Bill would cover relationships not merely restricted to matrimony but also take within its fold relations in the nature of marriage, consanguinity, adoption and family members living together as joint family.
97. A perusal of the debates palpably reveals that there was consensus across the party lines that the position of women in our society was unfortunately subservient and they were living in deplorable conditions. Independence had been attained from the foreign rulers, yet no efforts were made to strengthen democracy in the household.
99. Cognizance was also taken by the Parliament of the fact that women suffer immense hardships when they are thrown out of their marital home in middle of the night. In most cases, the victim suffers the pain and humiliation mutely for the fear of being rendered homeless.
100. Thus, we find that one of the crucial entitlements assured to the women under the said Bill was the right of residence i.e. the right not to be dispossessed from her marital home. However, owing to the wider scope of applicability of the Act the word ‘shared household’ has been employed and not ‘matrimonial household’.
101. Economic dependence of women on their husbands increases the vulnerability of women, who continue to be in violent relationships for fear of dispossession and destitution. The fear of being rendered shelterless is overwhelming, particularly for women in the urban setting, where housing is expensive and beyond the access of ordinary middle and low income groups.
115. The Bombay High Court, in its decision reported as II MANU/MH/0385/2011 : (2011) DMC 250Ishpal Singh Kahai v. Ramanjeet Kahai, while dealing with a case under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, was pleased to observe that it is not material to consider in whose name the matrimonial home stands…[The Court also] took into consideration various provisions of the Act, including Section 2(s), Section 17 and Section 19(1)(a) of the said Act to conclude that there was no place for proprietary rights in the scheme of Domestic Violence Act as it was an extension of the deeper and profounder principle of women’s right as a concomitants of human rights. The Court lodged a caveat that the Domestic Violence Act provided essentially a temporary remedy in the form of residence orders and such orders did not in any manner confer proprietary rights in the matrimonial home but merely protected occupation/possession.
116. We may however allay fears that if a couple lives with the relatives of the husband for a short duration as mere ‘guests/visitors’, in such an eventuality the fact that they live under the same roof and partake meals from the same kitchen along with the relatives of the husband (who own the premises and have extended their hospitality), would not be construed to imply that the couple lived as members of ‘joint family’, entitling the wife to claim a ‘right of residence’ therein.
118. A ‘guest or a visitor’ enjoys hospitality by partaking meals with the ‘family’ of the ‘host’ that are prepared from a ‘common kitchen’ and may with the consent of the ‘host’ also live in the same ‘household’ for a short-duration. However, such a ‘guest or visitor’ does not get subsumed as part of the ‘family’ of the ‘host’ in the legal sense as understood in the Protection of Women from the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 so as to constitute a ‘joint family’ and render such premises a ‘shared household’ for the purpose of the Act. Such a ‘guest or a visitor’ does not habitually reside in the household of the ‘host’ and this lack of continuity/permanence snaps the possibility of any legal obligation arising under law.
119. Reverting back to the facts of the instant case, before married Gurpreet Singh, he was living as one family with his parents Harpal Singh and Surinder Kaur. His brother Raman Pal Singh and his sister Sherry were also residing in the same house. The kitchen was one. The two sons and their father were joint in business and the kitchen used to be run from the income of the joint business. They were all living on the ground floor. Sherry got married and left the house. Navneet married Gurpreet. Raman Pal married Neetu. The two daughter-in- laws joined the company not only of their husbands but even of their in-laws in the same joint family house i.e. the ground floor of B-44, Vishal Enclave, Rajouri Garden, New Delhi. All lived in commensality. Navneet never left the joint family house. She was residing in the house when her husband died. She continued to reside there even till today. Under the circumstances her right to residence in the suit property cannot be denied, and as regards issues of title, we have already observed that the right of residence under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, the same would have no bearing. She may enforce it in civil proceedings. But her right of residence in the shared household cannot be negated.
120. We allow the appeal and set aside the impugned order dated March 21, 2014.
On the first blush it may appear quite jarring to certain quarters of the society that by enacting the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 the legislature has invested a ‘right of residence’ in favour of wives qua premises in which they or their husband admittedly have no right, title or interest and such premises are in fact owned by the relatives of the husband. …[T]he Act does not confer any title or proprietary rights in favour of the aggrieved person as misunderstood by most, but merely secures a ‘right of residence’ in the ‘shared household’. Section 17(2) clarifies that the aggrieved person may be evicted from the ‘shared household’ but only in accordance with the procedure established by law. The legislature has taken care to calibrate and balance the interests of the family members of the respondent.