V.D. Bhanot and Savita Bhanot were married in 1980 and lived together until 2005. In 2006, Savita Bhanot filed a petition for various reliefs under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDVA). She sought monetary relief from her husband, and the protection of her right to reside in her matrimonial home, both of which she was entitled to under PWDVA.
The main question that arose in this petition was whether or not Savita Bhanot was entitled to maintain a petition under the provisions of PWDVA if the act of domestic violence in question occurred before PWDVA was enacted. In consideration of the intention behind PWDVA, the Delhi High Court held that she was in fact eligible for the benefits it provides, despite the fact that the relevant act of domestic violence occurred before its enactment.
This case is also notable for the fact that the court interpreted “domestic violence” liberally in favor of Savita Bhanot. Specifically, it held that forcing Savita Bhanot to live alone in rented accommodation that she did not feel safe in constituted an act of domestic violence, and thus was considered illegal in view of PWDVA.
1. The Special Leave Petition is directed against the judgment and order dated 22nd March, 2010, passed by the Delhi High Court in Cr.M.C. No. 3959 of 2009 filed by the Respondent wife, Mrs. Savita Bhanot, questioning the order passed by the learned Additional Sessions Judge on 18th September, 2009, dismissing the appeal filed by her against the order of the Metropolitan Magistrate dated 11th May, 2009.
2. There is no dispute that marriage between the parties was solemnized on 23rd August, 1980 and till 4th July, 2005, they lived together. … [On] 29th November, 2006, the Respondent filed a petition before the Magistrate under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, hereinafter referred to as the “PWD Act”, seeking various reliefs. By his order dated 8th December, 2006, the learned Magistrate granted interim relief to the Respondent and directed the Petitioner to pay her a sum of Rs. 6,000/- per month. By a subsequent order dated 17th February, 2007, the Magistrate passed a protection/residence order under Sections 18 and 19 of the above Act, protecting the right of the Respondent wife to reside in her matrimonial home in Mathura.
3. [On] 26th February, 2008, [the petitioner] filed an application for the Respondent’s eviction from the Government accommodation in Mathura Cantonment. The learned Magistrate directed the Petitioner herein to find an alternative accommodation for the Respondent who had in the meantime received an eviction notice requiring her to vacate the official accommodation occupied by her. By an order dated 11th May, 2009, the learned Magistrate directed the Petitioner to let the Respondent live on the 1st Floor of House No. D-279, Nirman Vihar, New Delhi, which she claimed to be her permanent matrimonial home. The learned Magistrate directed that if this was not possible, a reasonable accommodation in the vicinity of Nirman Vihar was to be made available to the Respondent wife. She further directed that if the second option was also not possible, the Petitioner would be required to pay a sum of Rs. 10,000/- per month to the Respondent as rental charges, so that she could find a house of her choice.
4. Being dissatisfied with the order passed by the learned Metropolitan Magistrate, the Respondent preferred an appeal, which came to be dismissed on 18th September, 2009, by the learned Additional Sessions Judge, who was of the view that since the Respondent had left the matrimonial home on 4th July, 2005, and the Act came into force on 26th October, 2006, the claim of a woman living in domestic relationship or living together prior to 26th October, 2006, was not maintainable. The learned Additional Sessions Judge was of the view that since the cause of action arose prior to coming into force of the PWD Act, the Court could not adjudicate upon the merits of the Respondent’s case.
5. Before the Delhi High Court, the only question which came up for determination was whether the petition under the provisions of the PWD Act, 2005, was maintainable by a woman, who was no longer residing with her husband or who was allegedly subjected to any act of domestic violence prior to the coming into force of the PWD Act on 26th October, 2006. After considering the constitutional safeguards under Article 21 of the Constitution, vis-à-vis, the provisions of Sections 31 and 33 of the PWD Act, 2005, and after examining the statement of objects and reasons for the enactment of the PWD Act, 2005, the learned Judge held that it was with the view of protecting the rights of women under Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution that the Parliament enacted the PWD Act, 2005, in order to provide for some effective protection of rights guaranteed under the Constitution to women, who are victims of any kind of violence occurring within the family and matters connected therewith and incidental thereto, and to provide an efficient and expeditious civil remedy to them. The learned Judge accordingly held that a petition under the provisions of the PWD Act, 2005, is maintainable even if the acts of domestic violence had been committed prior to the coming into force of the said Act, notwithstanding the fact that in the past she had lived together with her husband in a shared household, but was no more living with him, at the time when the Act came into force. The learned Judge, accordingly, set aside the order passed by the Additional Sessions Judge and directed him to consider the appeal filed by the Respondent wife on merits.
10. In our view, the situation comes squarely within the ambit of Section 3 of the PWD Act, 2005, which defines “domestic violence” in wide terms, and, accordingly, no interference is called for with the impugned order of the High Court. However, considering the fact that the couple is childless and the Respondent has herself expressed apprehension of her safety if she were to live alone in a rented accommodation, we are of the view that keeping in mind the object of the Act to provide effective protection of the rights of women guaranteed under the Constitution, who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family, the order of the High Court requires to be modified. We, therefore, modify the order passed by the High Court and direct that the Respondent be provided with a right of residence where the Petitioner is residing, by way of relief under Section 19 of the PWD Act, and we also pass protection orders under Section 18 thereof. As far as any monetary relief is concerned, the same has already been provided by the learned Magistrate and in terms of the said order, the Respondent is receiving a sum of Rs. 6,000/- per month towards her expenses.
11. Accordingly, in terms of Section 19 of the PWD Act, 2005, we direct the Petitioner to provide a suitable portion of his residence to the Respondent for her residence, together with all necessary amenities to make such residential premises properly habitable for the Respondent … in addition to providing the residential accommodation to the Respondent, the Petitioner shall also pay a total sum of Rs. 10,000/- per month to the Respondent towards her maintenance and day-to-day expenses.