Right to Residence under the Domestic Violence Act
Written by: Ms Devshree Dangi
Nowadays Domestic violence is a rapidly increasing offence in India, especially in rural areas. In India, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 deals with the cases related to Domestic violence. The provisions of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 have always been interpreted by the judicial system from time to time.
Section 17(1) of this Act provides the Right to Residence to those women who are the victims of Domestic Violence.
According to this section, every woman in a domestic relationship has the Right to Residence in the shared household owned by or taken on rent by her husband or even if the shared household belongs to her in-laws rather than her husband.
Prior to this, a judgement passed in the case of SR Batra & And vs Taruna Batra (2007) 3 SCC 169, in which It was held by the two-judge bench that the women are only entitled to claim the Right to Residence under Section 17(1) in a shared household that belongs to her husband or taken on rent by her husband and the joint family where her husband resides.
But later in the case of Satish Chander Ahuja v. Sneha Ahuja, a bench comprising of three judges Justice Ashok Bhusan, Justice R Subhash Reddy, Justice M R Shah in Supreme Court has overruled this judgement and interpreted certain provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. It was held by the Supreme Court that every woman who is the victims of Domestic violence are entitled to claim the Right to Residence in the shared household of her husband and even in the shared household owned by her in-laws.
The Supreme Court observed that “the 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”.
The Supreme Court bench interpreted the legal position of shared household and observed that shared household referring to section 61 (2)(s) is that “The words ‘lives or at any stage has lived in a domestic relationship’ have to be given its normal and purposeful meaning. The living of a woman in a household has to refer to a living which has some permanency. Mere fleeting or casual living at different places shall not make a shared household. The intention of the parties and the nature of living including the nature of household have to be looked into to find out as to whether the parties intended to treat the premises as shared household or not.”
Considering the position of women in Indian society, the bench said “The progress of any society depends on its ability to protect and promote the rights of its women. Guaranteeing equal rights and privileges to women by the Constitution of India had marked the step towards the transformation of the status of the women in this country…. 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 behaviour. 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.”
“This non-retaliation by women coupled with the absence of laws addressing women’s issues, ignorance of the existing laws enacted for women and societal attitude makes the women vulnerable. The reason why most cases of domestic violence are never reported is due to the social stigma of the society and the attitude of the women themselves, where women are expected to be subservient, not just to their male counterparts but also to the male’s relatives,” it further said.
It was observed by the court that women in India need protection for their rights so that they won’t be mistreated or deprived of their rights after their marriage. The Supreme Court interpreted the provisions related to Right to Residence more specifically so that the women can claim their rights easily.
Conditions that are to be fulfilled for shared household
- The person aggrieved lives or at any stage has lived in a domestic relationship.
- It includes the household that is owned or tenanted either jointly by the aggrieved person and the respondent or singly owned or tenanted by either of them in respect of which either one or both respondent and aggrieved person jointly or singly has any right, title, interest, equity and,
Also, a household that may belong to the joint family where the respondent is a member, irrespective of whether the respondent or the aggrieved person has any right, title or interest in the shared household.
No order can be passed against any woman under section 19(1)(b)
It is provided under section 19(1)(b) of Domestic Violence Act, that while disposing of an application under subsection (1) of section 12, the magistrate may, on being satisfied that domestic violence has taken place, pass a residence order directing the respondent to remove themselves from the shared household. Now, as per the proviso to Section 19(1), no order under clause (b) shall be passed against a woman.
This judgment of the Supreme Court regarding the Right to Residence brought hope for Justice to all the victims of domestic violence. Supreme Court has said about the previous judgment regarding the Right to Residence that it misinterpreted the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act.
But later the SC has interpreted the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act and said that the aggrieved person can claim the Right to Residence even in the shared household owned by her in-laws. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has overruled the previous judgement and gave a new perspective to the Right to Residence to women who are being mistreated by their in-laws and deprived to their right to reside in the shared household of their husbands.