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Domestic Violence Victim Can Enforce Her Right To Reside In 'Shared Household' Even If She Has Not Actually Lived There: Supreme Court

Ashok KM
12 May 2022 2:35 PM GMT
Domestic Violence Victim Can Enforce Her Right To Reside In Shared Household Even If She Has Not Actually Lived There: Supreme Court
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In a significant judgment today (12 May 2022), the Supreme Court held that a victim of domestic violence can enforce her right to reside in a shared household, irrespective of whether she actually lived in the shared household.

"Even if an aggrieved person is not in a domestic relationship with the respondent in a shared household at the time of filing of an application under Section 12 of the D.V. Act but has at any point of time lived so or had the right to live and has been subjected to domestic violence or is later subjected to domestic violence on account of the domestic relationship, is entitled to file an application under Section 12 of the D.V. Act.", the bench comprising Justices MR Shah and BV Nagarathna held.

Brief Facts

The issue arose out of an application filed under Section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act by a woman, after the death of her husband, against her mother-in-law and father-in-law, seeking residence order to reside in the property of her late husband, return of streedhan etc. The Magistrate allowed most of the reliefs and directed that the respondents shall not obstruct the aggrieved woman and her daughter from enjoying the property of her late husband. The order was reversed by the appellate court primarily on the ground that the aggrieved woman had never lived with the respondents and that she used to live in a different city with her husband, where they used to work. So, there was no "shared household" between the aggrieved person and the respondents, the appellate court held. Another ground cited for reversing the Magistrate's order was that after the death of the husband, there was no subsisting domestic relationship between the complainant and the respondents. The appellate court's reasoning was approved by the High Court as well, and the matter reached the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court's analysis

The Supreme Court observed that it is not mandatory for the aggrieved person, when she is related by consanguinity, marriage or through a relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family, to actually reside with those persons against whom the allegations have been levelled at the time of commission of domestic violence.

The Apex court bench was considering an appeal against in which the following issues were raised:

(i) Whether it is mandatory for the aggrieved person to reside with those persons against whom the allegations have been levelled at the point of commission of violence?

(ii) Whether there should be a subsisting domestic relationship between the aggrieved person and the person against whom the relief is claimed?

The High Court had taken a view that in order to establish that the respondents had committed violence as contemplated under the D.V. Act, it is required that the aggrieved person was sharing a household with the respondents and there was a domestic relationship between the parties. That the aggrieved person was residing separately from the respondents from the day of her marriage. That there was no domestic relationship between the aggrieved person and the respondents, therefore, no relief could be granted under the provisions of the D.V. Act.

Referring to the relevant provisions of the DV Act, the bench noted that every woman in a domestic relationship has a right to reside in the shared household even in the absence of any act of domestic violence by the respondent.

The first issue was answered as follows :

"It is held that it is not mandatory for the aggrieved person, when she is related by consanguinity, marriage or through a relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family, to actually reside with those persons against whom the allegations have been levelled at the time of commission of domestic violence. If a woman has the right to reside in the shared household under Section 17 of the D.V. Act and such a woman becomes an aggrieved person or victim of domestic violence, she can seek reliefs under the provisions of D.V. Act including enforcement of her right to live in a shared household".

The court made the following significant observations:

Not only actual residence but also constructive residence in the shared household

"If a woman in a domestic relationship seeks to enforce her right to reside in a shared household, irrespective of whether she has resided therein at all or not, then the said right can be enforced under Sub-Section (1) of Section 17 of the D.V. Act. If her right to reside in a shared household is resisted or restrained by the respondent(s) then she becomes an aggrieved person and she cannot be evicted, if she has already been living in the shared household or excluded from the same or any part of it if she is not actually residing therein.

In other words, the expression 'right to reside in the shared household' is not restricted to only actual residence, as, irrespective of actual residence, a woman in a domestic relationship can enforce her right to reside in the shared household. Thus, a woman cannot be excluded from the shared household even if she has not actually resided therein that is why the expression 'shall not be evicted or excluded from the shared household' has been intentionally used in Sub-Section (2) of Section 17.


This means if a woman in a domestic relationship is an aggrieved person and she is actually residing in the shared household, she cannot be evicted except in accordance with the procedure established by law. Similarly, a woman in a domestic relationship who is an aggrieved person cannot be excluded from her right to reside in the shared household except in accordance with the procedure established by law. Therefore, the expression 'right to reside in the shared household' would include not only actual residence but also constructive residence in the shared household i.e., right to reside therein which cannot be excluded vis-à-vis an aggrieved person except in accordance with the procedure established by law. If a woman is sought to be evicted or excluded from the shared household she would be an aggrieved person in which event Sub-Section (2) of Section 17 would apply."

Subsisting relationship not necessary at the time of filing of an application by an aggrieved person

In our view, the question raised about a subsisting domestic relationship between the aggrieved person and the person against whom the relief is claimed must be interpreted in a broad and expansive way, so as to encompass not only a subsisting domestic relationship in presentia but also a past domestic relationship. Therefore, the Parliament has intentionally used the expression 'domestic relationship' to mean a relationship between two persons who not only live together in the shared household but also between two persons who 'have at any point of time lived together' in a shared household...
It is held that there should be a subsisting domestic relationship between the aggrieved person and the person against whom the relief is claimed vis-à-vis allegation of domestic violence. However, it is not necessary that at the time of filing of an application by an aggrieved person, the domestic relationship should be subsisting. In other words, even if an aggrieved person is not in a domestic relationship with the respondent in a shared household at the time of filing of an application under Section 12 of the D.V. Act but has at any point of time lived so or had the right to live and has been subjected to domestic violence or is later subjected to domestic violence on account of the domestic relationship, is entitled to file an application under Section 12 of the D.V. Act.

Case details

Prabha Tyagi vs Kamlesh Devi | 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 474 | CrA 511 OF 2022 | 12 May 2022

Coram: Justice MR Shah and BV Nagarathna


Headnotes


Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 ; Section 17,19 - It is not mandatory for the aggrieved person to have actually lived or resided with those persons against whom the allegations have been levelled at the time of seeking relief. If a woman has the right to reside in a shared household, she can accordingly enforce her right under Section 17(1) of the D.V. Act. If a woman becomes an aggrieved person or victim of domestic violence, she can seek relief under the provisions of the D.V. Act including her right to live or reside in the shared household under Section 17 read with Section 19 of the D.V. Act. (Para 52, 22-41)

Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 ; Section 12 - There should be a subsisting domestic relationship between the aggrieved person and the person against whom the relief is claimed vis-à-vis allegation of domestic violence. However, it is not necessary that at the time of filing of an application by an aggrieved person, the domestic relationship should be subsisting - Even if an aggrieved person is not in a domestic relationship with the respondent in a shared household at the time of filing of an application under Section 12 of the D.V. Act but has at any point of time lived so or had the right to live and has been subjected to domestic violence or is later subjected to domestic violence on account of the domestic relationship, is entitled to file an application under Section 12 of the D.V. Act. (Para 52, 42-44)

Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 ; Section 12 - Not mandatory for a Magistrate to consider a Domestic Incident Report filed by a Protection Officer or service provider before passing any order- Even in the absence of a Domestic Incident Report, a Magistrate is empowered to pass both ex parte or interim as well as a final order - The Magistrate is obliged to take into consideration any Domestic Incident Report received by him when the same has been filed from the Protection Officer or the service provider in a case where the application is made to the Magistrate on behalf of the aggrieved person through a Protection Officer or a service provider. (Para 52, 45-51)

Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 ; Section 17(1) - Every woman in a domestic relationship has a right to reside in the shared household even in the absence of any act of domestic violence by the respondent - she cannot be evicted, excluded or thrown out from such a household even in the absence of there being any form of domestic violence - If a woman in a domestic relationship seeks to enforce her right to reside in a shared household, irrespective of whether she has resided therein at all or not, then the said right can be enforced under Section 17(1). (Para 25-30)

Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 ; Sections 2(f), 17 - The expression 'joint family' cannot be understood as understood in Hindu Law - The expression 'family members living together as a joint family', means the members living jointly as a family. In such an interpretation, even a girl child/children who is/are cared for as foster children also have a right to live in a shared household and are conferred with the right under Sub-Section (1) of Section 17 of the D.V. Act. When such a girl child or woman becomes an aggrieved person, the protection of Section 17(2) comes into play. (Para 36)

Interpretation of Statutes - Principles that govern the interpretation to be given to proviso in the context of main provision discussed. (Para 50)



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