Allowing a petition filed against an order of the family court, the Bombay High Court has held that under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, any woman has a right to reside in her matrimonial home or shared household, irrespective of whether she has any right, title or interest in the said household or not.
Justice Shalini Phansalkar Joshi was hearing a writ petition filed by a 38-year-old woman against an order of the Family Court vacating a previous order of maintaining a status quo regarding a flat in Mulund which she claimed was her matrimonial home.
It was the case of the petitioner that her husband filed a petition for a decree of nullity or for divorce. This was opposed by her and she filed a written statement wherein she detailed how she was tortured by her husband, his brother, his brother-in-law and sister-in-law. The harassment continued during pregnancy and even after her daughter was born.
Thereafter, the petitioner contended that she was thrown out of the said matrimonial home on December 8, 2013, and was forced to move to her parental home in Colaba. Following complaints to the Police and the State Women’s Commission, she was accompanied by a female police officer to her matrimonial home in February 2014, but still was not allowed in. The petitioner said she made another failed attempt in March 2014 with help of Mulund Police.
The petitioner then sought interim injunction against her husband and his family members restraining them from dispossessing her from the said matrimonial home. After hearing both parties on the issue, the family court granted interim relief of status-quo to the petitioner and issued notice to the husband. The petitioner’s husband and her in-laws were restrained from dispossessing her from the said matrimonial home.
Her husband then filed an application seeking vacation of the earlier order of status-quo contending that the petitioner was already married to another man, hence this marriage to the petitioner was null and void ab initio which means that she has no right to stay in his father’s home (matrimonial home).
The family court then vacated the earlier order on the ground that the said house belonged to the respondent husband’s father and the husband himself was residing in another house in Navi Mumbai, and since the petitioner had no right, title or interest in the said property, she has no right to claim relief with regard to the property.
The high court referred to Section 19 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (DV Act) which provides for ‘Residence Orders'. The 'Statement of Objects and Reasons' of the said Act reads-
'This Act seeks to provide for the rights of women to secure housing. It also provides for the right of a woman to reside in her matrimonial home or shared household, whether or not she has any title or rights in such home or household. This right is secured by a residence order, which is passed by the Magistrate'
Apart from this, the court also noted that there was no document placed on record to show that the respondent husband was residing in Navi Mumbai and not at the matrimonial home in Mulund. In fact, records show quite the opposite.
Therefore, it is clear that, this ploy is adopted by the Respondent just to deprive the Petitioner from her rightful claim to reside in the 'shared household', which is the Flat at Mulund. This Court cannot fall victim to the tricks or ploys played by the Respondent-husband in such cases, the court said.
Thus, it allowed the writ petition and restored the earlier order of status quo.