‘Wife Can’t Be Thrown Out Of In-Laws’ House’, SC Ruling Supports Victims Of Domestic Violence

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Two months ago, the Supreme Court had ruled that women’s parental property rights are by birth, saying ‘Once a daughter, always a daughter’. Now it has passed another landmark judgement that aims to ensure the rights of women.

As per a report in NDTV, the Supreme Court of India said that an estranged woman can’t be evicted by her husband or his family under the ‘Domestic Violence Act’ (2005). She has the right to reside in her husband’s family home even if it was rented or owned by the in-laws and the husband had no ownership in it, said the 3-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah.

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The bench also noted, “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 behavior. 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.”

The judgment dismissed an appeal filed by a Delhi resident named Satish Chander Ahuja. He had filed the plea challenging a Delhi High Court decision of 2019, which ruled that his daughter-in-law Sneha Ahuja had the right of residence even though she was in the process of divorce from her husband Raveen Ahuja.

As per The Indian Express, the context of the situation is as follows. Sneha was married to Raveen in the year 1995, and they lived on the first floor of the Satish’s property in New Friends Colony. In 2004, the husband shifted to the ground floor guest room after their relationship turned bitter. He subsequently filed a divorce suit, and she in turn filed a case under the ‘Domestic Violence Act’ (2005) against the husband and his parents.

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Satish appealed to the court that the property was his self-earned, and his son had no share in the house, The Telegraph reports. But the SC ruled in favour of the woman saying, “Even if the house is in the name of the (father-in law) and even if we accept (that) Raveen has no share in the house… whether the (daughter-in-law) is entitled to reside in the premises in question as shared household is the question to be answered.”

The bench also sought to interpret the provisions that came under the Domestic Violence Act, namely Section 2 (shared household) and Section 17 (right of residence). The judges clarified, “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 bench said that under Section 17 of the Act, “every woman in a domestic relationship shall have the right to reside in the shared household, whether or not she has any right, title or beneficial interest in the same”.

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The court also clarified that the meaning of “living together” requires some sort of permanency attached to it, TOI reports. “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 the household, have to be looked into to find out as to whether the parties intended to treat the premises as a shared household or not,” it said.

The court finally rejected the Satish’s appeal that his son had no share in the property at the upscale New Friends Colony area of Delhi.

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The SC also described the passing of the ‘Domestic Violence Act’ as “a milestone for the protection of women in this country”, considering how often women are unable to file complaints due to adverse social equations.

“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”, the bench said.

The court finally concluded that “the progress of any society depends on its ability to protect and promote the rights of its women.”

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