Supreme Court has decided a significant question of law regarding interpretation and working of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
Brief Facts of Case:-
Satish Chander Ahuja purchased a property in New Delhi. His Son Raveen Ahuja married to Sneha Ahuja. After marriage, they started living on the first floor of the house.
Marital discord between Raveen and Sneha started, then in July 2014, due to which Raveen moved out of the 1st Floor.
Sneha Ahuja started sperate kitchen in the house. Raveen (husband) filed a Divorce Petition under Section 13(1)(ia) and (iii) of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. It filed on the ground of cruelty against the respondent, Sneha Ahuja.
After that, the respondent, Sneha Ahuja, filed an application under Section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005. She impleaded Raveen Ahuja as respondent No.1, Shri Satish Ahuja, respondent No.2 and Dr Prem Kanta Ahuja(mother-in-law of the respondent), respondent No.3.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate directed that the respondents shall neither alienate the property nor dispossess the complainant and children from the house.
Father-in-Law (Appellant appellant filed a Suit impleading the Daughter-in-law as sole-defendant for grant of a mandatory and permanent injunction. Trial Court decreed the suit in favour of the plaintiff.
Trail court directed Sneha Ahuja to hand over the vacant and physical possession of the suit property to the plaintiff within 15 days.
Feeling Aggrieved defendant filed an appeal in the High Court of Delhi. The Delhi High Court set aside the decree of the Trial Court and remanded the matter to the Trial Court for fresh adjudication.
After that, the Father in Law filed an appeal before the Supreme Court?
What was Pleaded by Parties?
Appellant contended that the property in question is exclusively owned by the Appellant (Father-in-law); therefore, it is not a shared household. The son of the Appellant has no right in the property and the son, as well as respondent-daughter-in-law, were only gratuitous licensees of the Appellant.
It was further contended that the Complaint under Domestic Violence is a counterblast of Divorce Petition. Appellant further pleaded that unless the definition of shared household under Section 2(s) is not interpreted in a manner confining the definition of the shared household to joint family or the property where the husband has a share, it will create chaos in the society.
Counsel for the Respondent refuted the submissions of the Appellant. It was submitted that Act, 2005 granted protection and security of residence to the woman. It was further submitted that it is also not necessary that the husband of the woman should have any right/title/interest in the house.
Decision of Supreme Court
Supreme Court held that the definition of shared household given in Section 2(s) could not 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 found that the judgment of this Court in S.R. Batra Vs. Taruna Batra (supra) has not correctly interpreted Section 2(s) of Act, 2005 and the judgment does not lay down the correct law.
It is further held that the power under Order XII Rule 6 is discretionary and cannot be claimed as a matter of right. Therefore the Court observed that in the facts of the present case, the Trial Court ought not to have given judgment under Order XII Rule 6 on the admission of the defendant as contained in her application filed under Section 12 of the D.V. Act.
Supreme Court has held that where the shared household of a woman is licensed or alloted or tenanted accommodation, and that tenancy or allotment or license is in the name of father-in-law or husband, the Act of 2005 does not operate against the licensor or landlord or lessor in initiating proceedings of eviction qua shared household.
Hon’ble Judges of the Supreme Court further held that if the proceedings are between the family members, the woman living in shared household has right to oppose the proceedings on all the grounds available to lessee or tenant or licensee.
Supreme Court observed that although the husband of the defendant was not a necessary party given the pleadings in the written statement, the husband was a proper party
Therefore, the Supreme Court upheld the Judgment of the Delhi High Court.
Title- Satish Chander Ahuja vs Sneha Ahuja
Case No. Civil Appeal 2483 of 2020
Coram-Hon’ble Justice Ashok Bhushan, Hon’ble Justice R.Subhash Reddy and Hon’ble Justice M.R. Shah
Date of Judgment- 15.10.2020