Synopsis: The SC ruled that a married woman’s right of residence, granted under domestic violence law, must also be valid in civil cases.
In an important decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a woman has the right to live at the home of her in-laws under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005, even if she is estranged from them. The SC ruled that the relief provided by the criminal court granting the right of residence to a married woman, which is assured under the law on domestic abuse, must be considered even if a civil case has been brought against her seeking the eviction of the married woman from her home.
A case filed by a resident of Delhi seeking an appeal of a High Court judgement, was been heard by the Supreme Court which ruled that his daughter-in-law has the right to live at the home of her in-laws even if the married couple were in the middle of divorce proceedings.
The apex court said that every society’s development depends on its ability to protect and promote its women’s rights. The Constitution guarantees equal rights and privileges to women which is a step towards changing the role of women in this country.
A bench consisting of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah also set aside the interpretation of the definition of ‘shared household’ under the Act and said the definition was rather exhaustive and intended to provide the victim women with residence under the statute.
In its 151-page judgement, the bench stated that the concept of shared household provided in Section 2(s) cannot be read to mean that shared household can only be that household of which the husband is a member or in which the husband of the aggrieved person has an interest. It said that the shared household meant the location where the woman lives or has lived in a marital relationship either alone or with the husband at any point, including the house owned or tenant.
The court further said that pending proceedings pursuant to the Domestic Violence Act, or any temporary or final order passed under the Act, relating to the right of residence in compliance with Section 19 does not constitute an injunction on the introduction or continuation of any civil proceedings affecting the subject-matter of an interim or final order passed in proceedings under the DV Act.
Within the scope of Section 43 of the Evidence Act, the judgement or order of the criminal court granting an interim or final relief pursuant to Section 19 of the DV Act is valid and may be appealed to and reviewed by the civil court, it held.
A civil court is to resolve issues in litigation on the basis of evidence that has been brought before it by the parties, the judgement said.
Referring to the facts of the case, the court claimed that the litigation brought before a civil court for the eviction of a woman was entirely maintainable and that the concerns posed by her father-in-law, who claims to own the home, and by the woman claiming the right to live, had to be resolved and determined on the basis of evidence.
The decision of the top court came on an appeal against a Delhi High Court ruling by 76-year-old Delhi resident Satish Chander Ahuja. The Delhi High Court set aside an order passed in 2019 by a trial court to ask Ahuja’s daughter-in-law to vacate his premises.