Shared Household judgment as per ‘S.R. Batra vs Taruna Batra’:
In this case, the court has noticed that the term ‘shared household’, defined as per Section 2 (s) of the Domestic Violence Act, is not an appropriate definition according to societal standard. This term could signify several meanings and, hence, decoding it would be of utmost importance. The interpretation of the term could vary across different people, and it is, hence, important to narrow this term and give it an appropriate definition as per the meaning of Section 2 (s) in the Act. The Court held that as per Section 17 (1) of the Domestic Violence Act, a married woman would be entitled to claim only a shared household and this term means the house which solely belongs to her husband, for which he pays the rent or the house which belongs to her husband’s joint family. In ‘S.R. Batra vs Taruna Batra’, the property of residency which was in question neither belonged to the husband nor was it taken on rent by him nor was it a joint family property of which the husband was a member. It was the exclusive property of the mother of the husband and not a shared household.
Right of a woman to reside in her matrimonial house:
The court in the judgment of ‘Roma Rajesh Tiwari vs Rajesh Dinanath Tiwari’ elaborated on the rights of a woman to reside in her matrimonial house or shared household. The Court observed that the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ of the Act makes it clear that this Domestic Violence Act is enacted to secure the right of a woman to reside in her matrimonial home or shared household, irrespective of the question ‘whether she has any right, title or interest in the said household or not’. This is completely irrelevant when it comes to checking if the respondent has any legal or equitable interest in the shared household. When it is found that there is a shared household between the wife and the husband, the house is automatically disposed of from the respondent (husband) to the petitioner (wife). The wife gets the full right to reside.
Ways to remove the respondent from the shared household:
This is allowed as per Section 19 (1) (b) of the Domestic Violence Act. An order can be passed by the court which directs the respondent to leave the shared household.
In the case of ‘Sabita Mark Burges vs Mark Lionel Burges’, the Court held that a man cannot display violent behaviour towards his wife and he could be forced to leave the shared household, keeping in mind the safety and security of the wife and children. The notion of the shared household which was upheld in this case was in consideration of the security of women.The Common law mentions that women usually are not given proprietary rights from the matrimonial homes.Section 19 of the Domestic Violence Act was enacted in the first place to grant women protection against domestic violence in their residence, their title notwithstanding. This statutory grant is based upon the sublime principle of human rights prevailing over proprietary rights. It could be said that both partners in a marriage are equally entitled to the said household unless one of them is violent.
Contrastingly, in ‘Manju Sharma vs Ramesh Sharma’, the Court ordered the husband (respondent) to be removed from the shared household. This is a new meaning which has been termed within the association to Section 19 (1) (b) of the Domestic Violence Act. Such power by the Court is only exercised in matters of exceptional circumstances. The wife (petitioner) needs to be given proper safety and security so that there is no future risk of facing domestic violence. Here, it was seen that the husband failed to follow the order and continued to abuse his wife. Hence, this exceptional case had arisen which led the Court to take such a drastic step and pass the order for the respondent (husband) to leave the shared household under Section 19(1)(b) of Domestic Violence Act.
Does Section 19 (1) (b) of the Domestic Violence Act allow the removal of women family members:
The proviso of this aforementioned Section clearly states that the removal of women family members is prohibited/illegal.
In this case ‘Meenavathi vs Senthamarai Selvi’, it was held that due to the benefit of this section, the term shared household shall not remove any women of the respondent’s family – in cases of joint shared families. A similar instance was seen in the case of ‘Uma Narayanan vs Mrs. Priya Krishna Prasad’, which says that if the Magistrate has issued an order under Section 19 (1) (b) of the Domestic Violence Act to remove the husband (respondent) from the shared household to give proper security to the wife (petitioner). But, if the property belongs to a jointly owned family, the proviso of the aforementioned section will not allow the women of the respondents’ family to disown the property.
Alternative Accommodation to Section 19 (1) (b) of the Domestic Violence Act:
Section 19 (1) (f) of the Domestic Violence Act states that the respondent can be directed to secure the same level of alternate accommodation for the aggrieved person as enjoyed by her in the shared household.
In the case of ‘Ajay Kumar Jain v Baljit Kaur Jain’, the court observed that a wife cannot have the right to live in a particular property and the same cannot become a clog to the right of the husband to deal with the property when he is willing to provide an alternative matrimonial home to her. It was also held that the wife cannot insist on residing in the suit property alone when the husband offers a suitable alternative arrangement for her.
The progress of a society is judged on its capability to account for the interests of its women. The Constitution of India’s guarantee of equal rights and privileges to women had marked a step towards the transformation of the status of women. Domestic violence is getting rampant in India. However, the reporting of cases is extremely low. Women as per societal laws are taught to be second class citizens and are always suppressed. They need to voice out their rights. Hence, the Domestic Violence Act helps women find a place in society and helps them feel secure from such harm and violence. Cases of domestic violence aren’t reported in India due to the notion of social stigma and this has to be changed. Thus, the Act will help women voice their opinion.
Sanchali Bhowmik, 2nd year Law Student (L.L.B. Hons.) at Jindal Global Law School