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Woman Has Right To Stay At Estranged Family’s Home, Says Supreme Court

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In a new judgement, the Supreme Court of India has stated that under the Domestic Violence Act 2005, women can claim residence in the shared household that belongs not only to the husband but his relatives also. This means a woman can stay in her husband’s family home even if she is estranged from him. She cannot be evicted by the husband or his family members. The Supreme Court overruled an earlier decision that the woman can only have access to her husband’s home or in a home where she has a share.

Domestic Violence Act: Women can now claim residence in the shared household that belongs not only to the husband but his relatives also.

This judgement was issued on Thursday, October 15, 2020, by the bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah. With this, the Supreme Court outlawed the 2006 judgment in S.R. Batra vs Taruna Batra that defined shared household as only those in which the husband stays or has a share.

“In the event, shared household belongs to any relative of the husband with whom in a domestic relationship the woman has lived, the conditions mentioned in Section 2(s) are satisfied and the said house will become a shared household,” the bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah observed. Here’s the full judgment.

Also Read: Every Married Woman In India Should Know Her Legal Rights. Here’s A List

In S.R. Batra vs Taruna Batra caseJustices SB Sinha and M.Katju had interpreted Section 2(s) and observed that a wife can claim legal rights and residence only in the house or rented apartment that belongs to the husband or to the joint family of which the husband is a member. The bench denied that the definition of ‘shared household’ is that the wife can claim residence in any of the houses where she is presently living or has lived at some point of time during her relationship with her husband.

It further stated that the wife can claim alternative accommodation only from the husband and not the in-laws or his other relatives.

But in the new judgement, the three-judge led-bench scraped the former interpretation and said that the definition of ‘shared household’ cannot only include the house in which the husband has a share. The bench said that the interpretation of Section 2(s) was “not very happily worded” and “frustrate the object and purpose of the Act.”

Also Read: Purshottam Sharma’s Justification Of Domestic Violence: The Grim Reality Of Dependent Wives In India

Reinterpreting Section 2(s) of Domestic Violence Act of 2005 the bench said that the shared household is not only the one in which the aggrieved person (the one who filed the domestic violence complaint) has a share, singly or jointly. The household that belongs to the joint family of the respondent (the party against whom the case of domestic violence or eviction has been filed) is a shared household too, irrespective of the fact whether the respondent and the aggrieved person have any “right, title or interest” in the house. Moreover, a shared household is also the one which is singly or jointly owned or tenanted by the respondent.

Concluding, the bench observed, “In event, the definition of shared household as occurring in Section 2(s) is read to mean that all houses where the 60 aggrieved person has lived in a domestic relationship along with the relatives of the husband shall become shared household. The entire Scheme of the Act is to provide immediate relief to the aggrieved person with respect to the shared household where the aggrieved person lives or has lived.”

Also Read: Legal Rights in Marriage: What are the Grounds for Divorce?