Residence Rights Of The Daughter-in-Law

  • Can the Daughter-in-law claim residence in her matrimonial house despite she having no title in it?

 

What is the interpretation of Domestic Violence Act and Marriage Act with regards to Residence and Property rights of Daughter-in-law in her matrimonial house?

Let me describe in detail.

There is a huge difference between Property Rights and Residence Rights

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Every now and then comes a law which has a plethora of loose ends which require resolution by our Hon’ble courts lest they are Misused or Not used as the case may be.
Case in the point is Domestic Violence Act 2005

I am sure the Parliament intended oh-so-well while passing this law, but it certainly is an example of “clumsy drafting ” to quote Justice Markandey Katju.

Today we will try and clear at least one of the grey areas of Domestic Violence Act 2005 with the aid of Supreme Court Judgments and that of the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi.

We will be dealing with the rights of a Daughter-in-law to “residence” rights in “shared household” as per the D.V.Act 2005
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First things First.

Section 19 of Domestic Violence Act 2005(DV ACT) provides the Applicant / Aggrieved Daughter in law with ‘residence rights in the shared household’.

If you think these simple words are by any stretch of the imagination- Simple!…you are sadly mistaken.

Allow me your undivided attention for the rest of this article.

Section 19 of DV Act is provided herein:

“Residence orders.-
(1) While disposing of an application under sub-section (1) of section 12, the Magistrate may, on being satisfied that domestic violence has taken place, pass a residence order –
(a) restraining the respondent from dispossessing or in any other manner disturbing the possession of the aggrieved person from the shared household, whether or not the respondent has a legal or equitable interest in the shared household….”
(emphasis supplied) The broad and expansive nature of the Court‟s power to make a residence order is also underlined by the amplitude of the definition of “shared household”, which is “where the person aggrieved lives or at any stage has lived
(i) in a domestic relationship
(ii) either singly or along with the respondent and includes such a household
(a) whether owned or tenanted either jointly by the aggrieved person and the respondent, or
(b) owned or tenanted by either of them
(iii) in respect of which either the aggrieved person or the respondent or both jointly or singly have any right, title, interest or equity and includes
(iv) such a household which may belong to the joint family of which the respondent is a member, irrespective of whether the respondent or the aggrieved person has any right, title or interest in the shared household.”

Section 2(s) of D.V. Act states:

“`shared household` means a household where the person aggrieved lives or at any stage has lived in a domestic relationship either singly or along with the respondent and includes such a household whether owned or tenanted either jointly by the aggrieved person and the respondent, or owned or tenanted by either of them in respect of which either the aggrieved person or the respondent or both jointly or singly have any right, title, interest or equity and includes such a household which may belong to the joint family of which the respondent is a member, irrespective of whether the respondent or the aggrieved person has any right, title or interest in the shared household”.

I am sure, you already feel overwhelmed! No worries. Let me simplify.

The underlying question(s) are :

1. Can the Daughter-in-law claim residential rights even if she has no right or title in the same?

The answer is Yes.

Section 17 of D.V.Act provides  “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.”

2. Can a Respondent in D.V. Act with regards to property rights be ONLY Males of the Family?

The answer is No!

The introduction of the remedy of a right to residence is a revolutionary and path-breaking step, taken to further the objects of the Act, and any attempt at restricting the scope of the remedy would reduce the effectiveness of the Act itself.

Therefore, it would be contrary to the scheme and the objects of the Act to restrict its application to only such cases where the husband owns some property or has a share in it, as the mother-in-law can also be a respondent in the proceedings under the Domestic Violence Act and remedies available under the same Act would necessarily need to be enforced against her.

Again, to confine the reference to “joint” family property by bringing in the concept of a HUF would be to restrict the application of the provision, to a point which is contrary to the Parliamentary intention that the law is a non-sectarian one.

The “joint” status of a family here obviously is in a generic sense, and importing notions of HUF would unwittingly give greater benefits to one section of the community, which was never the intention of Parliament.

 In a generic sense, it refers to a group of people, related either by blood or marriage, residing in the same house and instances of that can be found in almost all parts of India. 

The general practice in India is that the son and his wife reside in the house of the (husband‟s) parents after marriage.

 Even though a legal obligation to maintain a child ceases as soon as he attains majority, the jural relationship between the parents and the child continues. 

The concept of a “joint family” in law is peculiar to Hindu law. No concept of a „joint family‟ similar to that of a HUF can be found in Muslim Law, Christian Law or any other personal law.

The danger of accepting a restricted interpretation of joint family by equating it to a HUF (Hindu Undivided Family) would result in discrimination, because women living in a shared household belonging to HUFs (and therefore Hindus) would have more security, by reason of their professing the Hindu faith than others who are not Hindus.

Also, even among Hindus, women who are married into or live in HUFs, as compared with those living with husbands, whose parents own the property – would have the protection of the Act; the latter would not have any protection.

The law is made to protect the interests of the Daughter-in-law aggrieved by Domestic Violence

It is precisely to avoid this anomaly that Parliament clarified that irrespective of the title of the “respondent” to the “shared household”, a protection order can be made under Section 19 (1) (a).

The definition of  “shared household” emphasizes the factum of a domestic relationship and no investigation into the ownership of the said household is necessary, as per the definition.

Even if an inquiry is made into the aspect of ownership of the household, the definition casts a wide enough net. It is couched in inclusive terms and is not in any way, exhaustive

The courts have observed  that “shared household includes such a household whether owned or tenanted either jointly by the aggrieved person and the respondent, or owned or tenanted by either of them in respect of which either the aggrieved person or the respondent or both jointly or singly have any right, title, interest or equity and includes such a household which may belong to the joint family of which the respondent is a member, irrespective of whether the respondent or the aggrieved person has any right, title or interest in the shared household”.

It is not about ownership but the factum of residence which matters.

Conclusion:

D.V. Act was enacted “to provide more effective protection of the rights of women guaranteed under the Constitution who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family”.

It is a “secular legislation” similar to Section 125 Cr.P.C. The words ‘shared household’/ ‘Respondent’ etc. must be given a wide interpretation to give effect to the Parliamentary intention of beneficial legislation for a woman facing domestic violence.

Tell me your views on this matter
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Feel free to mail your query on advosidharthaurora@gmail.com or call +91-9599200768

Citation Referred:

Kavita Chaudhri vs Eveneet Singh And Anr.

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