In a landmark judgment, the Punjab and Haryana high court has ruled that without adequate provision for maintenance, including right to residence in a shared household, an action for ejectment by husband or father-in-law against estranged/divorced wife or daughter-in-law is impermissible.
Justice K Kannan ruled that it would be wrong "to import a principle of law from the judgment that law recognizes an action for ejectment for a husband or father-in-law to deny a woman a right to shelter, the most required protection for a woman, the recognition of her right to safety and a non-negotiable tool for nurturing her dignified living".
The judgment came while dismissing a petition filed by Chandigarh resident Major Harmohinder Singh (retd), who wanted to throw out his divorced wife and sons from his residential property.
Justice Kannan said the law is clear that a divorced wife is to be protected against her husband by a provision for maintenance, including a right to residence. He said, "Even a potent and protective legislation like Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005, will be rendered effete, if it were to be wrongly assumed that a father can throw out his daughter or daughter-in-law; that a husband can throw out the wife, estranged wife or divorced wife."
The provisions of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act of 2007 and the 2005 Act cannot be used for cross-purposes, one defeating the other, the court cleared.
Justice Kannan said a parent who invokes the provisions of the 2007 Act could not create a situation that makes irrelevant the right of a woman for securing a protection, which is guaranteed under the 2005 Act.
The judge remarked that if the petitioner's prayer was for constitution of authority to consider his claim that the divorced wife and sons must be ejected out of the house for his own safety, for this a civil suit had been filed in the court of the civil judge at Mohali and the proceedings in the case would take care of this prayer.
The petitioner had sought directions from the court that in Punjab, authorities were required to be constituted to give effect to the provision of protection of life and liberty of a senior citizen under the provisions of the 2007 Act. However, the court found that the petitioner's prayer was 'unnecessary' since the rules had been framed and known as Punjab Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Rules, 2012. These rules had been notified on October 17, 2012.