‘Woman can enforce right on shared household’
In an important ruling, the Bombay high court has held that the right of residence of a woman can be enforced even if the shared household is owned by her in-laws or some other member of her estranged husband’s familymumbai Updated: Sep 21, 2016 01:13 IST
In an important ruling, the Bombay high court has held that the right of residence of a woman can be enforced even if the shared household is owned by her in-laws or some other member of her estranged husband’s family.
“Section 19(1) of the (Protection of Women from Domestic Violence) DV Act, which deals with “Residence Order”, leaves no manner of doubt that such right of residence can be enforced even in respect of the house which is owned by the mother-in-law or any other family relatives,” said Justice Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi.
The judge clarified that husband’s relatives were also covered by the term “respondent” as defined under the DV Act and there was no qualification placed on the term to restrict its meaning or to restrict the right of the married woman to reside in the shared household on the ground that the property does not belong to joint family or her husband.
The court was hearing an appeal filed by a Juhu resident challenging an interim order passed by Dindoshi sessions court restraining her from entering her the matrimonial home on the ground that the premises were owned, not by her husband, but by her mother-in-law.
Striking down the order, Justice Phansalkar-Joshi said that importing the concept of Hindu Undivided Family in the definition of “shared household” was as good as rejecting statutory protection extended to a deserted woman, especially when the law does not even require the Court to enquire into the title of the “shared household.”
The judge said that the very object of enactment of DV Act was to protect the right of residence of a married woman irrespective of whom the matrimonial house belongs. The very concept of linking her right of residence to the title or ownership of the house was alien and kept away from the scheme of the DV Act and therefore introducing the concept was defeating the very object of the Act, and “most importantly depriving the woman of her human rights.”
Apart from this legal position, the court also took into consideration that the husband had filed divorce proceedings in family court at Bandra and the suit was filed by his mother in Dindoshi court seeking to evict the woman only after the family court protected the woman’s right of residence by an interim order.
The high court, however, granted liberty to the husband to provide alternate residential premises to his estranged wife saying, “Parties may, for the sake of mutual peace and harmony, consider said proposal.” It added that the woman may consider shifting to such premises if she finds those suitable, but till then she cannot be compelled to move out of the matrimonial home.