Even though economic deprivation amounts to domestic violence, courts cannot restore possession of family property back to a woman under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, the Bombay High Court ruled last week.
The court also dismissed the plea of the widow to restore the two commercial premises she had been dispossessed of by her in-laws. The widow, Banu Warunkar, had married Mahabaleshwar resident, Hashim Warunkar, in March 1989. She took over management of the family’s two hotels at Mahabaleshwar after her husband died in September 1992.
The widow looked after the entire family till March 26, 2007, when her in-laws and other family members objected to her running the hotel. They allegedly beat her up and threw her out of the house. Banu then approached the magistrate’s court at Wai in Satara district under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Apart from monetary compensation, she had also sought restoration of the commercial premises to her.
In September 2008, rejecting the widow’s plea for compensation the magistrate directed her in-laws to give the commercial premises to her.
After the Satara Sessions court reversed the magistrate’s order on an appeal filed by the in-laws, the woman took the matter to the high court. In the high court, Justice J H Bhatia confirmed the findings of the magistrate that the widow was deprived of income and financial resources necessary for herself and her children after she was dispossessed.
The judge also held that ousting her amounted to domestic violence. He, however, refused to restore possession of the hotels to the widow saying the magistrate had no power to do so. The judge said the parties would have to approach the civil court to get possession or title over the hotel premises.
Justice Bhatia, nevertheless, directed the widow’s in-laws to pay her a compensation of Rs 5,000 per month.