Aged in-laws can’t evict married woman: Supreme Court
A married woman cannot be thrown out of her matrimonial home even by a senior citizens tribunal just because the property belongs to her in-laws, ruled the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
In an important judgment that sought to strike a balance between the right of a woman to a shared household and the right of her aged in-laws, the top court held that the Domestic Violence Act and Senior Citizens Act will have to be harmonised so that application of one law does not result into injury to the other vulnerable class, protected under the second law.
The top court bench, headed by justice DY Chandrachud, said that the right of a woman to live in a shared household cannot be defeated by resorting to a hurried eviction proceedings instituted at the senior citizens tribunal. The judgment has come on an appeal by a woman, whose in-laws succeeded in obtaining an eviction order against her from their Bengaluru home which was in the name of the mother-in-law. The Karnataka high court, too, had last year upheld the eviction order.
The Supreme Court, however, set aside this order, saying she could not have been summarily evicted. It gave her one-year time to pursue her remedies under the law while laying down an extended umbrella of protection for women in similar situations.
“Section 3 of the Senior Citizens Act, 2007, cannot be deployed to override and nullify other protections in law, particularly that of a woman’s right to a shared household under Section 17 of the Domestic Violence Act 2005,” said the bench, which also included two women judges -- justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee.
The bench said that even though the Senior Citizens Act was a subsequent law and said that its orders will not be subject to any other law, allowing it to have an overriding force and effect in all situations, irrespective of competing entitlements of a woman to a right in a shared household within the meaning of the Domestic Violence Act, would “defeat the object and purpose which Parliament sought to achieve in enacting the latter legislation”.
The court held that whenever such a dispute arises before the senior citizens tribunal, it cannot simply order for eviction of the daughter-in-law, but what is required on its part is to “appropriately mould reliefs, after noticing the competing claims of the parties”. This decision follows a judgment by the top court two months ago where it noted that even if the shared household is a joint family property where the husband has no legal right or share, the same will still be treated as shared household for the wife to continue staying put.