Wife can claim the property belonging to the husband’s relatives – SC

In the case of Satish Chander Ahuja v. Sneha Ahuja, (CIVIL APPEAL NO.2483 of 2020), the Supreme Court had held that in the matter of domestic violence cases, the wife is entitled to claim the right of residence which belongs to relatives of the husband. The judges, in this case, were Justice Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy, and M.R. Shah.

The facts of the case initiate from the situation when the appeal has been filed by Satish Chander Ahuja, the plaintiff questioning the judgment of Delhi High Court dated 18.12.2019, which had set aside the decree granted in favor of the plaintiff dated 08.04.2019 under Order XII Rule 6 of Civil Procedure Code, decreeing the suit filed by the plaintiff for a mandatory and permanent injunction. The High Court after setting aside the decree of the Trial Court has remanded the matter back to the Trial Court for fresh adjudication in accordance with the directions given by the High Court. The plaintiff aggrieved by the judgment of the High Court has come up in this appeal to SC.

The appellant by deed dated 12.01.1983 purchased property bearing No.D-1077, New Friends Colony, New Delhi. The son of the appellant, Raveen Ahuja was married to the respondent, Sneha Ahuja on 04.03.1995. After marriage, the respondent started living on the first floor of the house No.D-1077, Friends Colony, New Delhi along with her husband. There being marital discord between Raveen and Sneha, in July 2014, Raveen moved out of the first floor and started staying in the guest room of the ground floor.

A separate kitchen was started by the respondent, in the year 2004, on the first floor of the house. Raveen, the husband of the respondent filed a Divorce Petition under Section 13(1)(ia) and (iii) of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for a decree of divorce on the ground of cruelty against the respondent, Sneha Ahuja which is still believed to be pending. After filing of the Divorce Petition, the respondent also filed an application under Section 12 of Act, 2005 impleading Raveen Ahuja as respondent No.1, Shri Satish Ahuja, respondent No.2 and Dr. Prem Kanta Ahuja (mother-in-law of the respondent), respondent No.3. In the complaint, it was alleged that Sneha Ahuja has been subjected to severe emotional and mental abuse by the respondents. In the application respondent prayed for several orders under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act Act, 2005. At the same time the appellant filed a suit, impleading the respondent as sole-defendant for mandatory and permanent injunction and also for recovery of damages/mesne profit. The plaintiff was a senior citizen of 76 years of age, and had undergone angioplasty twice and suffers from hypertension and high blood pressure. Thus the plaintiff pleads that the defendant had filed a false and a frivolous case against him and his wife, therefore he prays for the removal of the defendant suit property so as to live a peaceful life.

The judges in this held that :

In the case of in S.R. Batra and Anr. Vs. Taruna Batra, (2007) 3 SCC 169, where two-Judge Bench of this Court held that the wife is entitled only to claim a right under Section 17(1) to residence in a shared household and a shared household would only mean the house belonging to or taken on rent by the husband or the house which belongs to the joint family of which the husband is a member.

It is submitted that the complaint under the Act, 2005 filed by the respondent was only a counter blast to the Divorce Petition dated 28.11.2014 filed by the husband of the respondent. It is submitted that Sections 17 and 19 of the Act, 2005 do not contemplate a proprietary or ownership right in the shared household for the aggrieved person. Shri Jauhar further submits that her claim for alternate accommodation can be made qua husband and not qua the father-in-law because her relationship in the household emanates pursuant to the marriage and father-in-law cannot be under a statutory obligation to provide for the residence and maintenance of daughter-in-law.”

Thus “from the submissions of the learned counsel for the parties following questions arise for determination in this appeal:

(1) Whether definition of shared household under Section 2(s) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 has to be read to mean that shared household can only be that household which is household of joint family or in which husband of the aggrieved person has a share?

(2) Whether judgment of this Court in S.R. Batra and Anr. Vs. Taruna Batra, (2007) 3 SCC 169 has not correctly interpreted the provision of Section 2(s) of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and does not lay down a correct law?

Thus the court had held “Both the above questions being inter-related are being taken together.  We may recapitulate the facts of the present case in reference to shared household.  The suit property was purchased by appellant in the year 1983 in his name.  The respondent got married to the son of appellant on 04.03.1995 and after marriage she was living in first floor of suit property. Till July 2004, the husband of respondent also lived in first floor where after due to marital discord, he shifted in the guest room on the ground floor.  In the suit filed by the appellant for mandatory and permanent injunction, appellant pleaded that he is the sole owner of the house and prayed for removal of respondent, his daughter-in-law from the first floor of the house.  The respondent had filed a written statement in the suit and claimed that the suit property is a shared household where the respondent had right to reside.

The definition of “shared household given under Section 2(s) as noticed above beginning with expression “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…………….”

Thus “From the above discussions, we arrive at following conclusions:

(i) The pendency of proceedings under Act, 2005 or any order interim or final passed under D.V. Act under Section 19 regarding right of residence is not an embargo for initiating or continuing any civil proceedings, which relate to the subject matter of order in terim or final passed in proceedings under D.V. Act, 2005. 

(ii) The judgment or order of criminal court granting an interim or final relief under Section 19 of D.V. Act, 2005 are relevant within the meaning of Section 43 of the Evidence Act and can be referred to and looked into by the civil court.

(iii) A civil court is to determine the issues in civil proceedings on the basis of evidence, which has been led by the parties before the civil court.

(iv) In the facts of the present case, suit filed in civil court for mandatory and permanent injunction was fully maintainable and the issues raised by the appellant as well as by the defendant claiming a right under Section 19 were to be addressed and decided on the basis of evidence, which is led by the par ties in the suit.

 In view of the foregoing discussions, we are of the considered opinion that High Court has rightly set aside the decree of the Trial Court and remanded the matter for fresh adjudication. With the observations as above, the appeal is dismissed.  No Costs.

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