This landmark judgment was passed by the Honourable Supreme Court vide judgment dated October 15, 2020. The judgment was passed by a full bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Ashok Bhushan, J, Shubhash Reddy J, and Mr. Shah, J.
The widely appreciated judgment overruled the more than a decade-old jurisprudence followed in India in relation to ‘shared household’ under the Domestic Violence Act 2005, which was laid down by the Supreme Court in the infamous case of S.R Batra v. Taruna Batra.
The instant case was a civil appeal filed by the appellant, Mr. Satish Chander Ahuja against the order passed by the Delhi High Court rejecting the mandatory and permanent injunction against his daughter-in-law, Sneha Ahuja from residing at the residence of the appellant. It was the Appellant’s contention that on account of him being the sole owner of the place of residence of the daughter –in – law from the time of marriage( matrimonial house), the same could not be treated as a shared household for the purposes of Section 2(s)of the Domestic Violence Act 2005. Mr. Satish Ahuja had further maintained that the said property was not a joint family property and that he had solitary title and interest over the same. The defendant on the other hand had claimed the right to be maintained against her father–in–law’s property even though her husband was alive at the said time. It was the contention of the defendant, that the property in dispute was purchased by her father – in – law from money belonging to the joint property assets and not out of his self acquired money. Therefore, the defendant had pleaded that the said property was very much a shared household and that she had rights of residence over the same under the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act 2005.
In the instant case, the Apex Court of the country has through its judgment, broadened the scope and ambit of the term ‘shared household’ as defined under Section 2(c) of the Domestic Violence Act 2005.
It was held that the term shared household ought to be interpreted in a manner which is in consonance with the ordinary implication of the statute. Therefore, giving effect to such a construction, the meaning of the term shared household would encompass within its boundaries, any household wherein the victim of domestic violence has resided during a specific period regardless of the original title and interest holder over the said property. The Apex Court while providing relief to the defendant has adopted the literal rule of interpretation to decide as to what could constitute a shared household. The Bench held that section 2(s) was an all-inclusive definition and on being read with Section 17 and 19 of the DV Act 2005, confers the right of residence in favour of the suffering woman even if she has no interest or title over such a shared household. This means that even if the matrimonial house is held by the husband or his relatives in their name, the woman can still go ahead and make a valid claim over the same under the provisions of the 2005 Act.
The overruled Batra case had held that a property where the woman suffering from domestic violence had resided after her marriage, the mother-in-law of such a woman having possessed the title of the said property, therefore, would prevent the property from falling within the purview of shared household under the Domestic Violence Act. Hence, the woman was denied a right of residence in the shared household which was in the name of her mother- in - law. The judgment passed in the case of Batra was invariably criticized for the way it acted contrary to the noble intentions of the Domestic Violence Act 2005.
While arriving at the judgment in the Ahuja case, the Supreme Court considered a wide array of precedents to resolve the conflict before them. Amongst these precedents, a noteworthy one was the judgment passed by the Apex Court in the case of Manmohan Attavar v. Neelam Manmohan Attavar wherein it was observed that the 2005 Act was enacted with the intention of creating and vesting a right of residence in the shared household, in support of the woman.
It is pertinent to note that even before the judgment in Ahuja v. Ahuja was passed, the High Courts of various States were already passing orders that were ignorant of the precedent laid down in Batra v. Batra. For instance, the Madras High Court, in the case of Vandana v. T Srikanth, gave a wide interpretation to ‘shared household’ by recognizing a woman’s right to live under the said provision. It had further held that the provisions of the 2005 Act ought to be understood in a manner so as to give effect to what is prescribed through international standards for a woman’s safety.