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    BlogLegal BlogsRIGHT OF RESIDENCE OF DAUGHTER-IN-LAW - COMPLETE ANALYSIS BY SC

    RIGHT OF RESIDENCE OF DAUGHTER-IN-LAW – COMPLETE ANALYSIS BY SC

    “The progress of any society depends on its ability to protect and promote the rights of its women.”

    INTRODUCTION:

    In Indian society, a woman is considered to have no home of her own and she is dependent on her parents before marriage and on her in-laws after marriage for residence. It is a well settled principle that a woman has to live with her parents in their house and after marriage in her husband’s house. In primitive society, the women were compelled to live in their in-laws’ house even; if they endured domestic violence or cruelty. But now as society is changing and the Rights of women are getting recognized; it is an important issue to be addressed that what are the rights of women regarding residence after marriage when she is asked to evict the in-laws’ house because her in-laws are the exclusive owner of the property and the husband has no right in it.

    STATUTORY PROVISIONS:

    The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (hereinafter referred to as the Domestic Violence Act, 2005); confers the daughter-in-law the right to residence in the ‘shared property’ or her ‘matrimonial house’ after marriage except in accordance with the procedure established by law.[1]

    On the other hand, the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007; (hereinafter referred to as the Senior Citizens Act, 2007) gives the parents and in-laws the right to ostracize the daughter-in-law in certain circumstances from the property owned by them.

    Thus, the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and the Senior Citizens Act, 2007 appear to be contradictory. The Domestic Violence Act, 2005 seeks to give voice to the unspoken words of the daughters-in-laws who are facing various atrocities in their matrimonial houses; on the other hand, the Senior Citizens Act, 2007 seeks to provide a peaceful life to the Senior citizens.

    The judiciary is therefore required to interpret the provisions and to determine that whose rights will take precedence over the others’; and in what circumstances so as to strike a balance between the rights of the Daughter-in-law and the parents-in-law.

    JUDICIAL PRONOUNCEMENTS WITH RESPECT TO RIGHT OF RESIDENCE OF DAUGHTER-IN-LAW:

    There had been huge debates and discussions in the Indian Judiciary so as to determine the extent and scope of the term ‘shared property’ in the provision. The main issue to be decided was that whether the ownership; or share of the husband in the property is important to consider it as a shared household; or it can qualify as a shared household even when the husband has no share; or ownership in the property and the property exclusively belongs to women’s in-laws.

    Earlier position:

    The Supreme Court answered in negative with respect to this question in the landmark case of S.R Batra v. Taruna Batra [2]; wherein it was ruled that women are not allowed to claim any right of accommodation in the house which is owned by her mother-in-law, her husband having no right in the property. Thus, the residential property exclusively belonging to the in-laws was held not to be qualified as a ‘shared household’ and daughter-in-law; therefore, cannot claim his right of residence in the said household and she can be asked to evict the house for the want of the legal title. She can claim her Right of Residence in that property only if the property is joint family property; and her husband has a share in it. But if the parents-in-law proved their title on the property; the right of residence to the daughter-in-law cannot be granted.

    In Vimalben Ajitbhai Patel and Ors. v. Vatslabeen Ashokbhai Patel and Ors. [3], the Supreme Court ruled that the property exclusively owned by the in-laws does not qualify as ‘shared property’ under Section 2(s) of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005

    Later Developments:

    These judgments given by the Supreme Court were criticized widely on the ground of narrowing down the scope of the term ‘shared household’ and therefore straitening the rights of the daughter-in-law. Therefore, The High Court of Delhi took the initiative to expand the right of residence of daughters-in-law by declaring that the said right must not be dependent upon the fact of title; but merely upon the fact of residence of the daughter-in-law. However, it granted some relief in favour of the daughter-in-law; the Court did not directly provide for the inclusion of the exclusive property of the in-laws as a shared household under Section 2(s) of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

    In the case of Eveneet Singh v. Prashant Chaudhri & Ors. [4], the Court however denied the right of residence of daughter-in-law in the shared household for the reason that it exclusively belongs to her parents-in-law; it directed the husband to arrange for the alternative residence for the wife and up till then the daughter-in-law has the right to reside in her in-laws’ household.

    Balancing the Rights of Daughter-in-law and the Rights of Parents-in-law:

    In the case of Vinay Varma v. Kanisha Parishcha & Anr., [5] the Court observed that both, the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and, the Senior Citizens Act, 2007 are special statutes and govern the overlapping nature of relationships. While addressing the issue that “whether the obligation of providing the shelter or roof is upon the in-laws or upon the husband of the daughter-in-law”; the Delhi High Court attempted to achieve a balance between the Right of residence of daughter-in-law; and the rights of the parents-in-law to enjoy their own property and generate income from it by issuing certain guidelines which are as follows:

    1. The nature of the relationship between the parties and the family of the son and daughter must be ascertained by the Court or the tribunal.
    2. The court must ascertain that whether the daughter-in-law was living in the joint family if the case involves eviction of daughter-in-law.
    3. If the parents seek eviction of the daughter-in-law, the husband is obligated to provide maintenance to the wife.
    4. If the In-laws and the husband are in collusion; the obligation to provide for an alternative residence to the Daughter-in-law will be on both, husband as well as the parents-in-law; especially if they live in a joint family.
    5. If the son and daughter-in-law are ill-treating the parents, the parents can seek their unconditional eviction from their property.
    6. If the husband has abandoned his parents and the wife and prior to this they were living in a joint family; are obligated to provide residence to the daughter-in-law until she gets here remedies against her husband.

    The aforementioned guidelines sought to strike a balance between the daughter-in-law; and the parents-in-law but these guidelines are not exhaustive; as they do not reconcile the conflict between the two in every situation but deals with balancing of rights in certain specific circumstances only.

    Current position:

    In the current scenario, the daughter-in-law is granted the Right of Residence in the shared household or the matrimonial residence irrespective of the fact whether her husband has a share or ownership in the property or not.

    The apex court in its recent judgment in the case of Satish Chander Ahuja v. Sneha Ahuja [6] gave a broader interpretation to the term ‘shared household’. It held that under section 2(s) of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005; the definition of the term ‘shared household’ cannot be limited to the joint family property or the property which her husband owns or in which he has a share. It stated that a ‘shared household’ is a house where the daughter-in-law has been living uninterruptedly; irrespective of who the owner of that property is. The Court reasoned that the intention of the legislature was defeated in earlier decisions as the legislature’s intent was in tune with the reality of the Indian society where the daughter-in-law, husband and parents-in-law live together in a single household uninterruptedly; therefore they put the ‘living in a domestic relationship’ as the sole criteria for a household to be qualified as a ‘shared household’.

    The Supreme Court has specifically emphasized the balancing of rights, by the Courts, of the parties under different statutes. The Court also provided that if the parents-in-law prove that the property is exclusively owned by them; the daughter-in-law is allowed to reside in that property until her husband provides the alternative residence of the same level for his wife or pays rent for the same. [7]

    Still, there is no clarity as to what will be the recourse for the daughter-in-law in case the husband defaults in providing the alternative accommodation facility to the women. Further, it provides only for interim relief to the daughter-in-law and she has to ultimately evict the house; if the in-laws prove the title over the property. But the overall condition of the daughters-in-law is improved now; as she will not be rendered homeless in case of any acrimony with her matrimonial family.

    CONCLUSION:

    The main challenge with respect to recognizing the Right of residence of the daughter-in-law is to balance the rights of the parents to enjoy their own property; and at the same time protect the hapless woman. Earlier, the judicial opinion was leaned towards securing the rights of the parents-in-law but after the recent judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Satish Chander Ahuja v. Sneha Ahuja; the situation is reversed in favour of the daughter-in-law. Now the daughter-in-law is granted the Right of residence in the property exclusively owned by her in-laws subject to certain conditions or otherwise, the husband is obligated to provide for alternative accommodation for her. Certain questions have still remained unanswered. Yet, the Right of residence of the daughter-in-law is secured to a large extent in the current scenario.

    This article is written by Ms. Manali Agarwal, a BA.LLB.(Hons) student of Jagran Lakecity University Bhopal; & by Vivek Ruhela, B.E., Thakur College of Engineering and Technology, Mumbai.


    [1] Section 17 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act,2005
    [2] S.R Batra v. Taruna Batra, 2007 3 SCC 169
    [3] Vimalben Ajitbhai Patel and Ors. v. Vatslabeen Ashokbhai Patel and Ors., (2008) 4 SCC 649
    [4] Eveneet Singh v. Prashant Chaudhri, 2010 SCC online Delhi 4507
    [5] Vinay Varma v. Kanisha Parishcha, 2019 SCC Online Delhi 11530
    [6] Satish Chander Ahuja v. Sneha Ahuja, 2020 SCC Online SC 841
    [7] Section 19(1)(f) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act,2005


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