Wife is entitled to claim right to residence in a shared household belonging to relatives of the husband: SC

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Satish Chander Ahuja v. Sneha Ahuja

Civil Appeal No. 2483 of 2020.

Decided on 15.10.2020

Bench: Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy, M.R. Shah, JJ.


The appellant Satish Chander Ahuja (original plaintiff) had filed a suit against his daughter in law respondent Sneha Ahuja (original defendant) for the mandatory and permanent injunction and for the recovery of damages/ mesne profit. The appellant claimed that the suit property is exclusively owned by him and is not a shared household.

The appellant had purchased the suit property in 1983. His son got married to the respondent in 1995 and started staying on the first floor with her. In 2014, the husband filed for divorce alleging cruelty by the wife. In 2015, wife (respondent) filed a case under the Domestic Violence Act against her husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law.

The plaintiff-appellant claimed in trial court that he and his wife are victims of domestic violence by the respondent and he had no duty to maintain his daughter-in-law when her husband was alive. He pleaded that the status of occupation of respondent as a daughter-in-law during subsistence of marriage with his son could be said to be permissive in nature and defendant is not entitled to claim right of residence against the plaintiff.

The defendant- respondent claimed that she cannot be removed from the house and she had a right to reside therein, as it was a shared household. She pleaded that the house property was acquired by the appellant through joint family funds and it is not his self-acquired property.

Trial Court ordered the respondent to handover the possession of the property to the appellant.

Delhi High Court had set aside the ruling of the trial court and sent the matter back for fresh adjudication and also noted that the husband needs to be made party to the case. The appellant then approached the Supreme Court in the present appeal. The appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court. The following issues had arisen in the course of proceedings.

ISSUE: Whether the 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? &

Whether judgement of this court in S.R Batra and Anr. v. Taruna Batra, 2007 does not lay down the correct law?

Held: The court held that shared household referred to in Section 2(s) is the shared household of aggrieved person where she was living at the time when application was filed or in the recent past has been excluded from the use or she is temporarily absent. The living of the woman in the household has to refer to a living which has some permanency.

If the shared household belongs to any relative of the husband with whom in a domestic relationship the woman has lived, the conditions mentioned in Section 2(s) are satisfied then the said house will become shared household. The right to residence under Section 19 is not an indefeasible right of residence in shared household.

The definition of shared household given in Section 2(s) cannot be read to mean that shared household can only be that household which is household of joint family of which husband is member or in which the husband of the aggrieved person has share.

The court held that the interpretation of definition of ‘shared household’ as put in S.R Batra vs. Taruna Batra does not lay down the correct law.

ISSUE: Whether the High Court has rightly come to the conclusion that suit filed by the appellant could not have been decreed under Order XII Rule 6 CPC?

Held: The court concurred with the view of the High Court and held that power under Order XII Rule 6 is discretionary and cannot be claimed as a matter of right. The Trial Court ought not to have given the judgement under Order XII Rule 6 on the admission of the defendant as contained in her application filed under Section under Section 12 of the DV Act, 2005.

ISSUE: Whether, when the defendant in her written statement pleaded that suit property is her shared household and she has right to residence therein, the Trial Court could have decreed the suit of the plaintiff without deciding such claim of defendant which was permissible to be decided as per Section 26 of the Act, 2005?

Held: The Court held that the claim of the defendant that suit property is shared household and she has right to reside in the house ought to have been considered by the Trial Court and non-consideration of the claim amounts to defeating the right which is protected by the DV Act, 2005.

ISSUE: Whether the plaintiff (Father-in-law) in the suit giving rise to this appeal can be said to be the respondent as per definition of Section 2(q) of Act, 2005?

Held: The court held that to treat a person as the “respondent” for the purposes of Section 2(q) it has to be proved that person arrayed as respondent has committed an act of domestic violence of the aggrieved person.

For the purposes of determination of rights of the defendant under Sections 17 and 19 read with Section 26, the plaintiff can be treated as ‘respondent’ but for the grant of any relief to the defendant or for successfully resisting the suit of the plaintiff, necessary conditions prescribed under DV Act, 2005 has to be pleaded and proved by the defendant.

ISSUE: What is the meaning and extent of the expression “save in accordance with the procedure established by law” as occurring in Section 17(2) of Act, 2005?

Held: The court held that the expression “save in accordance with the procedure established by law” in Section 17(2) of the DV Act, 2005 contemplates the proceedings in court of competent jurisdiction. Thus, suit for mandatory and permanent injunctions/ eviction is maintainable before a competent court. The provision contemplates adopting of any procedure established by law by the respondent for eviction or exclusion of the aggrieved person from the shared household. Thus, the competent court can decide the claim in a properly instituted suit by the owner as to whether the women need to be excluded or evicted from the shared household.

ISSUE: What is the effect of orders passed under Section 19 of the DV Act, 2005 whether interim or final passed in the proceedings initiated in a civil court of competent jurisdiction?

Held: The court held that the pendency of proceedings under the DV Act, 2005 or any interim or final order passed under DV 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 interim or final passed in proceedings under DV Act, 2005. The judgement or order of criminal court granting an interim or final relief under Section 19 of DV Act, 2005 are relevant within the meaning of Section 43 of the Evidence Act and can be looked into or referred to by the civil court.


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