SATISH CHANDER AHUJA v. SNEHA AHUJA

Eshita Yadav

SATISH CHANDER AHUJA v. SNEHA AHUJA
PETITIONER: SATISH CHANDER AHUJA & ORS.
RESPONDENT: SNEHA AHUJA
COURT: THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
BENCH: ASHOK BHUSHAN, R. SUBHASH REDDY, AND M.R. SHAH, JJ.
CITATIONS: 2020 SCC ONLINE SC 841
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 15TH OCTOBER 2020

FACTS:

 Mr. Satish Chander Ahuja (Appellant) purchased a house in New Friends Colony, New Delhi in 1983, and his son, Raveen Ahuja got married to Mrs. Sneha Ahuja (Respondent) in 1995. After marriage, the respondent started residing with her husband on the 1st floor of the said house.
 Due to reasons according to marital discord, the husband of the respondent moved out of the 1st floor of the house in 2014 and started living with his parents on the ground floor.
 In November 2014, the husband of the respondent filed a divorce petition against her under sections 13(1)(ia) and 13(iii) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 on the grounds of cruelty.
 In 2015, the respondent filed an application under section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 against her husband, mother-in-law, and father-in-law alleging that the respondent has been subjected to severe emotional and mental abuse by the in-laws and prayed for several orders under the 2005 Act. In 2016, an interim order was passed by the Ld. Chief Metropolitan Magistrate stating that the in-laws cannot alienate the shared household or dispossess the respondent or her children from the house.
 The appellant (Satish Ahuja) filed a suit in 2017 seeking a mandatory and permanent injunction and removal of the respondent from the said house property and recovery of mesne profits against the defendant (Sneha Ahuja) on grounds of his old age and ill health and that the defendant has filed frivolous claims under the 2005 Act against him, his son and wife.
 The appellant stated that the defendant has no right to claim a right to residence in the said house as the appellant being the father-in-law has no obligation to maintain his daughter-in-law during the lifetime of her husband and demanded that the belongings of the defendant be removed from the 1st floor of the house.
 In response, the defendant filed a statement stating that the house was occupied by the appellant from joint family funds and is not the self-acquired property of the appellant and referred to the complaint filed by her under section 12 of the 2005 Act. She stated that the house is a shared household according to section 2(s) of the 2005 Act and therefore, she has a right to reside in the shared household as her husband has been staying in that household since marriage which accounts for the house being her matrimonial home.
 The appellant pleading for a decree applied Order XII Rule 6 CPC, stating that the house is a self-acquired property and has not been obtained through joint family funds. The Trial Court passed a decree in favor of the plaintiff and directed the respondent to vacant the premises within 15 days.
 The matter was appealed to in the Delhi High Court by the respondent. In 2019, the High Court opined that the Trial Court has proceeded erroneously to pass the decree and set aside the decree passed by the Trial Court remanding the matter back to it for fresh adjudication in conformity with the directions given by the High Court.
 Therefore, the appeal was passed in the Hon’ble Supreme Court, presented by the aggrieved plaintiff.

ISSUES:

 Whether Section 2(s) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 also includes the property within its ambit, which is not owned by the husband?

LAWS CONCERNED:

 Section 2(s) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 defines the term ‘shared household’.
 Section 2(f) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 defines the term ‘domestic relationship’.
 Section 12 & 19 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
 Order XII Rule 6 of the Code of Civil Procedure, which allows a court to pronounce a judgment based on the admissions made by a party at any stage during the trial.

JUDGMENT:
 For the major part of the suit, The Ld. Counsel for the appellant relied on the judgment given in S.R. Batra v. Tarun Batra, stating that the respondent will have a right to reside in the property only when the house is a joint family property or when the husband of the respondent has a share in it. She has no right to reside when the property is owned by the father-in-law.
 Whereas, The Ld. Counsel for the respondent referred to section 2(f) of the 2005 Act, which defines Domestic Relationship and contended that the respondent was in a domestic relationship with the appellant. While referring to section 2(s) of the Act, the counsel contended that the statements of the facts of residence and domestic relationship in the case are the present qualifications to fall within the ambit of ‘shared household’.
 The Supreme Court by going through all the documents presented before it concluded that the house was acquired through joint family funds and is not the self-acquired property of the appellant.
 The Supreme Court opined that the suit filed by the plaintiff is in direct conflict with the right of the defendant to reside in her matrimonial home/shared household as it is granted to her by the Legislature and specifically envisioned in Sections 17 & 19 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. The Court also stated that as being the legally wedded wife of the son of the plaintiff, she possesses a right to reside in the shared household even though she has no title or beneficial interest in the suit property.
 By hearing the contentions of both the parties, the Supreme Court reversed its previous judgment laid out in S.R. Batra v. Tarun Batra under which the permission given to the wife to reside in the husband’s house was refused on account of the house been owned by the mother-in-law. The Supreme Court stated that Section 2(s) of the 2005 Act has not been correctly interpreted in this case and therefore, the judgment does not formulate a correct law. The Court stated that the definition of ‘shared household’ in section 2(s) of the Act does not limit its ambit only up to FB the household which is a joint family property in which the husband has a share or a household of the joint family in which the husband is a member.
 The Court while deciding the case, interpreted the sole purpose and objective with which the 2005 Act was formed and that is to grant effective and efficient protection and remedies to the victims of Domestic Violence in the country. Therefore, a decree was passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court allowing the respondent to reside in the matrimonial house, notwithstanding the fact that the house was not owned by the husband but keeping in mind that they both were in a domestic relationship since marriage and hence, the right of the wife to reside in the matrimonial home exists by means of the Shared Household.
SIGNIFICANCE:
 From many cases and situations that come up in society, it is evident that it is the rights of women that are at stake. To make sure that the society we live in moves towards progress, it is crucial to monitor and gather the ability of the society to protect and promote the welfare and rights of its women. The first step to promote and guarantee equal rights and privileges to women in the country had been taken by the Constitution of India long ago. But to maintain that guarantee granted by the Constitution, continuous and impartial actions in determining suits in which these rights are at challenge shall be taken by the Courts in India.
 Domestic Violence is a recurrent activity that is faced by women in India in one or the other form, almost every day in their lives. But, the fact that non-retaliation by women due to unawareness, ignorance by the society, absence of laws addressing women’s issues, incompetence of existing laws, etc. gives rise to the unceasing nature of Domestic Violence.
This is the reason why women are always expected to suffer and sacrifice their self-worth and in most cases, their rights.
 The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 is considered a milestone in the field of protection of women as it has been able to grant any rights and remedies to the aggrieved victims but there is still a long way to go. The present case is a perfect example of the bestowment of the rights granted to a woman by virtue of her being married in a household. Society often fails to appreciate the fact that a matrimonial home to a woman is the sole and true home of hers’ after marriage and there are certain rights attached to it which are to be observed without fail. Therefore, the right of a woman to residing in the matrimonial home notwithstanding the fact whether the husband enjoys a right in that shared household or not is a right of utmost value and integrity.