The Supreme Court on Monday held that when a builder has discharged his obligation by accommodating the original owners in the redeveloped portion, a lady married into that family would not be entitled to invoke writ jurisdiction to enforce her right to matrimonial home citing provisions of the relevant housing and area development statute, if her husband does not permit her to reside in the allocated portion.
Neither Maharashtra Area Development Authority nor the builder can have any further legal obligation to rehouse her, the bench observed.
A bench comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose was deciding the appeal filed by a woman, seeking right to reside in the homes allotted to her husband under the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Act 1976.
Facts of the case
The appellant was having a strained relationship with her husband and in-laws. The building, which housed the matrimonial home in question, was demolished and redeveloped by a firm of builders under the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Act, 1976. Under a scheme approved under the provisions of the said Act, during the period of redevelopment, the occupants were required to shift to transit or temporary accommodations. The appellant’s contention is that such exercise of redevelopment had been undertaken in pursuance of a statutory scheme framed under Section 79 of the 1976 Act which has provisions for rehabilitation of dishoused occupiers. The members of the family of the appellant after her marriage, comprising her husband and mother-in-law had shifted to the transit accommodation. The appellant-writ petitioner remained in the original building with her two minor sons. As the appellant had continued to reside in the old building, the MHADA authorities issued a notice upon her under Section 95-A of the 1976 Act, which stipulates that where the owner of a building submits a proposal for reconstruction of the building, it shall be binding on all the occupiers to vacate the premises.
Following the notice of eviction, she shifted to another place. Later, she approached the Bombay High Court under writ petition seeking directions for residing in the houses allotted to her husband by MHADA after area re-development. The HC dismissed the plea stating that the rights cannot be enforced under Article 226.
Conclusions of SC
Challenging the Bombay HC verdict, the appellant came before the SC, as party-in-person.
Her case was that since she was de-housed by MHADA by eviction notice in 2000, it was incumbent upon them to re-house her in the newly allotted matrimonial house.
Disagreeing with this, the bench observed :
“But in our opinion, when a builder has discharged his obligation by accommodating the original owners in the redeveloped portion as per such a scheme, a lady married into that family would not be entitled to invoke the writ jurisdiction of the High Court to enforce her right to matrimonial home citing the provisions of the said statute, if her husband does not permit her to reside in the allocated portion”
“She does not have any independent claim on title or interest to that property having its genesis in that statute. Her claim of right to reside in her matrimonial home is sought to be projected by her as collateral to the statutory right of her husband to be rehoused or rehabilitated in the new building. But her right to reside in her matrimonial home stands detached from and is independent of the statutory scheme under the said Act”, observed a bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose.
The Court said that her right to reside in matrimonial house was not flowing from the 1976 Act; such rights ought to be enforced through other processes of law.
“Neither MHADA, nor the builder can have any further legal obligation to rehouse her.. She is staking her claim as a constructive beneficiary of the redevelopment scheme. But our opinion is that the right she is seeking to enforce, though flows from a set of events on the basis of which her husband can claim rehabilitation, is actually anchored to an independent legal principle under the Family Law. We accept that she was an occupier under Section 2 (25) of the 1976 Act, but such occupier status was dependent upon her husband’s independent right as part owner of the property. Her right flowing from her matrimonial status cannot get diffused with her right of rehousing or rehabilitation under the statutory scheme. Her right to reside in her matrimonial home does not flow from the 1976 Act”
The Apex Court opined that though she was dishoused as an occupier, claim of her rehousing is based on her status as wife. Accordingly, such claim has to be adjudicated upon by the Civil Court or the Family Court or any other forum the law may prescribe. Such right of the appellant cannot be diffused with the right of her husband under the building reforms and reconstruction law, whose family property, part of which he is the owner, has been reconstructed, articulated the Court.
The top court recognised that a married woman is entitled to live, subsequent to her marriage, with rest of her family members on the husband’s side, in case it is a joint-property. If she resides in an accommodation as an independent family unit with her husband and children, the matrimonial home would be that residential unit. This right is embedded in her right as a wife. It is implicit under the provisions of Section 18 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 in situations that statute is applicable. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 has recognised the concept of “shared household” in terms of Section 2(s) of this statute. Alienating an immovable asset to defeat the right of a victim lady under the said Act can constitute domestic violence, coming, inter-alia, within the ambit of the expression “economic abuse” under Section 3(iv) of 2005 Act. A Magistrate having jurisdiction under Section 19 of the said Act is empowered to pass a residence order to protect a victim of domestic violence from being removed from her shared household. But for a husband to compel his wife to live in a separate household, which is not her matrimonial home, an order from appropriate legal forum would be necessary. There cannot be forcible dishousing of a wife from her matrimonial home. However, these remedies are to be availed in other legal proceedings, and not in a writ petition against a builder.
However, the Court passed some directions under Article 142 of the Constitution of India to secure her demand for alternate housing, and granted liberty to the appellant to initiate appropriate legal proceedings to establish her right to reside in her matrimonial home with her husband.
Title : Aishwarya Atul Pusalkar vs Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority
Case No : Civil Appeal No. 7231/2012