Taking note of the competing claims arising under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 and the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007, the Delhi High Court has issued certain guidelines to strike a balance.
In the case Vinay Verma v Kanika Pasricha and another, Justice Prathiba M Singh observed that in several cases, the claim of a daughter-in-law for residence in shared household often conflicted with the right of in-laws for exclusive possession of their home.
The judge broadly categorized the common cases with such scenarios into three categories :
The first category of cases are ones in which the parents/in-laws have developed acrimony either with the son and daughter-in-law jointly and/or individually resulting in the parents/in-laws seeking the right of exclusive residence either in the form of possession and injunction or seeking eviction of the son/ daughter-in-law.
The second category of cases are also those where there is a rift between the son and the daughter-in-law and either in collusion with the son or otherwise, an attempt is made to evict the daughter-in-law.
In the third category of cases, the son has actually moved out of the residence and lives in a different residence. However, the daughter-in-law refuses to move from the residence of the in-laws due to a lack of alternate accommodation or otherwise.
“While, the daughter-in-law‟s right to residence and a roof over her head is extremely important, the parent‟s right to enjoy their own property and earn income from the same is also equally important. There can be multitudinal situations which may arise before Courts wherein a view would have to be taken as to which rights are to be preferred over the other”, the Court observed.
“In several cases, these rights have conflicted with each other and they have flooded the Criminal and Civil Courts in abundance”, said the Court.
In this backdrop, the Court laid down broad guidelines which are to be followed while adjudicating such competing claims as follows :
1. The court/tribunal has to first ascertain the nature of the relationship between the parties and the son‟s/ daughter‟s family.
2. If the case involves eviction of a daughter in law, the court has to also ascertain whether the daughter-in-law was living as part of a joint family.
3. If the relationship is acrimonious, then the parents ought to be permitted to seek eviction of the son/daughter-in-law or daughter/son-in-law from their premises. In such circumstances, the obligation of the husband to maintain the wife would continue in terms of the principles under the DV Act.
4. If the relationship between the parents and the son are peaceful or if the parents are seen colluding with their son, then, an obligation to maintain and to provide for the shelter for the daughter-in-law would remain both upon the in-laws and the husband especially if they were living as part of a joint family. In such a situation, while parents would be entitled to seek eviction of the daughter-in-law from their property, an alternative reasonable accommodation would have to be provided to her.
5. In case the son or his family is ill-treating the parents then the parents would be entitled to seek unconditional eviction from their property so that they can live a peaceful life and also put the property to use for their generating income and for their own expenses for daily living.
6. If the son has abandoned both the parents and his own wife/children, then if the son‟s family was living as part of a joint family prior to the breakdown of relationships, the parents would be entitled to seek possession from their daughter-in-law, however, for a reasonable period they would have to provide some shelter to the daughter-in-law during which time she is able to seek her remedies against her husband.
These guidelines were issued while considering an appeal from a civil suit filed by senior citizens for ejection of their daughter-in-law from the house. The household belonged to the maternal grandparent of the husband in the case. In other words, the in-laws of the wife were not the owners of the house. Hence, the Court observed that the household was not a “shared household” under Section 2 (s) of the DV Act.
The Court said that it was necessary to pass orders for balancing the rights of both the parties. The parents were allowed to seek eviction of the daughter-in-law but on condition to pay her monthly sum of Rs. 50,000/- to enable her to find alternate accommodation.
Considering the fact that the Supreme Court is considering similar issues in pending appeals, the Court has granted certificate for appeal under Articles 133(1)(a) and 134A of the Constitution of India.
Though the Supreme Court has laid down the principles for defining “shared household” in the 2007 decision in S. R. Batra and Anr. v. Taruna Batra, the Court had no occasion to consider the impact of Senior Citizens Act in that case, observed Justice Singh. Following this, several High Court have taken divergent views on the issue regarding wife’s claim for residence where the matrimonial home did not belong to the in-laws, noted Justice Prathiba Singh in the judgment.