Tag Archives: Domestic Violence

Character Assassination of Wife – Amounts to Mental Cruelty

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Vijaykumar Ramchandra Bhate v. Neela Vijaykumar Bhate, (2003) 6 SCC 334,  had the occasion to consider the question as to whether the averments, accusations and character assassination of the wife by the appellant husband in the written statement constitutes mental cruelty for sustaining the claim for divorce under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Act. The Hon’ble Court has observed that the position of law in that regard has come to be well settled and declare that leveling disgusting accusations of unchastity and indecent familiarity with the person outside wedlock and allegations of extra marital relationship is a grave assault on the character, honour, reputation, status as well as the health of the wife. Such allegations and aspersions made in the written statement or suggested in the course of examination and by way of cross-examination would amount to worst form of insult and cruelty, sufficient by itself to substantiate cruelty in law, warranting the claim of the wife being allowed. Such unfounded accusations and character assassinations causes mental pain, agony and suffering amounting to the reformulated concept of cruelty in matrimonial law causing profound and lasting disruption and causes the wife to feel deeply hurt and reasonably apprehend that it would be dangerous for her to live with a husband who was taunting her like that and rendered the maintenance of matrimonial life impossible. Debashis Choudhury v. Nibedita Choudhury, Mat. App. 22 of 2018 decided on 24.09.2019.

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Alteration of Order – In View of Changed Circumstances

Sub-Section 2 of Section 25 of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act provides that the aggrieved person or the respondent may approach before the Magistrate by filing an application for alteration, modification or revocation of any order made under this Act. If any such application is filed before the Magistrate praying for alteration, modification or revocation of any order made under this Act either by the aggrieved person or by the respondent then the Magistrate may for reasons to be recorded in writing pass order, as he may deem appropriate. Sub-Section 2 of Section 25 of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act has conferred right both on the aggrieved person and the respondent to approach before the Magistrate for alteration, modification or revocation of any order made under this Act. Sub-Section 1 of Section 25 is restricted only to the protection orders under Section 18 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. The recourse under Sub-Section 1 of Section 25 can be availed of only by the aggrieved person not by the respondent. Whereas, Sub-Section 2 of Section 25 deals with the alteration, modification and revocation of any order made under the Act and recourse can be taken both by the aggrieved person and the respondent. The scope of application of Sub-Section 2 of Section 25 is much wider than Sub-Section 1 of Section 25. In view of the provision as contained in Sub-Section 2 of Section 25, it can be presumed that the order passed under the Act is not perpetual in nature and the order passed under this Act may be altered, modified or revoked, if there is a change in the circumstances and for that purpose the aggrieved person or the respondent may approach before the Magistrate under the Act. If such prayer is made the Magistrate may for reasons to be recorded in writing pass such order, as he may deem appropriate. Krishnendu Das Thakur v. State of West Bengal, (2019) 3 HLR 114.

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In-Laws Home – Cannot Be A ‘Shared Household’

In Shumita Didi Sandhu v. Sanjay Singh Sandhu, (2010) 174 DLT 79 (DB), the ld. Division Bench was considering a judgment of the Single Judge which had followed S.R. Batra v. Taruna Batra, (2007) 3 SCC 169 and held that the in-laws home cannot be a ‘shared household’ or the ‘matrimonial home’ and hence the daughter in law has no legal right to stay in the house belonging to her parents in law. The ld. Division then approved the view of the Single Judge and followed S.R. Batra v. Taruna Batra, (2007) 3 SCC 169. It concluded that the right of residence of the wife does not mean the right to reside in a particular property but would mean the right to reside in a commensurate property. The right of residence is not the same thing as a right to reside in a particular property which the appellant refers to as her ‘matrimonial home’. The Single Judge’s judgment was upheld and it was observed that the learned single Judge had amply protected the plaintiff by directing that she would not be evicted from the premises in question without following the due process of law. Vinay Varma v. Kanika Pasricha, (2020) 1 DMC 180.

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Provisions Under Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Act and Domestic Violence Act

Some broad guidelines as set out below, can be followed by Courts in order to strike a balance between the PSC Act and the DV Act:

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. Vinay Varma v. Kanika Pasricha, (2020) 1 DMC 180.

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Domestic Relationship – At Any Point of Time

The problem arises with the meaning of phrase “at any point of time”. That does not mean that living together at any stage in the past would give right to a person to become aggrieved person to claim domestic relationship. At any point of time, indicates that the aggrieved person has been continuously living in the shared household as a matter of right, but if for some reason if the aggrieved person has to leave the house temporarily and when she returns she is not allowed to enjoy her right to live in the property. Where a family member leaves the shared household to establish his or her own household, he or she cannot claim to have a right to move an application under Section 12 of the DV Act on the basis of domestic relationship. This proposition of law came up before the Delhi High Court in the case of Vijay Verma v. State (NCT) of Delhi reported in (2010) 172 DLT 660, wherein it has been observed as under:

6. A perusal of this provision makes it clear that domestic relationship arisen in respect of an aggrieved person if the aggrieved person had lived together with the respondent in a shared household. This living together can be either soon before filing of petition or ‘at any point of time’. The problem arises with the meaning of phrase “at any point of time”. Does that mean that living together at any stage in the past would give right to a person to become aggrieved person to claim domestic relationship? I consider that “at any point of time” under the Act only means where an aggrieved person has been continuously living in the shared household as a matter of right but for some reason the aggrieved person has to leave the house temporarily and when she returns, she is not allowed to enjoy her right to live in the property. However, “at any point of time” cannot be defined as “at any point of time in the past” whether the right to live survives or not. For example if there is a joint family where father has several sons with daughters-in-law living in a house and ultimately sons, one by one or together, decide that they should live separate with their own families and they establish separate household and start living with their respective families separately at different places; can it be said that wife of each of the sons can claim a right to live in the house of father-in-law because at one point of time she along with her husband had lived in the shared household. If this meaning is given to the shared household then the whole purpose of Domestic Violence Act shall stand defeated. Where a family member leaves the shared household to establish his own household, and actually establishes his own household, he cannot claim to have a right to move an application under Section 12 of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act on the basis of domestic relationship. Domestic relationship comes to an end once the son along with his family moved out of the joint family and established his own household or when a daughter gets married and establishes her own household with her husband. Such son, daughter, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, if they have any right in the property say because of coparcenary or because of inheritance, such right can be claimed by an independent civil suit and an application under Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act cannot be filed by a person who has established his separate household and ceased to have a domestic relationship. Domestic relationship continues so long as the parties live under the same roof and enjoy living together in a shared household. Only a compelled or temporarily going out by aggrieved person shall fall in phrase ‘at any point of time’, say, wife has gone to her parents house or to a relative or some other female member has gone to live with her some relative, and, all her articles and belongings remain within the same household and she has not left the household permanently, the domestic relationship continues. However, where the living together has been given up and a separate household is established and belongings are removed, domestic relationship comes to an end and a relationship of being relatives of each other survives. This is very normal in families that a person whether, a male or a female attains self sufficiency after education or otherwise and takes a job lives in some other city or country, enjoys life there, settles home there. He cannot be said to have domestic relationship with the persons whom he left behind. His relationship that of a brother and sister, father and son, father and daughter, father and daughter-in-law etc. survives but the domestic relationship of living in a joint household would not survive & comes to an end. N.S. Lellavathi v. Dr. R. Shilpa Brunda, Cri. Revision Petition No. 1146 of 2019 decided on 11.12.2019

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Cruelty Under Section 498-A – Prosecution Has to Prove Wilful Conduct

Cruelty under Section 498A means any willful conduct which is of such nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide. It also means harassment of the woman where such harassment is with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand. Therefore, the prosecution has to prove a willful conduct, which is of such nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide. No such willful conduct has been established because none of the witnesses have given evidence to have seen the Accused indulging in such willful conduct that could drive a woman to commit suicide. Moreover, if a woman is harassed, that harassment should be with a view to coercing her or any person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security, or is on account of failure by her or any person related to her to meet such demand. Therefore, the prosecution has to prove that there was any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security by the Accused. None of the witnesses have stated that there was any such demand by the Accused. Therefore, the charge under Section 498A cannot stick. State of Maharashtra v. Anil Kurkotti, (2019) 3 HLR 823.

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Right to Reside in Matrimonial Home – No Liability of Builder

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 Protection of Women from Domestic Violence 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.

When a builder has discharged his obligation by accommodating the original owners in the redeveloped portion as per 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 Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Act. Neither MHADA, nor the builder can have any further legal obligation to rehouse her. She was an occupier under Section 2 (25) of the MHADA Act, 1976 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. Aishwarya Atul Pusalkar v. Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority, Civil Appeal No. 7231 of 2012 (SC).

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