What is a shared residence under Domestic Violence Act.

In fact, the very purpose of enacting the DV Act was to provide for a remedy which is an amalgamation of civil rights of the complainant i.e. aggrieved person. Intention was to protect women against violence of any kind, especially that occurring within the family as the civil law does not address this phenomenon in its entirety. It is treated as an offence Under Section 498-A of the Penal Code, 1860. The purpose of enacting the law was to provide a remedy in the civil law for the protection of women from being victims of domestic violence and to prevent the occurrence of domestic violence in the society. It is for this reason, that the Scheme of the Act provides that in the first instance, the order that would be passed by the Magistrate, on a complaint by the aggrieved person, would be of a civil nature and if the said order is violated, it assumes the character of criminality…”

[ Source: Kunapareddy Alias NookalaShanka Balaji Vs. Kunapareddy Swarna Kumari and Anr., (2016) 11 SCC 774]

Section 2(s), of Domestic Violence Act defines shared household asunder:

“(s) “shared household” means a household where the person aggrieved lives or at any stage has lived in a domestic relationship either singly or along with the respondent and includes such a household whether owned or tenanted either jointly by the aggrieved person and the respondent, or owned or tenanted by either of them in respect of which either the aggrieved person or the respondent or both jointly or singly have any right, title, interest or equity and includes such a household which may belong to the joint family of which the respondent is a member, irrespective of whether the respondent or the aggrieved person has any right, title or interest in the shared household;”

Questions raised before the Court:

(1) Whether 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?

(2) Whether judgment of this Court in S.R. Batra and Anr. Vs. Taruna Batra, (2007) 3 SCC 169 has not correctly interpreted the provision of Section 2(s) of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and does not lay down a correct law?


(3) 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? (4) 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?

(5) Whether the plaintiff 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 ? (6) 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 ?

(7) Whether the husband of aggrieved party (defendant) is necessary party in the suit filed by the plaintiff against the defendant? (8) What is the effect of orders passed under Section 19 of the Act, 2005 whether interim or final passed in the proceedings initiated in a civil court of competent jurisdiction?

Conclusions of Supreme Court:

The definition of shared household in Section 2(s) is an exhaustive definition. The first part of definition begins with expression “means” which is undoubtedly an exhaustive definition and second part of definition, which begins with word “includes” is explanatory of what was meant by the definition.

The definition can be divided in two parts, first, which follows the word “means” and second which follows the word “includes”. The second part which follows “includes” can be further sub-divided in two parts. The first part reads “shared household means a household where the person aggrieved has lived or at any stage has lived in a domestic relationship either singly or along with the respondent”. Thus, first condition to be fulfilled for a shared household is that person aggrieved lives or at any stage has lived in a domestic relationship. The second part sub- divided in two parts is-

(a) includes such a household whether owned or tenanted either jointly by the aggrieved person and the respondent and owned or tenanted by either of them in respect of which either the aggrieved person or the respondent or both jointly or singly have any right, title, interest or equity and

(b)includes such a household which may belong to the joint family of which the respondent is a member, irrespective of whether the respondent or the aggrieved person has any right, title or interest in the shared household. In the above definition, two expressions, namely, “aggrieved person” and “respondent” have occurred.

From the above definition, following is clear:-

(i) it is not requirement of law that aggrieved person may either own the premises jointly or singly or by tenanting it jointly or singly;

(ii) the household may belong to a joint family of which the respondent is a member irrespective of whether the respondent or the aggrieved person has any right, title or interest in the shared household; and

(iii) the shared household may either be owned or tenanted by the respondent singly or jointly.

In event, the definition of shared household as occurring in Section 2(s) is read to mean that all houses where the aggrieved person has lived in a domestic relationship alongwith the relatives of the husband shall become shared household, there will be number of shared household, which was never contemplated by the legislative scheme. The entire Scheme of the Act is to provide immediate relief to the aggrieved person with respect to the shared household where the aggrieved person lives or has lived. As observed above, the use of the expression “at any stage has lived” was only with intent of not denying the protection to aggrieved person merely on the ground that aggrieved person is not living as on the date of the application or as on the date when Magistrate concerned passes an order under Section 19. The apprehension expressed by this Court in paragraph 26 in S.R. Batra Vs. Taruna Batra (supra), thus, was not true apprehension and it is correct that in event such interpretation is accepted, it will lead to chaos and that was never the legislative intent. We, thus, are of the considered opinion 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 had been excluded from the use or she is temporarily absent.

The observation of this Court in S.R. Batra Vs. Taruna Batra (supra) that definition of shared household in Section 2(s) is not very happily worded and it has to be interpreted, which is sensible and does not lead to chaos in the society also does not commend us. The definition of shared household is clear and exhaustive definition as observed by us. The object and purpose of the Act was to grant a right to aggrieved person, a woman of residence in shared household. The interpretation which is put by this Court in S.R. Batra Vs. Taruna Batra (supra) if accepted shall clearly frustrate the object and purpose of the Act. We, thus, are of the opinion that the interpretation of definition of shared household as put by this Court in S.R. Batra Vs. Taruna Batra (supra) is not correct interpretation and the said judgment does not lay down the correct law.

The right to residence under Section 19 is not an indefeasible right of residence in shared household especially when the daughter-in-law is pitted against aged father-in-law and mother-in-law. The senior citizens in the evening of their life are also entitled to live peacefully not haunted by marital discord between their son and daughter-in-law. While granting relief both in application under Section 12 of Act, 2005 or in any civil proceedings, the Court has to balance the rights of both the parties.

Answer issue Nos. 1 and 2 was given in following manner:-

(i) 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 the joint family of which husband is a member or in which husband of the aggrieved person has a share. 

(ii) The judgment of this Court in S.R. Batra Vs. Taruna Batra (supra) has not correctly interpreted Section 2(s) of Act, 2005 and the judgment does not lay down a correct law. 
[Source: Satish Chander Ahuja vs Sneha Ahuja decided by SC on 15 October, 2020]

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