The bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, MR Shah and Subhash Reddy was considering a petition filed by the father- in- law who claimed that the suit property is exclusively owned by him and was not a shared household. His son, it was contended, had no right in the property. The appellant had purchased a property in 1983. In 1995, his son got married and started staying on the first floor with his wife. In 2014, the husband filed for divorce alleging cruelty by the wife. In 2015, the wife filed a case against her husband, father –in-law and mother- in- law under the Domestic Violence Act. However in the trial court, the father- in- law stated that he and his wife were victims of domestic violence by the daughter-in-law and that he had no duty to maintain the daughter – in- law when the husband was alive.
The daughter in law had claimed that she cannot be removed from the house as it was a shared household, and that she had a right to reside therein. The trial court in April 2019 granted asked the daughter- in- law to handover possession of the property to the appellant.
In an appeal against this order, the Delhi High Court set aside the trial court decree and sent the matter back for fresh adjudication in December 2019. The High Court also noted that the husband needed to be made a party to the case. Thus, the father- in- law approached the Supreme Court against this order, seeking that the trial court verdict be upheld.
The primary contention of the father- in- law stemmed from the verdict of the Supreme Court Bench of Justices SB Sinha and Markandey katju in SR Batra and Anr.v. Taruna Batra, where it was held that since the house belongs to the mother-in-law of the wife and does not belong to the husband, the wife cannot claim any right to live in the said house.
However, overruling the SR Batra verdict, the present Bench held that “shared household referred to in Section 2(s) is the shared household of aggrieved person where was living at the time”. It was stated that, “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 ashare.
The pendency of proceedings under Domestic Violence Act, or any order interim or final passed under the DV Act under Section 19 regarding right of residence is not an embargo for initiating or continuing any civil proceedings, which relate to the subject matter of order interim or final passed in proceedings under the DV Act.
The bench went on to highlight the precarious position of women in Indian society, and the reasons why domestic violence cases go unreported. “ the domestic violence in this country is rampant and several women encounter violence in some form or the other or almost everyday. The reason why most cases of domestic violence are never reported is due to the social stigma of the society and the attitude of the women themselves, where women are expected to be subservient , not just to their male counterparts but also to the male’s relatives.
Thus Court overruled the SR batra verdict, where it was held that if the house belongs to the mother- in- law of the wife and does not belong to the husband, the wife cannot claim any right to live in the said house.