Supreme Court explained the ambit of Sec 2(s) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

Overruling its Batra Judgment the Hon’bleSupreme Court explained the ambit of Sec 2(s) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. The Court had ruled that the definition of ‘shared household’ as stated in Section 2(s) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 can’t be read to denote that shared household can merely 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.


Main issues in present Case

  1. Whether the 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 a joint family or in which husband of the aggrieved person has a share?
  2. Whether the 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. Section 2(s) Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 – Section 2(s) states that ” 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”.

Observation of Hon’ble Supreme Court

  •  Referring to the words  “lives or at any stage has lived in a domestic relationship” of Section 2(s) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, the Court held that it has to be given its normal and purposeful meaning. The bench observed that:

From the above definition, following is clear: – (i) it is not a 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.

The living of a woman in a household has to refer to a living which has some permanency. Mere fleeting or casual living at different places shall not make a shared household. The intention of the parties and the nature of living including the nature of household have to be looked into to find out as to whether the parties intended to treat the premises as shared household or not. As noted above, Act 2005 was enacted to give a higher right in favour of a woman. The Act, 2005 has been enacted to provide for more effective protection of the rights of the woman who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family. The Act has to be interpreted in a manner to effectuate the very purpose and object of the Act. Section 2(s) read with Sections 17 and 19 of Act, 2005 grants an entitlement in favour of the woman of the right of residence under the shared household irrespective of her having any legal interest in the same or not.

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  • In the case of S.R. Batra and Anr. Vs. Taruna Batra, (2007) 3 SCC 169
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    , where two-Judge Bench of this Court held that the wife is entitled only to claim a right under Section 17(1) the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act to the residence in a shared household and a shared household would only mean the house belonging to or taken on rent by the husband or the house which belongs to the joint family of which the husband is a member. The court had further added that claim for alternative accommodation can only be made against the husband and not against the husband’s in-laws or other relatives. Disagreeing with the Batra’s verdict, the bench said that observation articulated by the bench was not true. The court noted that:

The observation of this Court in S.R. Batra Vs. Taruna Batra that definition of the 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 a shared household is the clear and exhaustive definition as observed by us. The object and purpose of the Act were to grant a right to the aggrieved person, a woman of residence in a shared household. The interpretation which is put by this Court in S.R. Batra Vs. Taruna Batra if accepted shall clearly frustrate the object and purpose of the Act. We, thus, are of the opinion that the interpretation of the definition of a shared household as put by this Court in S.R. Batra Vs. Taruna Batra is not correct interpretation and the said judgment does not lay down the correct law.

The expression “at any stage has lived” has been used to protect the women from denying the benefit of the right to live in a shared household on the ground that on the date when the application is filed, she was excluded from the possession of the house or temporarily absent. The use of the expression “at any stage has lived” is for the above purpose and not with the object that wherever the aggrieved person has lived with the relatives of husband, all such houses shall become shared household, which is not the legislative intent. The shared household is contemplated to be the household, which is a dwelling place of the aggrieved person in present time. When we look into the different kinds of orders or reliefs, which can be granted on an application filed by the aggrieved person, all orders contemplate providing protection to the women in reference to the premises in which aggrieved person is or was in possession. Our above conclusion is further fortified by the statutory scheme as delineated by Section 19 of the Act, 2005. In the event, the definition of the 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 along with the relatives of the husband shall become shared household, there will be a 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 an 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.

Case Name: SATISH CHANDER AHUJA vs. SNEHA AHUJA

Case No.: CIVIL APPEAL NO.2483 of 2020

Coram: Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah

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