Mansimran Kaur

Chandigarh, May 13, 2022: The Supreme Court has held that even if the marital ties cease and there is no subsisting domestic relationship between the aggrieved woman and the respondent against whom relief is claimed but the acts of domestic violence are related to the period of domestic relationship, then the aggrieved woman who was subjected to domestic violence has remedies under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 

The Division Bench of Justice M.R.Shah and Justice B.V. Nagarathna observed that even if an aggrieved person is not in a domestic relationship with the respondent in a shared household at the time of filing of an application under Section 12 but has at any point of time lived so or had the right to live and has been subjected to domestic violence or is later subjected to domestic violence on account of the domestic relationship, is entitled to file an application under the Act.

The facts relevant for the perusal of the present appeal were that the appellant was married to one Kuldeep Tayagi who died in a car accident in 2005. The appellant-wife stated that she was threatened by her husband’s family that she would face dire consequences if she ever tried to claim any right over her husband’s property. She further submitted that she was tortured consistently by the respondents and was forced to move to Dehradun to live separately. So, she approached the Special Court under Section 12 under the D.V. Act. Later, the Trial Court partly allowed the application filed by the appellant-wife and directed the respondents to pay Rs.10,000 as monetary compensation 

Aggrieved by the same, the first respondent (mother- in-law of the appellant) preferred a criminal appeal before the Additional Sessions Judge. The First Appellate Court set aside the judgment of the Trial Court and when this was assailed by the appellant by way of criminal revision petition before the High Court of Uttarakhand, the Court dismissed the same and upheld the judgment pronounced by the First Appellate Court. Hence, the present appeal.

The Court considered its judgments in Juveria Abdul Majid Patni vs. Atif Iqbal Mansoori and Another, V.D. Bhanot vs. Savita, Saraswathy vs. Babu and extensively dealt with the interpretation of the  various provisions of the D.V. Act. It was further held that the expression “shared household” in the context of sub- section 1 of Section 17 cannot be confined to only a household wherein the aggrieved person resides or at any stage, resided in a domestic relationship. Thus, a mother, daughter, sister, wife, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law or such other categories of women in a domestic relationship have the right to reside in a shared household de hors a right, title or beneficial interest in the same, the Court observed. In view of the same, the Court stated that the right of residence of the aforesaid categories of women in a domestic relationship is protected under Section 17(1). “Right to reside” in a shared household thus holds wider connotation in respect to the aforesaid categories of women, the Top Court remarked. 

The Bench clarified that there should be a subsisting domestic relationship between the aggrieved person and the person against whom the relief is claimed vis-à-vis allegation of domestic violence. However, it is not necessary that at the time of filing of an application by an aggrieved person, the domestic relationship should be subsisting. The Bench also said, “In other words, the expression right to reside in the shared household is not restricted to only actual residence, as, irrespective of actual residence, a woman in a domestic relationship can enforce her right to reside in the shared household.”

On the question of whether the consideration of a domestic incident report is mandatory before initiating the proceedings under the D.V. Act, the Court held that Section 12 does not make it mandatory for a Magistrate to consider a Domestic Incident Report filed by a Protection Officer or service provider before passing any order under the D.V. Act. It was clarified that even in the absence of a Domestic Incident Report, a Magistrate is empowered to pass both ex parte or interim as well as a final order under the provisions of the D.V. Act.

In the light of the aforesaid observations, the Court in the instant case observed that the appellant had the right to reside in a shared-household as a daughter-in-law as she had a subsisting domestic relationship owing to her marriage and the appellant being the daughter-in-law had the right to reside in the shared household. Thus, the impugned judgment passed by the  High Court as well as the judgment passed by the Additional Sessions Judge were set aside and the order passed by the Judicial Magistrate was restored. 

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