A wife’s right to a common household under the Domestic Violence Act will rule against a decree obtained by her elderly in-laws under the Law on Seniors, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.
The order is supposed to offer necessary isolation to wives who are fighting court proceedings against hostile in-laws, providing them with a much-needed respite from eviction from a husband’s home. This decision follows a judgment handed down by the supreme court two months ago where the Court noted that even if the common household is a common family property where the husband has no legal right or action, the same must be treated as a common household for the wife continues to stay put.
The current case has sparked a rather interesting clash between two special laws – the 2005 Law on the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence (PWDV), which aims to protect wives faced in domestic violence, and the Parents and the Elderly Care and Welfare Act 2007, created for to protect the elderly by providing a quick and inexpensive means to secure their interests at an advanced stage of life.
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The bench of judges DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee analyzed both laws and found that Section 3 of the 2007 Act had a superior effect over any other law. It was this argument that the husband’s elderly parents used to expel an order against their daughter-in-law from their Bengaluru home. The Karnataka High Court on September 17, 2019 upheld the deportation order against the daughter-in-law, who appealed to the Supreme Court.
Coming to her rescue, the bench said, “Section 3 of the Senior Citizens’ Survey, 2007 cannot be deployed to ride through and repeal other protections in-law especially that of a woman’s right to a common household under Section 17 of the 2005 PWDV Act.”
The bench observed that both laws are intended to address salutary aspects of public welfare and interest. However the definition of “common household” was exhaustive, the bench observed, citing the October 2020 ruling given by the supreme court in dealing with similar facts where the wife sought to be evicted by a court order of the elderly in-laws. who owned the house in question.
Judge Chandrachud, writing the judgment for the bench, said, “The law protecting the interest of the elderly aims to ensure that they do not remain poor, or under the power of their children or relatives. Equally, the purpose of the PWDV Act of 2005 cannot be ignored for lack of legal interpretation. Both laws must be interpreted harmoniously. “
The bench protected the petitioner’s wife and ordered that neither the husband nor her fathers-in-law would forcibly attempt to evict her from her common household for one year until she used her resources under the PWDV Act.
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The Court said that in similar situations where a wife receives assistance from a court under the Elderly Act, she will have to inform the magistrate hearing her case under the PWDV Act.
In the present case, as the appeal in divorce proceedings between spouses is pending, the Court directed the restoration of electrical connection due to non-payment of fees and asked the husband to continue to pay the electricity costs. The applicant’s residence is located at Hobli in Bengaluru North. The lawsuit against the petitioner was instituted by her mother-in-law under the Seniors Act, in 2015. Prior to that, in December 2013, a court ordered a divorce and in March 2014, the petitioner sought maintenance and even appealed to the High Court against the divorce decree. , which is still pending.