Domestic Violence In India: Reinterpreting The Meaning Of Shared Households

Domestic Violence

Recent development on Domestic Violence

Recently the Supreme Court in the case of Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma[1] held that daughters have equal coparcenary rights. In the footprints of this judgment, came the judgement of Satish Chander Ahuja v. Sneha Ahuja[2]which secured the rights of women in general and particular;y in divorce cases. The judgement was pronounced on 15-10-2020 by a bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah. The Supreme Court also quoted that domestic violence in the country is rampant, and several women in the country face violence in some form or the other every day.

The court while providing residential rights to women fighting divorce cases against their husband held that they could not be dispossessed from the marital household on the ground that the husbands do not wholly or partly own the property. The Supreme Court while pronouncing this judgement overruled 2006 judgment of SR Batra vs Smt Taruna Batra[3].

Facts of the Case

  • A matrimonial dispute arose between Raveen Ahuja and Sneha Ahuja. Satish Chandra, who is the father-in-law of Sneha and also the appellant in this case, had purchased house no. D-1077 in Friends Colony, New Delhi. Appellant’s wife, son (Raveen) and daughter-in-law (Sneha) were living in the said Premises.
  • The father-in-law and his wife resided on the Ground Floor, and his son and daughter-in-law resided on the First Floor of the Premises.
  • Later appellant’s son moved out of the first floor and started staying in the guest room of the ground floor and filed a Divorce Petition on 28.11.2014 under Section 13 (1) (ia) and (iii) of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 on the ground of cruelty.
  • Subsequent to this Sneha filed an application under Sec 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 alleging that she had been subjected to severe emotional and mental abuse.

Proceedings before the Metropolitan Magistrate 

The Magistrate directed the appellant, his wife and his son to neither alienate Sneha from the shared household nor dispossess her from the said house until further orders.

Proceedings before the Trial Court

  • Aggrieved by the order, Satish Chandra filed a Suit in the Trial Court against Sneha seeking her removal from the premises in order to lead a peaceful life. He further pleads that the complaint was not true and was file with bad intentions because Raveen already file a Divorce Petition. It was further allege that the in-laws, have also subjected to violence by Sneha on many occasions.
  • The Magistrate’s Order was further challenged on the ground that Satish being the Father-in-Law is not responsible for maintaining Sneha during the lifetime of her husband.
  • The Trial Court on 08-04-2019 passed an order whereby the Daughter-in-Law, i.e. Sneha, asked to vacate the physical possession of the premises.

Proceedings before the Delhi High Court

  • Sneha filed an appeal before the Delhi High Court who reverted the matter to the Trial Court for proper adjudication.
  • The High Court observe since the matter was pending before domestic violence Magistrate. The Trial Court’s Order which direct Sneha to vacate the house. In a situation where she allegedly made to face domestic violence, would cause serious prejudice against her.
  • “The High Court further reiterate that persons affect by domestic violence should have a right to reside in a shared household, irrespective of the fact whether or not they are the owner of the shared household, as long as they can prove that they had endured domestic violence while being in a domestic relationship with the owner of such premises. The court further held that under Section 19 (1) (f) of the 2005 Act Sneha should given an alternate accommodation till the time her matrimonial relationship subsists.”

Proceedings before the Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court observed that the aim of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Was to secure the rights of aggrieved persons in a domestic relationship in a shared household.
  • Domestic relationships would not just mean the relationships between a husband and a wife. It would also include relationships arising out of adoption, consanguinityetc as enumerated in Section 2 (f) of the D.V Act.
  • In the given case it was beyond doubt that Raveen and Sneha were in a domestic relationship. They were husband and wife and thus were cover under the Section 2 (f).
  • The next discussion that the court took up was to see if Raveen and Sneha were living in a shared household. Section 2 (s) of the D.V Act enumerates as to what constitutes as a shared household.
  • The court held that the right of occupation of matrimonial home. Which was earlier not part of any statutory law in India, recognized in the D.V Act of 2005. The court referred to the judgement Attavar vs. Neelam Manmohan Attavar[4] wherein the Supreme Court held that the Act was intended to give an entitlement in favor of the women with regards to the right of residence under the shared household irrespective of her having any legal interests in the same.
  • The court observed that even if the house belong to her father-in-law. And Raveen had no share in the house belongings. But Sneha living in the first floor of the house since her marriage in a domestic relationship.

The Court finally said that a wife is entitle to claim the right to residence in a shared household. Belonging to either the husband or the relatives of the husband where he stays during the divorce proceedings.


[1] CIVIL APPEAL NO.32601 of 2018

[2]CIVIL APPEAL NO.2483 of 2020

[3]Appeal (Civil) 5837 of 2006 

[4] (2017) 8 SCC 550.

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