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DV Landmark Judgement #6: V D Bhanot Vs Savita Bhanot: Woman Can Seek Relief Under Pwd Act Regardless Of Whether She Lived Independently Or Was Subjected To Domestic Violence Prior To The Enactment Of The Act

Sharmishta ,
  31 March 2022       Share Bookmark

Court :
The Supreme Court of India
Brief :

Citation :
Special Leave Petition (Crl.) NO. 3916 OF 2010

Date of judgment:
7 February 2012

Bench:
Justice Altamas Kabir
Justice Chelameswar

Parties:
Petitioner – V.D. Bhanot
Respondent – Savita Bhanot

Subject

In India, the rate of Domestic Violence is more than 55%. In such conditions, it absolutely becomes the need of the hour for a law to govern the issue. Thus, The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWD Act), 2005 was established.

The objective of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWD Act, 2005) is to protect women from domestic abuse by their spouses, and hence the Act should be interpreted in favour of those women who are victims of domestic abuse. The Apex Court, in this judgment,gave the aggrieved relief under the PWD Act, even though the subjected case of domestic violence took place before the establishment of the Act.

Legal Provisions

  • Section 12 in The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWD Act), 2005 – Provides relief through payment of compensation or damages without prejudice to a person whose rights have been infringed due to acts of domestic violence committed by the respondent. An aggrieved person or any other person on behalf of the aggrieved person may present an application to the magistrate under this act seeking one or more reliefs.
  • Section 18 in The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005- Provides a protection order favoring the aggrieved person given by the magistrate after hearing both sides and being satisfied that domestic violence has occurred or is likely to occur. It prohibits the respondent from causing any sort of inconvenience or harm in any way to the aggrieved or people assisting the aggrieved.
  • Section 19 in The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005- Provides a residence order, a follow-up order of section 18. It restrains the Respondent from disturbing the possessions of the aggrieved from the shared household in any manner. It also orders the respondent to remove himself from the shared household and secure the same level of alternate accommodation for the aggrieved person or to pay rent for the same if required.
  • Section 20 in The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005- Provides for monetary reliefs suffered by the aggrieved person or any child of the aggrieved person as a result of the domestic violence.
  • Article 21 in the Constitution of India, 1949- Protects the ‘right to life’ and ‘right to personal liberty.’

Overview

  • In 2006, the respondent filed an application before the Metropolitan magistrate for interim reliefs under the protection of women against domestic violence Act,2005.
  • While granting the respondent's application, the magistrate directed the petitioner to pay a sum of Rs.6000 per month and let the respondent live in her matrimonial home under section 19 of the aforementioned Act. The petitioner further challenged this order before the Delhi High Court, but the same was rejected.
  • On 26th February 2008, the petitioner filed another application for the respondent to be evicted from the government accommodation as he had retired from the Armed Forces services.
  • Following this, the magistrate directed the petitioner to let the respondent live on the house's first floor, which was claimed to be the respondent's permanent matrimonial home. The magistrate further directed that if that wasn't feasible, then the respondent was to find alternative accommodation in the vicinity of the same location the respondent and that if the second option also was not viable, then the petitioner would have to pay a sum of Rs.10,000 per month to the respondent as rental charges under section 19 and 20 of the Act.
  • Dissatisfied with the order, the respondent appealed to the learned Additional Sessions Judge on 18th September 2009, which was also dismissed.
  • The question that arose before the Delhi HC was if the petition under the provisions of the PWD act, 2005, was maintainable by a woman who no longer resided with her husband or was allegedly subjected to any act of domestic violence before the establishment of the PWD act. The learned judge held, with the view of protecting women's rights under articles 14, 15, and 21, that the petition was maintainable even if the acts of domestic violence had been committed before the establishment of the said Act. Therefore, the learned judge set aside the order passed by the additional sessions judge and directed him to consider the appeal filed by the respondent, leading to the special leave petition against the said order dated 22nd March 2010.
  • While the special leave petition was in motion, the petitioner, on 15th September 2011, submitted an application for the withdrawal of the special leave petition due to the dissolution of the dispute between him and the respondent on mutual grounds. Following this, the matter was taken by the Supreme Court mediation center. However, when the matter was listed, the petitioner filed another application, praying that settlement between the parties to be annulled. Thereafter, the matter was recorded on camera in chambers to ascertain the reason for the change of heart.
  • It was observed that the petitioner was reluctant to get back with his wife, even though she wanted to re-join his company, and insisted upon the mutual settlement to be annulled as he wasn't ready to take her back.

Issues

  • Whether the petition under PWD Act, 2005, is maintainable by a woman who no longer resides with her husband or was allegedly subjected to any act of domestic violence before the establishment of the PWD act?

Judgment Analysis

  • The case of V.D. Bhanot versus Savita Bhanot was one in which the Apex Court, agreeing with the High Court, contended that even if a wife had shared a household in the past but was no longer doing so when the Act came into force, she would still be entitled to the protection under the PWD act, 2005.
  • The court held that the respondent was presently residing with her old parents after she had to vacate her matrimonial home and the couple had no children, which also indicated that the respondent was living without any proper shelter or protection and any means of sustenance except for Rs.6000 per month.
  • Later on, the magistrate passed another order stating that the respondent was to reside in her matrimonial home. However, on the petitioners' retirement, the respondent was compelled to vacate the home, and a new direction was given to the petitioner to let the respondent live on the first floor of a house and, if that was not feasible, to provide Rs.10,000 per month to the respondent for rental charges for acquiring accommodation of her choice under Sections 18 and 19 of the aforementioned Act.
  • The court further contended that the case comes within the ambit of section 3 of the PWD act, 2005, and thus, no interference is required for the impugned order of the High Court. Nevertheless, keeping in mind that the couple is childless and that the respondent has herself expressed apprehension about her safety if she were to live alone, the court kept in mind the objective of the Act to provide adequate protection to women who are victims of domestic abuse, stated that the order of the High Court requires modifications.
  • The order passed by the High Court was, thus, modified by providing the respondent with the right to reside where the petitioner is residing, by way of relief under section 19 of the PWD act and protection orders under section 18 of the Act. Furthermore, the court stated that as far as monetary relief was concerned, a sum of Rs.6000 per month was already being provided to the respondent for her expenses by the petitioner on the learned judge's orders.
  • It was further contended under section 19 of the PWD Act, 2005 that the petitioner must provide a suitable portion of his residence with all necessary amenities to the respondent for her to reside in by 29 February 2012. The said portion of the premises must be appropriately furnished according to the respondent's choice to enable her to live in dignity. Consequently, the sum of Rs.10,000 That was to be paid to the respondent for obtaining an alternative accommodation was reduced to Rs.4000. This amount was to be paid and the sum of Rs.6000 for the respondents' maintenance.
  • In case the aforesaid arrangement isn't feasible, the parties will be at liberty to apply to the court for further directions.Therefore, the special leave petition was disposed of accordingly, and no order as to cost was charged.

Conclusion

A woman's petition under the PWD Act, 2005 is maintainable regardless of whether she lives independently or was subject to domestic violence prior to the implementation of the PWD Act. In India, legislation is formed to serve justice to its people and is interpreted according to the requirements of the time. The same was observed in this instance, where, despite the fact that the specific statute was not enacted at the time the offense occurred, the Hon'ble Court construed the law while keeping its fundamental objective in mind, i.e., to serve justice to the aggrieved domestic violence victim by using the law to protect her.

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