S. Meenavathi vs Senthamarai Selvi
DATE OF JUDGEMENT:
24th August, 2009
JUSTICE G.M.Akbar Ali
S. Meenavathi (Petitioner)
1. Senthamarai Selvi
3.Minor Harinarayani (Respondent)
This case mainly dealt with ‘shared household’ in section Sec. 2(s) of the the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and Section 19(1) (b) wherein the wife can have a claim to residence of the shared household.
- On June 30, 1999, the petitioner's son, Suresh, married the first respondent. Two children were born out of wedlock, and the marriage life was not cheerful.
- The petitioner's son issued a legal notice, seeking a divorce, and the first respondent filed an action for partition, claiming a stake in the property owned by the petitioner's son, based on a difference of opinion between them.
- Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code deals with matrimonial cruelty towards a woman either from the husband or a relative of the husband.
- Section 19(1) (b) of Domestic Violence Act, 2005 states that the removal of women family members is prohibited/illegal.
- Whether the term "respondent" in the Act would include a woman ?
- Whether an application under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, is maintainable against women members.
ANALYSIS OF THE JUDGEMENT
- The first respondent gave a complaint and a case was registered in Crime No.7 of 2008 for the alleged offence under Sections 498-A, 406 and 294(b) of I.P.C. The first respondent filed M.C.No.36 of 2008 and Crl.M.P.No.4742 of 2008, on the file of the learned Judicial Magistrate, Vedasandur, under Sections 12 and 23 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and the petitioner had granted shared household rights without any basis and also claimed monetary relief under Sections 17 & 19 of the Act and the impugned complaint was not maintainable against this petitioner. It is only harassment, which had to be quashed, otherwise, an irreparable loss would’ve been caused to the petitioner.
- The learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that the petitioner is the mother-in-law, who has nothing to do with the marital life of the first respondent and her son and she has been harassed by the first respondent and the petitioner has initiated the proceedings under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. The learned counsel for the petitioner pointed out that in Crl.M.P.No.4742 of 2008, the learned Magistrate has passed an order, which is against law.
- In Uma Narayanan Vs. Priya Krishna Prasad reported in (2008 (3) MLJ (Crl)756), held that the term "respondent" in the Act will mean only an adult male person and not a woman and an application under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, is not maintainable as against women members. It was further held that in the guise of passing an order under Section 19(1) (b) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, such women members of the family cannot be directed to be removed from the shared household.
- Whereas, the learned counsel for the respondent submitted that the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, is a beneficial legislation and women driven away from the matrimonial home and the petitioner is the mother-in-law, being the root cause, cannot escape from the provision of the Act, and therefore, the proceedings are maintainable and cannot be quashed. The learned counsel for the respondent relied on the unreported judgment of this Court in Crl.O.P(MD) No.11066 of 2008, wherein this Court has held that the respondent includes a relative of the husband.
- The petition was dismissed in the present case and it was decided that the term "shared home" does not exclude any woman from the respondent's family – even in cases of joint shared families – because of the benefit of Section 19 (1) (b) of Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
The ability of a society to account for the interests of its women is used to measure its progress. The guarantee of equal rights and advantages for women in India's Constitution was a significant step in changing women's status. In India, domestic violence is on the rise. However, the number of cases reported is extremely low. According to societal laws, women are trained to be second-class citizens and are constantly oppressed. They must speak up for their rights. As a result, the Domestic Abuse Act assists women in finding a position in society and feeling safe from injury and violence. Domestic abuse cases are not reported in India due to social stigma, and this needs to change. Consequently, women have started voicing their concerns and opinions.
In the present case, the mother-in-law of the respondent has tried to do away with the daughter-in-law’s right to claim residence, however, that is wrong, therefore, the court has ruled in favour of the respondent. This reveals the conflicted relationship the parties had between them. The law should define the rights of both, the daughter-in-law and the mother-in-law. Unless the position of law is made clear, confusion and uncertainty in lower courts will consequently result in inconsistencies in judgments rendered by Courts leading to additional burdens for both parties.
Click here to download the original copy of the judgement