Smt. S. Vanitha Vs. The Deputy Commissioner, Bengaluru Urban District & Ors

Judges Name: Hon’ble Judges Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud J, Indu Malhotra J, Indira Banerjee J

Order dated: 15.12.2020

“Eviction proceedings under Senior Citizens Act, 2007 cannot override the Right of Residence of woman in a shared household as per protection of women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005”

Facts of the case: 

  • The appellant and the Fourth respondent were married on 30 May 2002. Before the marriage, the appellant’s husband owned property in his name. A few years later, however, he subsequently sold it under a sale deed to his father. Soon after a marital dispute emerged between the couple and the husband of the appellant instituted divorce proceedings against her.
  • The appellant alleges that she was harassed for dowry and even compelled to institute a suit for partition against her father in 2003 which she later withdrew, after her spouse allegedly deserted her to be in a relationship with another woman. The subject matter of the controversy is a residential house situated at Gangondonahalli, Dasanapura, Hobli, Bengaluru North Taluk. The land was purchased by the Fourth respondent on 2 May 2002, a few months before the appellant married him. The appellant alleges that her father had financed a portion of this purchase. The fourth respondent sold the land to his father – the third respondent – on 5 October 2006. The Transaction of sale between the father and the son was for the same amount of Rs.1.19 lacs as the Fourth Respondent paid for the initial purchase of the property in 2002. By then, the appellant and the Fourth respondent had a daughter. In 2009, the Fourth respondent instituted a petition for divorce under Section 13(1)(ia) and (ib) of Hindu Marriage Act 1955 before the Senior Civil Judge and Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Nelamangala.
  • After the divorce proceedings were instituted, the husband’s father gave it to his wife, that is, to the appellant’s mother-in-law. The appellant has instituted the harassment proceedings against her husband and mother-in-law for the dowry. While the proceedings were pending, the appellant’s in-laws lodged an application pursuant to the Senior Citizens Act 2007 seeking to evict their daughter-in-law from their residential domicile.
  • The Assistant Commissioner allowed the application of the appellant’s in-laws and the Deputy Commissioner appealed and upheld it. The appellant filed a writ proceeding under Article 226 of the Constitution before the Single Judge and the Division Bench of the High Court of Karnataka. The Division Bench upheld the Order of the Deputy Commissioner and directed the appellant to vacate the suit premises. The appellant moved under Article 136 of the Constitution of India to the Supreme Court to challenge the jurisdiction of the Assistant Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner to order her to be evicted under the Senior Citizens Act, 2007.

Supreme Court held:

  • The Supreme Court held that the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 does not have an overriding effect over the right of residence of a woman in a shared household under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDV) 2005. Section 17 of the PWDV, 2005 provides that every woman in a domestic relationship shall have the right to reside in the shared household, whether or not she has any right, title or beneficial interest in the same. Here, the arising conflict between the provisions of PWDV, 2005 and Senior Citizen Act, 2007 was resolved by the court by relying on their legislative scheme.
  • The bench observed that, under the Senior Citizens Act 2007, the Tribunal may have the authority to order an eviction if it is necessary and reasonable to ensure the maintenance and protection of the senior citizen or parent. However, the remedy of eviction can be granted only after adverting to the competing claims in the dispute.
  • The provisions of PWDV, 2005, and the Senior Citizen Act, 2007 were harmoniously interpreted by the court. It noted that Section 3 of Senior Citizens Act, 2007 laid that its provisions will affect, notwithstanding anything inconsistent contained in any enactment. Furthermore, Section 36 of the PWDV, 2005 stipulates that the provisions of the Act shall be in addition to, and not in derogation of, the provisions of any other law for the time being in force. The object of the provision is to ensure that the remedies given under the enactment are in addition to and do not displace other remedies. The court observed that the principles of statutory interpretation dictate that in the event of two special acts, both containing a non-obstante clause, the latter will prevail over the former. The court ruled that in case of conflict between the provisions of two statutes, an enquiry is to be made between the dominant purposes of both the Act, to decide which should prevail over the other.
  • Therefore, the court held that allowing the Senior Citizens Act 2007 to have an overriding force and effect in all situations, irrespective of competing entitlements of a woman to the right in a shared household within the meaning of the Domestic Violence Act 2005, would defeat the object and purpose which the Parliament sought to achieve in enacting the latter legislation.
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