Claiming Right over Property of Deceased Husband is a Civil Dispute and not a Complaint under Domestic Violence Act

In the case B.Sakunthala vs Vasantha decide on 7 September, 2016 the High Court of Madras has held that "the right over the property in the capacity as wife of the deceased husband, the remedy is only to file a Civil Suit for declaration of her rights and there cannot be a complaint under Domestic Violence Act".

In this case the Petitioner had purchased a house owned by her father in which the Respondent who is the wife of the deceased brother of the Petitioner used to reside as a tenant. The Respondentsí husband was working as Office Assistant, who died on 16.06.2003 and the Respondent herein has been receiving a sum of Rs.12,000/- as family pension. The father executed a sale deed in favour of the Petitioner through a registered sale deed dated 23.09.2015 for a sale consideration of Rs.12,40,000/-. The Petitioner demanded vacant possession of the property from the Respondent. Eviction proceeding has been initiated in H.R.C.O.P.No.5 of 2016, which is pending on the file of Rent Controller District Munsif Court, Dindigul.

The Respondent herein has filed a petition in DVOP No.10 of 2015 under Section 12 of D.V.Act against her father-in-law Muthusamy and this Petitioner / sister-in-law, seeking an order, a) restraining the respondents from alienating the house property, b) permitting her to remain in the house property, c) to pay maintenance of Rs.5,00,000/- for her daughter Nirmala.

This High Court has relied on various judgments such as:

  • S.R.Batra and Another vs. Smt.Taruna Batra in which it has been held that "the wife is only entitled to claim a right to residence in a shared household, and a shared household' would only mean the house belonging to or taken on rent by the husband, or the house which belongs to the joint family of which the husband is a member".

  • R.Vinayagam and another vs. M. Prema and others in which it has been held that "Whether the husband of the petitioner has got any undivided share in the property in question or not is a matter to be resolved only by the competent Civil Court and a Criminal Court cannot venture to resolve the same".

  • Ramesh Rajagopal vs. Devi Polimers Pvt. Ltd. in which it has been held that "the allegations that the appellant is guilty of an offence under the aforesaid section are inherently improbable and there is no sufficient ground of proceedings against the accused. The proceedings have been initiated against the appellant as a part of an ongoing dispute between the parties and seem to be due to a private and personal grudge".

In the present case, the Petitioner has specifically stated that, a) her father (vendor) had been working as Driver and the property was purchased from out of his individual earnings, b) at the time of purchase, there was only a tide house and thereafter, her father obtained a loan to the extent of Rs.7,00,000/- from the Bank and thereafter, a terraced house was constructed, d) right from plan approval and tax assessment, electricity connection stands in the name of her father, e) in order to meet his ageing requirements and to liquidate the debts and to meet his medical expenses, the father has decided to sell the property, f) the Petitioner has already taken only legal steps to get the Respondent vacated and as such, there had been no Domestic Violence, as contended by the Respondent herein.

The Court considering the facts of the case and the judgments cited hereinbefore has held that "From the perusal of the contentions and documents, it is evident that if at all, the Respondent claims the right over the property in the capacity as wife of the deceased husband, the remedy is only to file a Civil Suit for declaration of her rights and there cannot be a complaint under Domestic Violence Act, when the Petitioner herein has resorted to legal remedy. If the legal remedy sought for is branded as domestic violence, then it is a case of abuse of process of law. Therefore, the complaint is liable to be quashed and it is quashed accordingly".

Accordingly Criminal Original Petition was allowed and the entire proceeding in D.V.O.P.No.10 of 2015 on the file of the learned Judicial Magistrate No.III, Dindigul is set aside in respect of the Petitioner alone. Consequently, connected miscellaneous petitions are closed