Married Woman Rights to shared household

Here is the story of Asha (name changed) and her battle for her rights. Asha had to face constant humiliation and torture and was not allowed to take advantage of that which was rightfully hers. Being a single mother and sole breadwinner for herself and her daughter, Asha’s story in conquering the trials and tribulations is an inspiring tale and lesson to all married woman in enforcing their rights to the shared household.

  • Asha was married to Shlok in 2005 as per Hindu rites and rituals. During the course of the ceremonies , Shlok was given a Maruti Car that was registered in his name and Stridhana was given to Asha by her family members. Asha and Shlok continued to pursue their married life at Shlok’s ancestral home along with his family.
  • Unfortunately, in a month after their marriage, Shlok met and succumbed to a car accident. Asha had conceived a child before the incident and had given birth to a daughter, Devi. Asha tried her best to recuperate from the loss of her husband and care for Devi, however, her in-laws did not make things easy for her. They resorted to misbehaving and torturing her, even going so far as to stating that Devi was not Shlok’s child.
  • Troubled by this, Asha decided to leave her matrimonial home and moved to Dehradun where she took up a job as a teacher to sustain herself. Asha soon discovered that her Stridhana was being used by her in-laws, whereas she was not allowed to use it even during her marriage. She also found that her mother-in-law had submitted an insurance application for the car damaged in Shlok’s fatal accident and had claimed that she was the only legal heir, hence, all compensation must be made in her favour. Additionally, her in-laws would constantly threaten her with dire consequences if she ever attempted to claim any right over her husband’s property.
  • Asha finally decided to approach the Special Judicial Magistrate seeking protection orders, residence orders, compensation orders and monetary relief to be passed under various provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
  • While the Magistrate passed orders in favour of Asha for monetary compensation, return of Stridhana apart from the car and complete enjoyment of her late husband’s property, her in-laws were aggrieved by the order and decided to appeal. Over the course of time, the matter reached the Supreme Court.
  • In their argument, Asha’s in-laws took a very legal and technical standpoint. They insisted that there was never a domestic relationship between the parties as they never lived together, even during the marriage. Hence, in the absence of a continuing domestic relationship, there was no possibility of violence and thus, Asha could not gain any remedies from the Domestic Violence Act. In response, Asha made reference to a recent judgement of the Supreme Court where it was held that the offended person did not have to live with those accused of violence at the time of the crime.

The Supreme Court made two very important observations in this case:

  • As long as the woman has the right to shared household and becomes a victim of domestic violence, she can seek relief under the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act, including enforcement of rights to live in a shared household. Even if the woman in a domestic relationship is residing elsewhere due to some reason, she has the right to the shared household.
  • Irrespective of the situations, if at any point, a woman has lived or has had the right to live in the shared household and has been subjected to domestic violence on account of the subsisting domestic relationship, an application under the Domestic Violence Act can be filed.