Wife Entitled To Claim Right Of Residence Which Belongs To Relatives Of Husband Also: SC While Overruling Its 2006 ‘SR Batra’ Judgment

In a well-written, well-balanced, well-analysed, well-articulated and well-reasoned judgment under the Domestic Violence Act, a three Judge Bench of the Apex Court comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah have ruled in no uncertain terms that wife can’t be thrown out of house. In this commendable, courageous and conscious judgment titled Satish Chander Ahuja vs. Sneha Ahuja in Civil Appeal No. 2483 of 2020 (Arising out of SLP (C) No. 1048 of 2020) delivered on October 15, 2020, the Apex Court has clearly, convincingly and commendably ruled that a wife is also entitled to claim a right to residence in a shared household belonging to relatives of the husband. We thus see that the Apex Court in this path breaking, progressive judgment has overruled its 2006 judgment in SR Batra vs Smt Taruna Batra in Appeal (Civil) 5837 of 2006 and has clearly espoused that a wife has right to residence even if house not owned by spouse.

First and foremost, it is clarified in para 2 of this notable judgment authored by Justice Ashok Bhushan for himself, Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice MR Shah that, “This appeal raises important questions of law pertaining to the interpretation and working of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (hereinafter referred to as “Act, 2005”).”

While outlining the proceedings of the case, it is then observed in para 3 that, “This appeal has been filed by Satish Chander Ahuja, the plaintiff questioning the judgment of Delhi High Court dated 18.12.2019 in RFA No. 381/2019 by which judgment Delhi High Court has set aside the decree granted in favour of the plaintiff dated 08.04.2019 under Order XII Rule 6 of Civil Procedure Code, decreeing the suit filed by the plaintiff for mandatory and permanent injunction. The High Court after setting aside the decree of the Trial Court has remanded the matter back to the Trial Court for fresh adjudication in accordance with the directions given by the High Court. The plaintiff aggrieved by the judgment of the High Court has come up in this appeal.”

While outlining the brief facts of the case, it is then enjoined upon in para 5 that, “The appellant by deed dated 12.01.1993 purchased property bearing No. D-1077, New Friends Colony, New Delhi. The son of the appellant, Raveen Ahuja was married to the respondent Sneha Ahuja on 04.03.1995. After marriage the respondent started living in the first floor of the house No. D-1077, Friends Colony, New Delhi along with her husband. There being marital discord between Raveen and Sneha, in July, 2014, Raveen moved out of the first floor and started staying in the guest room of the ground floor. In the year 2004 a separate kitchen was started by the respondent in the first floor of the house. Raveen, the husband of the respondent filed a Divorce Petition on 28.11.2014 under Section 13(1)(ia) and (iii) of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for decree of divorce on the ground of cruelty against the respondent, Sneha Ahuja which proceeding is said to be still pending. The respondent, Sneha Ahuja, on 20.11.2015, i.e., after filing of the Divorce Petition, filed an application under Section 12 of Act, 2005 impleading Raveen Ahuja as respondent No. 1, Shri Satish Ahuja, respondent No. 2 and Dr. Prem Kanta Ahuja (mother-in-law of the respondent), respondent No. 3. In the complaint it was alleged that Sneha Ahuja has been subjected to severe emotional and mental abuse by the respondents. In the application respondent prayed for several orders under Act, 2005. The learned Chief Metropolitan Magistrate before whom the complaint was filed passed an interim order on 26.11.2016 to the following effect:

“The respondents shall not alienate the alleged shared household nor would they dispossess the complainant or their children from the same without Orders of a Competent Court. These directions shall continue till next date.””

Without mincing any words, the Bench then concedes very rightly in para 29 that, “The progress of any society depends on its ability to protect and promote the rights of its women. Guaranteeing equal rights and privileges to women by the Constitution of India had marked the step towards the transformation of the status of the women in this country.”

In a similar vein, the Bench then while also expressing its serious concern on domestic violence faced by women also concedes in para 30 that, “The domestic violence in this country is rampant and several women encounter violence in some form or the other or almost every day, however, it is the least reported form of cruel behavior. A woman resigns her fate to the never ending cycle of enduring violence and discrimination as a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a partner or a single woman in her lifetime. This non-retaliation by women coupled with the absence of laws addressing women’s issues, ignorance of the existing laws enacted for women and societal attitude makes the women vulnerable. The reason why most cases of domestic violence are never reported is due to the social stigma of the society and the attitude of the women themselves, where women are expected to be subservient, not just to their male counterparts but also to the male’s relatives.”

It is worth noting that para 37 very rightly mentions that, “The right of occupation of matrimonial home, which was not so far part of the statutory law in India came to be included in Act, 2005. Need of such legislation as noticed by Justice Sabyasachi Mukharji has been fulfilled by enactment of Act, 2005.”

As a corollary, it is then further very rightly mentioned in para 40 that, “Enactment of Act, 2005 is another step in the same direction. This Court in Manmohan Attavar Vs. Neelam Manmohan Attavar, (2017) 8 SCC 550 noticed that Act, 2005 has been enacted to create an entitlement in favour of the women of the right of residence. In paragraph 15, following was observed:-

“15. A reading of the aforesaid provisions shows that it creates an entitlement in favour of the woman of the right of residence under the “shared household” irrespective of her having any legal interests in the same. The direction, inter alia, can include an order restraining dispossession or a direction to remove himself on being satisfied that domestic violence had taken place.”

More significantly, it is then enunciated in para 82 that, “Now, coming back again to the facts of the present case, there being specific pleading on behalf of the respondent that the house, which is in the name of the appellant is the matrimonial home of the respondent where she was residing in first floor since her marriage. The fact that respondent is residing in first floor of the premises is not matter of dispute. Even if the house is in the name of the appellant and that even if we accept the case of the appellant that appellant’s son Raveen has no share in the house belonging to appellant, with whom the respondent was living in the domestic relationship, whether the respondent is entitled to reside in the premises in question as shared household is the question to be answered. In the impugned judgment, Delhi High Court has refrained from deciding the point as to whether suit property is a shared household on the ground that the application filed under Section 12 of Act, 2005 by the respondent is pending. In the suit filed by the appellant where respondent has pleaded and claimed that it is shared household and she has right to live and it was on that ground she was resisting the suit for mandatory injunction, the question that whether the suit property is a shared household or not becomes relevant and necessary and the said issue cannot be skipped on the ground that application under D.V. Act is pending. In the regular suit, which has been filed by the appellant, the plea of defendant that suit property is her shared household and she has right to residence could have been very well gone into by virtue of Section 26, which we shall further deal a little later.”

Be it noted, the key point that is then envisaged in para 93 that, “As per Section 26, any relief available under Sections 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 of the Act, 2005 may also be sought in any legal proceeding, before a civil court, family court or a criminal court being the aggrieved person. Thus, the defendant is entitled to claim relief under Section 19 in suit, which has been filed by the plaintiff. Section 26 empowers the aggrieved person to claim above relief in Civil Courts also. In the present suit, it was defence of the defendant that the house being the shared household, she is entitled to reside in the house as per Section 17(1) of Act, 2005.”

It would be very pertinent to mention here that para 134 then aptly states that, “However, at the same time, it is to be observed that in a case any relief available under Sections 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 is sought by aggrieved person in any legal proceedings before a civil court, family court or a criminal court including the residence order, the aggrieved person has to satisfy by leading evidence that domestic violence has taken place and only on the basis of the evidence led on being satisfied that the domestic violence has taken place, the relief available under Section 19 can be granted as Section 19(1) specifically provides that while disposing of an application under sub-Section 1 of Section 12, the magistrate may, on being satisfied, that domestic violence has taken place, pass the residence order.”

No doubt, all the gainful discussion aforesaid make it amply clear that a wife is also entitled to claim a right to residence in a shared household belonging to  either the husband or the relatives of the husband where he stays. This latest, landmark and laudable judgment thus overrules explicitly what the Apex Court ruled in 2006 in case of SR Batra vs Smt Taruna Batra in Appeal (Civil) 5837 of 2006 as has been already mentioned above. There can be no denying or disputing it!

Sanjeev Sirohi

Court Cannot Impose Condition Of Deposit Of Money While Granting Default/Statutory Bail U/s 167(2) CrPC: SC

                In a recent, remarkable and righteous decision titled Saravanan vs. State represented by the Inspector of Police in Criminal Appeal Nos. 681-682 of 2020 (Arising from S.L.P. (Criminal) Nos. 4386-4387 of 2020) delivered on October 15, 2020, the three-Judge Bench of the Apex Court comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah have held in no uncertain terms that while granting default bail/statutory bail under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure condition of deposit of amount cannot be imposed. The only requirement for getting the default bail/statutory bail under Section 167(2), CrPC is that the accused is in jail for more than 60 or 90 days as the case may be, the investigation is not completed and no chargesheet is filed by 60th or 90th day and the accused applies for default bail and is prepared to furnish bail. It thus rightly set aside the condition imposed by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court which while releasing an accused on default bail/statutory bail, imposed a condition to deposit Rs. 8,00,000.

To start with, the ball is set rolling in para 2 of this latest, landmark and laudable judgment after granting leave in para 1 wherein it is observed that, “Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned order dated 24.06.2020 in Criminal O.P.(MD) No. 6214 of 2020 and order dated 27.07.2020 in Criminal M.P.(MD) No. 3622 of 2020 passed by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, by which the High Court has released the appellant on default bail/statutory bail, on condition to deposit Rs. 8,00,000/- (Rupees Eight Lakhs only) to the credit of crime No. 31 of 2019 before the learned Judicial Magistrate, Court No. 1, Nagercoil, Kanyakumari District, the original accused has preferred the present appeals.”

While dwelling on the facts of the case, it is then observed in para 3 that, “That the appellant herein was arrested and remanded to the judicial custody on 31.01.2020 for the offences punishable under Section 420 of the IPC in Crime No. 31 of 2019 on the file of the D.C.B. Police Station, Kanyakumari District. That the appellant herein filed an application before the learned Judicial Magistrate seeking bail under Section 437 Cr.P.C. That the wife of the appellant filed an affidavit before the learned Judicial Magistrate and assured to pay Rs. 7,00,000/- (Rupees Seven Lakhs only) and the balance amount to be paid on or before 06.04.2020, against the alleged amount of Rs. 15,67,338/- (Rupees Fifteen lakhs Sixty Seven thousand Three hundred thirty eight only). Therefore, by order dated 3.2.2020, the learned Magistrate released the appellant on bail on the conditions stated in the said order. One of the conditions was directing the appellant to deposit Rs. 7,00,000/- in the Court, and the balance amount of Rs. 8,67,338/- was directed to be deposited on or before 06.04.2020.”

While elaborating further, it is then laid down in para 4 that, “Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with condition nos. 2 and 3 of the order passed by the learned Magistrate releasing the appellant on bail, i.e. directing the appellant to deposit Rs. 7,00,000/-, out of the total alleged amount of Rs. 15,67,338/- and the balance to be deposited on or before 6.4.2020, the appellant approached the High Court by way of Criminal OP(MD) No. 6214 of 2020. The High Court dismissed the said application with liberty to the appellant to approach the Magistrate Court for any modification and observed that if any modification is required, the same may be considered by the Magistrate. That thereafter, the appellant filed an application before the learned Sessions Court being Criminal M.P. No. 1695/2020 to release the appellant on default bail/statutory bail under Section 167(2), Cr.P.C. It was the case on behalf of the appellant that he was arrested and remanded on 31.02.2020 and he is inside the jail for more than 101 days and the investigation is not completed and the police has not filed the final report within the period provided under Section 167 Cr.P.C. The said application came to be dismissed by the learned Sessions Court on the ground that earlier when the appellant applied for regular bail and which was allowed on condition to deposit Rs. 7,00,000/- in the Court and the same has not been complied with, and despite the liberty reserved by the High Court to approach the Magistrate Court for modification of the conditions, instead of doing so, the appellant has filed an application for default bail/statutory bail under Section 167(2), Cr.P.C., therefore, the learned Sessions Court dismissed the said application.”

As a corollary, it is then pointed out in para 5 that, “Feeling aggrieved, the appellant approached the High Court and prayed to release the appellant on default bail/statutory bail. It was the case on behalf of the appellant that non-deposit of any amount which was required to be deposited pursuant to the order passed by the learned Magistrate, imposed while releasing the appellant on regular bail under Section 437, Cr.P.C., shall not come in the way of the appellant-accused in getting default bail/statutory bail under Section 167(2), Cr.P.C. It was submitted that the default bail/statutory bail under Section 167(2), Cr.P.C. is mandatory bail, provided the conditions in Section 167 Cr.P.C. are satisfied, i.e., investigation is not completed and the chargesheet/report is not filed by the investigating agency within the time stipulated under Section 167 Cr.P.C. The High Court, by the impugned judgment and order dated 24.06.2020 accepted the same, however, considering the earlier undertaking given by the wife of the appellant in the Court of the learned Magistrate while considering the regular bail application under Section 437, Cr.P.C., i.e., to deposit Rs. 7,00,000/-, while releasing the appellant on default bail/statutory bail, the High Court has imposed the condition that the appellant shall deposit a sum of Rs. 8,00,000/- before the learned Magistrate. That thereafter, the appellant preferred application being Criminal MP(MD) No. 3622 of 2020 before the High Court to modify condition nos. (b) and (d) in Criminal OP(MD) No. 6214/2020 by which the appellant was directed to deposit Rs. 8,00,000/- before the learned Judicial Magistrate and the appellant was directed to report before the concerned police station daily at 10:00 a.m., until further orders, for interrogation. By the impugned order dated 27.07.2020, the High Court has dismissed the said application for modification observing that earlier wife of the appellant filed affidavit before the learned Magistrate to deposit Rs. 7,00,000/- and the alleged amount is Rs. 32,23,073/-, condition nos. (b) and (d) in order dated 24.06.2020 in Criminal OP(MD) No. 6214/2020 are not required to be modified. Hence, the present appeals.”

On the one hand, to drive home the appellant’s point, it is then revealed in para 6 that, “Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant has vehemently submitted that condition nos. (b) and (d) imposed by the High Court imposed while releasing the appellant on default bail/statutory bail under Section 167(2), Cr.P.C. is contrary to the scheme of Section 167 of Cr.P.C. It is submitted that as observed by this Court in catena of decisions, the scheme of Code of Criminal Procedure delineates that provisions of Section 167 Cr.P.C. give due regard to the personal liberty of a person. Without submission of charge sheet within 60 days or 90 days, as may be applicable, an accused cannot be detained by the Police. The provision gives due recognition to the personal liberty. It is submitted that as held by this Court in Rakesh Kumar Paul v. State of Assam, (2017) 15 SCC 67, where investigation is not completed within 60 days or 90 days, as the case may be, no chargesheet is filed on the 60th or 90th day, accused applies for default bail and is prepared to furnish bail, accused becomes entitled to default bail, it cannot be frustrated either by the prosecution or the Court. It is submitted that it is further held that accused need not make out any grounds for grant of default bail but only needs to state that 60/90 days, as the case may be, have expired, chargesheet not filed, he is entitled to bail and willing to furnish the same. It is submitted that therefore condition nos. (b) and (d) imposed by the High Court while releasing the appellant or default bail/statutory bail are against the scheme of Section 167, Cr.P.C.”

On the other hand, it is then revealed in para 7 that, “Mr. Jayanth Muthuraj, learned Additional Advocate General appearing on behalf of the State has tried to support the impugned order(s) passed by the High Court by submitting that as earlier the wife of the appellant filed an affidavit before the learned Magistrate to deposit Rs. 7,00,000/- and the alleged amount was Rs. 15,67,338/-, probably the High Court has imposed condition no. (b) directing the appellant to deposit Rs. 8,00,000/-.”

Most significantly, the Bench then minces no words to state in simple, straight and suave language in para 9 which constitutes the backbone and bedrock of this notable judgment that, “Having heard the learned counsel for the respective parties and considering the scheme and the object and purpose of default bail/statutory bail, we are of the opinion that the High Court has committed a grave error in imposing condition that the appellant shall deposit a sum of Rs. 8,00,000/- while releasing the appellant on default bail/statutory bail. It appears that the High Court has imposed such a condition taking into consideration the fact that earlier at the time of hearing of the regular bail application, before the learned Magistrate, the wife of the appellant filed an affidavit agreeing to deposit Rs. 7,00,000/-. However, as observed by this Court in catena of decisions and more particularly in the case of Rakesh Kumar Paul (supra), where the investigation is not completed within 60 days or 90 days, as the case may be, and no chargesheet is filed by 60th or 90th day, accused gets an “indefeasible right” to default bail, and the accused becomes entitled to default bail once the accused applies for default bail and furnish bail. Therefore, the only requirement for getting the default bail/statutory bail under Section 167(2), Cr.P.C. is that the accused is in jail for more than 60 or 90 days, as the case may be, and within 60 or 90 days, as the case may be, the investigation is not completed and no chargesheet is filed by 60th or 90th day and the accused applies for default bail and is prepared to furnish bail. No other condition of deposit of the alleged amount involved can be imposed. Imposing such condition while releasing the accused on default bail/statutory bail would frustrate the very object and purpose of default bail under Section 167(2), Cr.P.C. As observed by this Court in the case of Rakesh Kumar Paul (supra) and in other decisions, the accused is entitled to default bail/statutory bail, subject to the eventuality occurring in Section 167, Cr.P.C., namely, investigation is not completed within 60 days or 90 days, as the case may be, and no chargesheet is filed by 60th or 90th day and the accused applies for default bail and is prepared to furnish bail.”

What’s more, the Bench then observes in para 9.1 that, “As observed hereinabove and even from the impugned orders passed by the High Court, it appears that High Court while releasing the appellant on default bail/statutory bail has imposed the condition to deposit Rs. 8,00,000/- taking into consideration that earlier before the learned Magistrate and while considering the regular bail application under Section 437 Cr.P.C., the wife of the accused filed an affidavit to deposit Rs. 7,00,000/-. That cannot be a ground to impose the condition to deposit the amount involved, while granting default bail/statutory bail.”

It is worth noting that it is then observed in para 9.2 that, “The circumstances while considering the regular bail application under Section 437 Cr.P.C. are different, while considering the application for default bail/statutory bail. Under the circumstances, the condition imposed by the High Court to deposit Rs. 8,00,000/-, while releasing the appellant for default bail/statutory bail. Under the circumstances, the condition imposed by the High Court to deposit Rs. 8,00,000/-, while releasing the appellant on default bail/statutory bail is unsustainable and deserves to be quashed and set aside.”

Going ahead, para 10 then makes it clear that, “Now as far as condition no. (d) imposed by the High Court, namely, directing the appellant to report before the concerned police station daily at 10:00 a.m., until further orders, for interrogation is concerned, the same is also unsustainable, as it is too harsh. Instead, condition which can be imposed is directing the appellant to cooperate with the investigating officer in completing the investigation and to remain present before the concerned police station for investigation/interrogation as and when called for, and on breach the investigating officer can approach the concerned court for cancellation of the bail on breach of such condition.”

Finally, what para 11 then underscores is that, “In view of the above and for the reasons stated above, the present appeals succeed. Condition No. (b) of order dated 24.06.2020 passed by the High Court in Criminal OP(MD) No. 6214 of 2020, i.e., directing the appellant to deposit Rs. 8,00,000/- to the credit of crime No. 31 of 2019 before the learned Judicial Magistrate, Court No. 1, Nagercoil, Kanyakumari District, while releasing the appellant on default bail, is hereby quashed and set aside. Condition no. (d), namely, directing the appellant to report before the concerned police station at 10:00 a.m. daily, until further orders for interrogation is hereby modified to the extent and it is directed that the appellant shall co-operate with the investigating agency and shall report the concerned police station as and when called for investigation/interrogation and on non-cooperation, the consequences including cancellation of the bail shall follow. Rest of the conditions imposed by the High Court in order dated 24.06.2020 are maintained.”

In essence, the key takeaway from this noteworthy judgment is that while granting default bail/statutory bail under Section 167(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the condition of deposit of amount cannot be imposed. All the courts while delivering judgments in such similar cases must always take this latest, landmark and extremely laudable judgment into account before pronouncing the final judgment themselves! Para 9 which constitutes the bedrock and backbone of this notable judgment must be always followed in letter and spirit! No denying it!