The Hon’ble Supreme Court has in its Judgement in Satish Chander Ahuja Vs
Sneha Ahuja Civil Appeal No. 2483/2020 has held that the rights of the woman
in capacity of daughter-in-law for residence order in the property, exclusively
owned by her father-in-law subject to the house being a shared household in
which the daughter in law has lived in a domestic relationship with the
What is shared household?
The term has been defined under section 2 (s) of Protection of Women from
Domestic Violence At, 2005 (Act). The right of residence provided under the Act
to women ousted from the house or prevented entry thereon has been envisaged qua
shared household only.
It is therefore safe to state that as per the Act, a shared household would mean
a house in which the aggrieved person has lived or at any stage has lived along
with the respondent in a domestic relationship i.e. a relationship between two
members who have lived together on account of being related by consanguinity (by
blood), marriage or through a relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption
or are family members.
The Supreme Court vide the above captioned judgement has categorically overruled
its earlier views observed in S.R Batra Vs Taruna Batra, (2007) 3 SCC 169
being wrong interpretation of section 2 (s) of the Act. In the said case the
Hon’ble Supreme Court held that a wife is entitled only to claim a right to
residence in a shared household under section 17 (1) of the Act, which 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.
The implication of this observation was that the mere factum of the spouses to
have lived in the house exclusively owned by the husband’s father as gratuitous
licence the property would not become shared household for the purposes of the
The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that the definition of shared household in
the Act is exhaustive in nature and would cover only those households which are
envisages under section 2 (s) of the Act.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court after detailed analysis of the said term summarised
...1. It is not a requirement of law that the aggrieved person may either own
the premises jointly or singly or by tenanting it jointly or singly; (ii) the
household may belong to a joint family of which the respondent is a member
irrespective of whether the respondent or the aggrieved person has nay right,
title or interest in the shared household; (iii) the shared household may either
be owned or tenanted by the Respondent singly or jointly.
Therefore, the Respondent certainly would succeed in obtaining residence order
in the dwelling place exclusively owned by the father -n-law and this authority
would act as binding precedence and this question remains no longer res-integra.
However, a legal complexity which would arise is that if the shared household is
not required to be owned or tenanted by the husband or belong to a joint family
in which the husband has a share it would encompass within itself all the
dwelling places the couple has resided in a domestic relationship in several
years and would also include dwelling places of relatives where the couple might
have resided as in many occasions is witnessed.
Thus it was only imperative to interpret the phrase the person aggrieved lives
or at any stage has lived…. as appearing in section 2 (s) of the Act was
correctly interpreted in Satish Chander Ahuja Vs Sneha Ahuja (Supra) in
alignment with the legislative intent which limits the shared household in
context of the Act to mean the dwelling house of the aggrieved person in the
present time or the dwelling place where she resided with respondent immediately
before approaching Court. The Judgement cleared that shared household would not
mean each and every dwelling place the aggrieved person resided with respondent
in a domestic relationship as it would lead to chaos in the society.
The Judgement has rather now opened a pandora box which would now be relied upon
by litigants seeking residence order under the Act in the dwelling place even
when the same is not owned, rented by the husband or belongs to joint family of
which the husband is member of without having share in the same. In my personal
opinion this can be taken as a welcome step as it has the effect of addressing
the lacunae in the definition acted as a tool to reject residence protection
under the Act under the garb that the dwelling place is owned by father-in-law
or mother-in-law, as the case may be, in which the husband has no share.
However, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has also laid stress that father-in-law or
mother-in-law usually at the age of senior citizens have the right to live
peacefully and not haunted by the marital discord between their son and
daughter-in-law. Therefore, the Court is dutybound to balance the rights of the
parties while deciding such applications.