Right to residence under DV Act not restricted to actual residence; Domestic relationship not necessary to be subsisting at the time of filing of application: SC 

Supreme Court: The bench of MR Shah and BV Nagarathna*, JJ has answered three important questions pertaining to the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (D.V. Act) and has expanded the scope of the Act by holding that,

  1. Even in the absence of a Domestic Incident Report, a Magistrate is empowered to pass both ex-parte or interim as well as a final order under the provisions of the D.V. Act.
  2. The expression ‘right to reside in the shared household’ would include not only actual residence but also constructive residence in the shared household.
  3. It is not necessary that at the time of filing of an application by an aggrieved person, the domestic relationship should be subsisting.

(i) Whether the consideration of Domestic Incidence Report is mandatory before initiating the proceedings under Domestic Violence Act, 2005 in order to invoke substantive provisions of Sections 18 to 20 and 22 of the said Act?

Section 12 does not make it mandatory for a Magistrate to consider a Domestic Incident Report filed by a Protection Officer or service provider before passing any order under the D.V. Act. Even in the absence of a Domestic Incident Report, a Magistrate is empowered to pass both ex parte or interim as well as a final order under the provisions of the D.V. Act.

When the proviso is read in the context of the main provision which begins with the words ‘an aggrieved person or a Protection Officer or any other person on behalf of the aggrieved person may present an application to the Magistrate seeking one or more reliefs under the D.V. Act’ would clearly indicate that the aggrieved person can by herself or through her advocate approach the Magistrate for seeking any of the reliefs under the D.V. Act. In such an event, the filing of a Domestic Incident Report does not arise. The use of the expression ‘shall’ in the proviso has to be read contextually i.e., the Magistrate is obliged to take into consideration any Domestic Incident Report received by him when the same has been filed from the Protection Officer or the service provider in a case where the application is made to the Magistrate on behalf of the aggrieved person through a Protection Officer or a service provider. If the intention of the Parliament had been that filing of the Report by the Protection Officer is a condition precedent for the Magistrate to act upon the complaint filed by an aggrieved person even when she files it by herself or through her advocate then it would have been so expressed. But a conjoint reading of Sub-Section (1) of Section 12 with the proviso does not indicate such an intention. Thus, the plenitude of power under Section 12 of the D.V. Act is accordingly interpreted and pre-requisite for issuing notice to the respondent on an application filed by the aggrieved person without the assistance of a Protection Officer or service provider and thus there being an absence of Domestic Incident Report, does not arise. If a contrary interpretation is to be given then the opening words of Sub-Section (1) of Section 12 would be rendered otiose and it would be incumbent for every aggrieved person to first approach a Protection Officer or a service provider, as the case may be, and get a Domestic Incident Report prepared and thereafter to approach the Magistrate for reliefs under the D.V. Act, which is not the intention of the Parliament.

(ii) Whether it is mandatory for the aggrieved person to reside with those persons against whom the allegations have been levied at the point of commission of violence?

It is not mandatory for the aggrieved person, when she is related by consanguinity, marriage or through a relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family, to actually reside with those persons against whom the allegations have been levelled at the time of commission of domestic violence. If a woman has the right to reside in the shared household under Section 17 of the D.V. Act and such a woman becomes an aggrieved person or victim of domestic violence, she can seek reliefs under the provisions of D.V. Act including enforcement of her right to live in a shared household.

Even in a case where the woman in a domestic relationship is residing elsewhere on account of a reasonable cause, she has the right to reside in a shared household. Also a woman who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship has the right to reside not only in the house of her husband, if it is located in another place which is also a shared household but also in the shared household which may be in a different location in which the family of her husband resides.

Hence, the expression ‘right to reside in the shared household’ would include not only actual residence but also constructive residence in the shared household i.e., right to reside therein which cannot be excluded vis-à-vis an aggrieved person except in accordance with the procedure established by law. If a woman is sought to be evicted or excluded from the shared household she would be an aggrieved person in which event Sub-Section (2) of Section 17 would apply.

(iii) Whether there should be a subsisting domestic relationship between the aggrieved person and the person against whom the relief is claimed?

There should be a subsisting domestic relationship between the aggrieved person and the person against whom the relief is claimed vis-à-vis allegation of domestic violence. However, it is not necessary that at the time of filing of an application by an aggrieved person, the domestic relationship should be subsisting. In other words, even if an aggrieved person is not in a domestic relationship with the respondent in a shared household at the time of filing of an application under Section 12 of the D.V. Act but has at any point of time lived so or had the right to live and has been subjected to domestic violence or is later subjected to domestic violence on account of the domestic relationship, is entitled to file an application under Section 12 of the D.V. Act.

The question raised about a subsisting domestic relationship between the aggrieved person and the person against whom the relief is claimed must be interpreted in a broad and expansive way, so as to encompass not only a subsisting domestic relationship in presentia but also a past domestic relationship. Therefore, the Parliament has intentionally used the expression ‘domestic relationship’ to mean a relationship between two persons who not only live together in the shared household but also between two persons who ‘have at any point of time lived together’ in a shared household.

[Prabha Tyagi v. Kamlesh Devi, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 607, decided on 12.05.2022]


*Judgment by: Justice BV Nagarathna


Counsels

For appellant-aggrieved: Amicus Cureai Gaurav Agrawal

For Respondent: Advocate K.K. Srivastava

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