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CONFLICTING RIGHT OF DAUGHTER-IN-LAW TO RESIDE IN A SHARED HOUSEHOLD VIS-À-VIS RIGHT OF SENIOR CITIZENS TO SEEK EJECTMENT

Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007: In the year 2007, Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act was passed by the Indian Legislature with an aim to protect and provide for the Senior Citizens. This Act is applicable to all those have crossed the age of 60 years. It is a Welfare legislation which was enacted for the benefit of Senior Citizens and hence, as per the Rules of Interpretation, it must be liberally construed in the favour of Senior Citizens.


RIGHT OF SENIOR CITIZENS TO SEEK EJECTMENT OF CHILDREN: Senior Citizens who are not being properly maintained by their Children have a Right to Evict their children and Legal heirs from their property which they own under the said Act. Under the Act, Senior Citizens can file an application of Eviction on the grounds of non-maintenance and ill-treatment. In the various judgments of Hon’ble Punjab and Haryana High Court, it has been held that the position of children who are occupying the house of a senior citizen is not more than a licensee.


In the case of Manmohan Singh v. Union Territory, Chandigarh 2016(1) R.C.R. (Civil) 838 argued by Advocate Navkiran Singh and Advocate Navratan Singh in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh, the Hon’ble High Court was pleased to allow the petition for Eviction and has held in para No. 16 that:

16. Perusal of order (Annexure P/6) reveals that House No. 763, Sector 43-A, Chandigarh stands transferred in the name of the petitioner vide transfer letter dated 16.08.2013. Respondent No.3 and his wife used to give thrashing to the petitioner, aged 83 years and his wife, aged 80 years, in fact they had made the living of these old people hell in the evening of their life. Admittedly, House No. 763, Sector 43-A, Chandigarh was purchased by the petitioner and his wife on power of attorney and later on transferred in the name of Parkash Kaur and thereafter transferred in the name of the petitioner. The provisions of the Act provide for protection of the property of the senior citizens. Respondent No.3 and his family appear to have taken possession of house with an oblique motive to grab the property in question and is in possession of the same against the wishes of the petitioner - owner. Admittedly, respondent no.3, his wife and children started residing in the house in question with the permission of the petitioner and at the most are licencees. The licence stands terminated the moment petitioner conveyed the respondents and his family members to termination of the licence. There is no vested right in the licencee(s) to remain in possession of the property of the petitioner. Although petitioner has approached civil court for ejectment of respondent No.3 under the compelling circumstances, may be due to wrong advice. The remedy under the Act is summary in nature and the provisions of the Act have overriding effect qua any other enactment in view of Section 3 of the Act. The jurisdiction of civil court is barred in view of Section 27 of the Act.


Hon'ble Supreme Court in case titled as Smt. S. Vanitha v. The Deputy Commissioner Bengaluru Urban District & Ors., reported as 2021 (15) SCC 730, has observed that a Tribunal constituted under the Senior Citizens Act, 2007 has the authority to pass an order of Eviction, if it is necessary and expedient to ensure the maintenance and protection of the senior citizen or parent and that, the eviction, in other words, would be an incidence of the enforcement of the right to maintenance and protection.


Also, recently, Punjab and Haryana High Court in CWP-15170-2023 titled as Ravi Kumar v. Deputy Commissioner-cum-Appellate Tribunal, Jhajjar and others, decided on 20.07.2023, after taking into consideration the judgment of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Smt. S. Vatnitha's case (supra) had upheld an order of eviction passed therein by the authorities under Act of 2007.

 

RIGHT OF DAUGHTER IN LAW TO RESIDE IN SHARED HOUSEHOLD UNDER PROTECTION OF WOMEN FROM DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT, 2005: In the year 2005, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence was enacted by the Legislature of India in view to protect the women specifically from Domestic violence and one of the notable rights enshrined under the said Act is Right to Reside in a Shared Household. According to Section 17(1) of the said Act, the aggrieved person i.e. the wife is only entitled to claim a right to residence in a shared household and a shared household would 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.


HARMONIOUS INTERPRETATION OF BOTH THE LAWS REGARDING CONFLICTING RIGHTS OF DAUGHTER-IN-LAW VIS-A-VIS SENIOR CITIZENS IS THE NEED OF THE HOUR:


In recent times, many cases have been filed in which Senior Citizens claim that they have been mistreated by their son and daughter-in-law and on that ground seek their Eviction from their house, however, the issue which comes up as a hurdle in that right to eviction is the parallel right of daughter-in-law’s Right to reside in shared household.




 


Recognising the conflict between two separate and distinct rights, Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the case of Smt. S. Vanitha v. Deputy Commissioner Bengaluru Urban District, 2021 AIR (Supreme Court) 177 has held that:

The above extract indicates that a significant object of the legislation is to provide for and recognize the rights of women to secure housing and to recognize the right of a woman to reside in a matrimonial home or a shared household, whether or not she has any title or right in the shared household. Allowing the Senior Citizens Act 2007 to have an overriding force and effect in all situations, irrespective of competing entitlements of a woman to a right in a shared household within the meaning of the PWDV Act 2005, would defeat the object and purpose which the Parliament sought to achieve in enacting the latter legislation. The law protecting the interest of senior citizens is intended to ensure that they are not left destitute, or at the mercy of their children or relatives. Equally, the purpose of the PWDV Act 2005 cannot be ignored by a sleight of statutory interpretation. Both sets of legislations have to be harmoniously construed. Hence the right of a woman to secure a residence order in respect of a shared household cannot be defeated by the simple expedient of securing an order of eviction by adopting the summary procedure under the Senior Citizens Act 2007.

22. This Court is cognizant that the Senior Citizens Act 2007 was promulgated with a view to provide a speedy and inexpensive remedy to senior citizens. Accordingly, Tribunals were constituted under Section 7. These Tribunals have the power to conduct summary procedures for inquiry, with all powers of the Civil Courts, under Section 8. The jurisdiction of the Civil Courts has been explicitly barred under Section 27 of the Senior Citizens Act 2007. However, the over-riding effect for remedies sought by the applicants under the Senior Citizens Act 2007 under Section 3, cannot be interpreted to preclude all other competing remedies and protections that are sought to be conferred by the PWDV Act 2005. The PWDV Act 2005 is also in the nature of a special legislation, that is enacted with the purpose of correcting gender discrimination that pans out in the form of social and economic inequities in a largely patriarchal society. In deference to the dominant purpose of both the legislations, it would be appropriate for a Tribunal under the Senior Citizens Act, 2007 to grant such remedies of maintenance, as envisaged under Section 2(b) of the Senior Citizens Act 2007 that do not result in obviating competing remedies under other special statutes, such as the PWDV Act 2005. Section 26 of the PWDV Act empowers certain reliefs, including relief for a residence order, to be obtained from any civil court in any legal proceedings. Therefore, in the event that a composite dispute is alleged, such as in the present case where the suit premises are a site of contestation between two groups protected by the law, it would be appropriate for the Tribunal constituted under the Senior Citizens Act 2007 to appropriately mould reliefs, after noticing the competing claims of the parties claiming under the PWDV Act 2005 and Senior Citizens Act 2007. Section 3 of the Senior Citizens Act, 2007 cannot be deployed to over-ride and nullify other protections in law, particularly that of a woman's right to a 'shared household' under Section 17 of the PWDV Act 2005. In the event that the "aggrieved woman" obtains a relief from a Tribunal constituted under the Senior Citizens Act 2007, she shall duty-bound to inform the Magistrate under the PWDV Act 2005, as per Sub-section (3) of Section 26 of the PWDV Act 2005. This course of action would ensure that the common intent of the Senior Citizens Act 2007 and the PWDV Act 2005- of ensuring speedy relief to its protected groups who are both vulnerable members of the society, is effectively realized. Rights in law can translate to rights in life, only if there is an equitable ease in obtaining their realization.

 

               Also, Delhi High Court, in Vinay Varma v Kanika Pasricha (2019), attempted to address the lack of clarity in the two Acts by issuing six broad guidelines which are as follows:

46. However, later decisions of various High Courts have, while giving divergent opinions on the concept of “shared household”, followed one uniform pattern in order to protect the daughter-in-law and to provide for a dignified roof / shelter for her. The question then arises as to whether the obligation of providing the shelter or roof is upon the in-laws or upon the husband of the daughter-in-law i.e., the son. Some broad guidelines as set out below, can be followed by Courts in order to strike a balance between the PSC Act and the DV Act:

1. The court / tribunal has to first ascertain the nature of the relationship between the parties and the son’s / daughter’s family.

2. If the case involves eviction of a daughter in law, the court has to also ascertain whether the daughter-in-law was living as part of a joint family.

3. If the relationship is acrimonious, then the parents ought to be permitted to seek eviction of the son / daughter-in-law or daughter / son-in-law from their premises. In such circumstances, the obligation of the husband to maintain the wife would continue in terms of the principles under the DV Act.

4. If the relationship between the parents and the son are peaceful or if the parents are seen colluding with their son, then, an obligation to maintain and to provide for the shelter for the daughter-in-law would remain both upon the in-laws and the husband especially if they were living as part of a joint family. In such a situation, while parents would be entitled to seek eviction of the daughter-in-law from their property, an alternative reasonable accommodation would have to be provided to her.

5. In case the son or his family is ill-treating the parents then the parents would be entitled to seek unconditional eviction from their property so that they can live a peaceful life and also put the property to use for their generating income and for their own expenses for daily living.

6. If the son has abandoned both the parents and his own wife / children, then if the son’s family was living as part of a joint family prior to the breakdown of relationships, the parents would be entitled to seek possession from their daughter-in-law, however, for a reasonable period they would have to provide some shelter to the daughter-in-law during which time she is able to seek her remedies against her husband.


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