Saturday, 13 July 2019

Whether complaint under domestic violence Act can be filed against female relative of husband?

 It is true that the expression "female" has not been used in the proviso to Section 2(q) also, but, on the other hand, if the Legislature intended to exclude females from the ambit of the complaint, which can be filed by an aggrieved wife, females would have been specifically excluded, instead of it being provided in the proviso that a complaint could also be filed against a relative of the husband or the male partner. No restrictive meaning has been given to the expression "relative", nor has the said expression been specifically defined in the Domestic Violence Act, 2005, to make it specific to males only.

14. In such circumstances, it is clear that the legislature never intended to exclude female relatives of the husband or male partner from the ambit of a complaint that can be made under the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

15. In our view, both the Sessions Judge and the High Court went wrong in holding otherwise, possibly being influenced by the definition of the expression "respondent" in the main body of Section 2(q) of the aforesaid Act.

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

Crl. A. No. 271 of 2011

Decided On: 31.01.2011

 Sandhya Manoj Wankhade Vs.  Manoj Bhimrao Wankhade and Ors.

Hon'ble Judges/Coram: 
Altamas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph, JJ.




1. The Appellant herein was married to the Respondent No. 1 on 20th January, 2005, and the marriage was registered under the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, 1954. After her marriage, the Appellant began to reside with the Respondent No. 1 at Khorej Colony, Amravati, where her widowed mother-in-law and sister-in-law, the Respondent Nos. 2 and 3 respectively, were residing. According to the Appellant, the marriage began to turn sour after about one year of the marriage and she was even assaulted by her husband and by the other Respondents. It is her specific case that on 16th June, 2007, she was mercilessly beaten by the Respondent No. l, which incident was reported to the police and a case under Section 498A I.P.C. came to be registered against him. In addition to the above, the Appellant appears to have filed a complaint against all the Respondents under Sections 12, 18, 19, 20 and 22 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, hereinafter referred to as "the Domestic Violence Act, 2005". An application filed by the Appellant before the Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Amravati, under Section 23 of the above Act was allowed by the learned Magistrate directing the Respondent No. 1 husband to pay interim maintenance to the Appellant at the rate of 1,500/- per month from the date of the application till the final disposal of the main application and also restrained all the Respondents from dispossessing the Appellant from her matrimonial home at Khorej Colony, Amravati, till the final disposal of the main application.

2. The Respondent No. 2 thereafter filed an application in Misc. Crl. Application No. 203 of 2007 in the Court of the Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Amravati, praying for modification of its order and a direction to the Appellant to leave the house of Respondent No. 2. The said application for modification was dismissed by the learned Magistrate holding that it was not maintainable. Thereupon, the Respondent Nos. 2 and 3 filed Crl. Appeal No. 159 of 2008 on 11th August, 2008, under Section 29 of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 on the ground that being women they could not be made Respondents in the proceedings filed by the Appellant under the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005, and that the matrimonial house of the Appellant at Khorej Colony, Amravati, belonged exclusively to Ramabai, the Respondent No. 2 and mother-in-law of the Appellant and did not, therefore, come within the definition of "shared house". The said Criminal Appeal was allowed setting aside the injunction restraining the Respondents from dispossessing or evicting the Appellant from her matrimonial house at Khorej Colony, Amravati. The Respondent No. 1 husband was directed to provide separate accommodation for the residence of the Appellant or to pay a sum of 1,000/- per month to the Appellant from the date of filing of the application till its final decision, in lieu of providing accommodation.

3. In Criminal Writ Petition No. 588 of 2009 filed before the High Court of Bombay, Nagpur Bench, the Appellant herein challenged the judgment and order passed by the learned Sessions Judge, Amravati, in Crl. Appeal No. 159 of 2008, claiming that she had a right to stay in her matrimonial house. Although, the question as to whether a female member of the husband's family could be made a party to the proceedings under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005, had been raised in the criminal appeal, the learned Sessions Judge in his order did not decide the said question and did not absolve the Respondent Nos. 2 and 3 in his order, but only observed that female members cannot be made parties in proceedings under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005, as "females" are not included in the definition of "respondent" in Section 2(q) of the said Act.

4. The learned Single Judge of the High Court disposed of the writ petition with a direction to the Appellant to vacate her matrimonial house, which was in the name of the Respondent No. 2, with a further direction to the Trial Court to expedite the hearing of the Misc. Crl. Application No. 203 of 2007 filed by the Appellant herein and to decide the same within a period of six months. A further direction was given confirming the order relating to deletion of the names of the 'other members' from the complaint filed by the Appellant. The judgment of the High Court was challenged before the Supreme Court in Crl. A. No. 271 of 2011. Allowing the appeal, the Supreme Court held:

13. It is true that the expression "female" has not been used in the proviso to Section 2(q) also, but, on the other hand, if the Legislature intended to exclude females from the ambit of the complaint, which can be filed by an aggrieved wife, females would have been specifically excluded, instead of it being provided in the proviso that a complaint could also be filed against a relative of the husband or the male partner. No restrictive meaning has been given to the expression "relative", nor has the said expression been specifically defined in the Domestic Violence Act, 2005, to make it specific to males only.

14. In such circumstances, it is clear that the legislature never intended to exclude female relatives of the husband or male partner from the ambit of a complaint that can be made under the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

15. In our view, both the Sessions Judge and the High Court went wrong in holding otherwise, possibly being influenced by the definition of the expression "respondent" in the main body of Section 2(q) of the aforesaid Act.

16. The Appeal, therefore, succeeds. The judgments and orders, both of the learned Sessions Judge, Amravati, dated 15th July, 2009 and the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court dated 5th March, 2010, in Crl. Writ Petition No. 588 of 2009 are set aside. Consequently, the trial Court shall also proceed against the said Respondent Nos. 2 and 3 on the complaint filed by the Appellant.

17. The appeal is allowed accordingly.


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