The Supreme Court ruled that it is not necessary that at the time of filing of an application by an aggrieved person, the domestic relationship should be subsisting.
According to the aggrieved person, her marriage with Kuldeep Tyagi (since deceased) son of late Vishnudutt Tyagi was solemnized in June, 2005 at Haridwar District, Uttarakhand as per Hindu rites and rituals and in connection with the marriage, the family members of the aggrieved person had given dowry to the family of her deceased husband and Stridhana to the aggrieved person. For the period immediately following the wedding, the aggrieved person was residing at the ancestral home of the respondents along with her mother-in-law-respondent, two brothers-in-law, wife of her husband’s elder brother and six sisters-in-law. Thereafter, the aggrieved person began living with her husband and the respondents in village Jhabreda. Kuldeep Tyagi, husband of the aggrieved person died in July, 2005 in a car accident and after the Terhanvi ceremony of her husband, the aggrieved person was constrained to reside initially at Delhi, at her father’s house. Immediately prior to the death of her husband, the aggrieved person had conceived a child.
Advocate Gaurav Agrawal, amicus curiae, appearing on behalf of the appellant, contended that the High Court and the First Appellate Court had erred in setting aside the judgment of the Court of the Special Judicial Magistrate on the primary ground that aggrieved person was not sharing a household with the respondents and there was no domestic relationship between the parties and therefore, no relief could be granted under the provisions of the D.V. Act.
He submitted that Sections 2 (f) and 2 (s) of the Domestic Violence Act states that an aggrieved person has to be in a ‘domestic relationship’ as defined under the D.V. Act in order to attract the provisions of the D.V. Act. If such a person is living, or has at any point of time lived together in a ‘shared household’ with the persons against whom allegations of domestic violence have been made, the provisions of the D.V. Act would apply.
Advocate K.K. Srivastava, appearing for the respondent, supported the impugned judgments of the High Court and the First Appellate Court and contended that the said judgments are justified and hence, do not call for interference by the Court.
He contended that it was denied that the aggrieved person was in a domestic relationship with the respondents. The aggrieved person, following her marriage with Kuldeep Tyagi, was residing with him in Roorkee District, Haridwar and not with the respondents, in Jhabreda. Her place of residence had been recorded as Roorkee, in the application filed under the D.V. Act before the Magistrate, as well as in the application submitted before the revenue authorities for mutation of her name in the revenue records pertaining to the property belonging to her deceased husband. Even following the death of Kuldeep Tyagi, the aggrieved person did not reside with the respondents.
He urged that in view of the said facts, it could not be held that a ‘domestic relationship’ subsisted between the parties, on the basis of which relief could be claimed under the D.V. Act.
The division bench of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice B.V. Nagarathna viewed that the D.V. Act is a piece of Civil Code which is applicable to every woman in India irrespective of her religious affiliation and/or social background for a more effective protection of her rights guaranteed under the Constitution and in order to protect women victims of domestic violence occurring in a domestic relationship.
The court said that the expression ‘joint family’ cannot mean as understood in Hindu Law. Thus, the expression ‘family members living together as a joint family’, means the members living jointly as a family. In such an interpretation, even a girl child/children who is/are cared for as foster children also have a right to live in a shared household and are conferred with the right under Sub-Section (1) of Section 17 of the D.V. Act. When such a girl child or woman becomes an aggrieved person, the protection of Sub-Section (2) of Section 17 comes into play.
The court observed that 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.
The court stated that the purpose of a proviso in such a case is to remove any doubt. There are also instances where a proviso is in the nature of an independent enactment and not merely an exception or qualifying what has been stated before. In other words, if the substantive enactment is worded in the form of a proviso, it would be an independent legislative provision concerning a different set of circumstances than what is worded before or what is stated before. Sometimes, a proviso is to make a distinction of special cases from the general enactment and to provide it specially.
The court further added that 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 court set aside the judgment passed by the High Court of Uttarakhand in Criminal Revision as well as the judgment passed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Dehradun in Criminal Appeal and affirmed the order passed by the Special Judicial Magistrate, Dehradun.
Case title: Prabha Tyagi v/s Kamlesh Devi
Citation: Criminal appeal no. 511 of 2022