The Supreme Court on Tuesday held that the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, cannot be interpreted or deployed to evict a woman from her shared household, which she is otherwise entitled to under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.
A bench, headed by Justice DY Chandrachud and comprising Justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, said: "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."
The top court allowed a woman's appeal with Rs 25,000 cost and restrained her in-laws and husband from evicting her from the premises. The court also restrained in-laws from selling the house for one year, to allow the woman to pursue remedies under the Domestic Violence Act.
The SC observed that domestic violence act is to provide for and recognise the rights of women to secure housing and to recognise 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 sought to be achieved in enacting the latter legislation," it said.
Emphasising on harmony of both Acts, the bench said 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.
"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," said the bench in the verdict.
The apex court thus set aside the Karnataka High Court's September 17, 2019 order, which directed a woman to evict the residential house belonging to her mother-in-law in north Bengaluru. The High Court had observed the woman's estranged husband is liable for maintenance and shelter and upheld the order of the Deputy Commissioner, passed under the Senior Citizens Act.
"Merely because the ownership of the property has been subsequently transferred to her in-laws (second and third respondents) or that her estranged spouse (fourth respondent) is now residing separately, is no ground to deprive the appellant of the protection that was envisaged under the PWDV Act 2005," the top court said.