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Case Compilation: Whose Rights Would Prevail – Daughter-In-Laws or Senior Citizens?

In the Indian Society there exists to kinds of suppressed categories of people i.e. Senior Citizens and Daughter-In-Laws. 

Keeping mind the legislature has enacted the  Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act (Senior Citizens Act) with the objective to provide maintenance support to elderly parents and senior citizens, on the other hand the Domestic Violence Act, 2005, right to reside in a ‘shared household’ or the ‘matrimonial household’ during and after domestic violence proceedings.

It is often asked that in case of a tussle whose rights would prevail – Senior Citizens or Daughter-In-Laws. 

Now lets understand it by the Various Judicial Precedents laid down by the Supreme Court and High Courts.

Jagdeepbhai Chandulal Patel v/s Reshma Ruchin Patel 

Recently, the Gujarat High Court has ruled that the Senior Citizens Act will not override the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.

The court held that the respondent wife, under the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act, has the right to reside in a shared household and added that merely an offer being made to provide another suitable accommodation, cannot snatch away the legitimate right of the respondent wife of the shared household.

S. Vanitha v. Deputy Commissioner, Bengaluru Urban District

The Supreme Court has held that recourse to the summary procedure contemplated by the Senior Citizen Act 2007 was not available for the purpose of facilitating strategies that are designed to defeat the claim of the appellant in respect of a shared household. A shared household would have to be interpreted to include the residence where the appellant had been jointly residing with her husband. Merely because the ownership of the property has been subsequently transferred to her in-laws or that her estranged spouse is now residing separately, is no ground to deprive the appellant of the protection that was envisaged under the PWDV Act 2005.

Vinay Verma Vs. Kanika Pasricha

The Delhi High Court attempted to address the lack of clarity in the two Acts by issuing six broad guidelines which are as follows:

  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.

Harmonising competing reliefs under the Domestic Violence Act 2005 and Senior Citizens Act 2007

Section 36 of the DV Act 2005 stipulates that the provisions of the Act shall be in addition to, and not in derogation of, the provisions of any other law for the time being in force. This is intended to ensure that the remedies provided under the enactment are in addition to other remedies and do not displace them. The Senior Citizens Act 2007 is undoubtedly a later Act and Section 3 stipulates that its provisions will have effect, notwithstanding anything inconsistent contained in any other enactment. However, the provisions of Section 3 of the Senior Citizens Act 2007 giving it overriding force and effect, would not by themselves be conclusive of an intent to deprive a woman who claims a right in a shared household, as under the DV Act 2005. The Principles of statutory interpretation dictate that in the event of two special acts containing non obstante clauses, the later law shall typically prevail.

The Senior Citizen’s Act 2007 contains a non obstante clause. However, in the event of a conflict between special acts, the dominant purpose of both statutes would have to be analysed to ascertain which one should prevail over the other. The primary effort of the interpreter must be to harmonise, not excise. Hence, Section 36 of the Domestic Violence Act 2005, albeit not in the nature of a non obstante clause, has to be construed harmoniously with the non obstante clause in Section 3 of the Senior Citizens Act 2007 that operates in a separate field.

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