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CASE ANALYSIS – SR BATRA V. TARUNA BATRA

Brief Facts of The Case

The facts[1] of the case were that Mrs. Taruna Batra was married to Mr. Amit Batra and they had a male child. After the birth of the son, she was living in the property which was in Mr. Amit’s mother’s name. They all lived on the ground floor of the property in Ashok Vihar. After a few months, the relations between Mrs. Taruna and Mr. Amit started deteriorating and as a result, Mrs. Taruna had to shift to the second floor of the building. She had put allegations on her husband and in-laws that she treated her cruelly, and section 406, 409, and 498A was applied to this case by filing a divorce petition as the relations between them worsened. However later when Mrs. Batra tried entering the home, she found it locked. She filed a case for seeking a mandatory injunction to let her enter her matrimonial home. To this claim respondents, Mr. Amit Batra contended that he had purchased a new property in Ghaziabad and now that was her matrimonial home.

Issues

The issue, in this case, revolved around the concept of shared household or the case of matrimonial home under the domestic violence act 2005 [2]and the right of the wife to seek an injunction from the dispossession of his matrimonial home.

Provisions Involved

  1. Sec 406 of IPC provides punishment in case of breach of trust in which the accused should be in a position to exercise his domination over the property and must be dishonestly appropriated [3]
  2. Sec 498A defines the cruelty which states if any of the acts husband’s relatives affects the women physically, emotionally, or mentally or if they demand any undue amount in the form of dowry shall be liable under this section [4]
  3. 2(s) of the domestic violence [5]act defines a shared household where there existed a domestic relationship with the husband who owns the property, is paying the rent of the property and is the joint owner of the Hindu undivided family.

Trial court’s Decision

The main issue was regarding the definition of matrimonial rights which is not distinctively defined anywhere, however, sec 2(s) of the domestic violence act defines the shared household. This case went through the trial court, the high court, and the Supreme Court. In the trial court, Shri Amit Batra contended that he had purchased some real-estate property in the Ghaziabad and now that was the matrimonial home of her wife. He also contended that when the suit for injunction was pending his wife trespassed upon the property and only one blanket was found there.  The trial court findings:

  1. The second floor was owned by the petitioner(wife) and each one has the right to enter the common passage
  2. It was not her matrimonial home as the wife was residing somewhere else.
  3. The petition filed by the wife seeking mandatory or ad interim injunction was dismissed.

Both the parties were not satisfied with the trial court’s judgment and filed a case in the high court

High Court’s Decision

The judgment delivered by the high court was ambiguous and adjudicated on the need to have a law on matrimonial homes.  The bench believed that India needs to view this situation pragmatically and need to formulate laws like England which is matrimonial homes act 1983 which states that even if a spouse does not have a right to the proprietary interest he or she can still stay in the house.

Supreme court’s Decision

The matter went to the Supreme Court and it reversed the high court judgment, it believed that the laws of England cannot be regulated in India. Further, the findings of the Supreme Court were:

  1. The bench decided that the property was in the name of the mother-in-law and it cannot be claimed.
  2. The property can be claimed only in three circumstances if it is registered in the name of the husband, if the husband is a member of the Hindu undivided family or if the husband is the rent payer of the property residing in
  3. Under Sec. 2(s) of the domestic violence Act [6], the act does not act here as it is not the property of the husband nor it was family property

Case Laws acting under this concept

Smt. Shamita Didi Sandhu v. Mr. Sanjay Singh Sandhu and Ors.[7], it was held that if the daughter-in-law is allowed to stay at in-law’s house, it does not mean that she could claim the property as her matrimonial home, it could only belong to her as per the provisions mentioned in sec 2(s) of the domestic violence act 2005. In the case of Smt. Mira Das vs Ms. Dipali Dey[8], in this case, the husband was the one who had filed for a divorce. In this case, it was held since the party already has a decree of divorce the right to a matrimonial home cannot be claimed.

CONCLUSION

Women have undergone a lot of discrimination in the past time when it comes to succession and inheritance laws. However, many laws have already been added to the already existing laws such domestic violence act, Hindu succession act 2005. These laws provide greater protection to women. The constitution has done a great job in providing justice to women in case of gender Discrimination. Articles 14 and 15 have been enshrined in the Indian constitution. Except these, some areas are often left adjudicated in the sector of inheritance and succession laws. In these circumstances, we need judicial discretion to be exercised by the judges where they would fill the gaps. We need more stringent laws which regulate and adapt them to the dynamic changes taking place in the demographic region. Factors such as rising illiteracy rates among women in rural areas and migration rates propagate the need for having specific laws for poor women, widow, and lacks family support. With these steps, the succession and inheritance laws can be made more pragmatic and stronger.

Author(s) Name: Shubhra Goyal

References:

[1] Sr Batra v. Taruna Batra (2007) 3 SCC 169

[2] Domestic Violence Act 2005, sec 2 Cl (s)

[3] Indian Penal Code 1860, section 406

[4] Indian Penal Code 1860, section 498A

[5] Domestic Violence Act, 2005 Sec 2 Cl. s

[6] Domestic Violence Act, 2005 Sec 2 Cl. s

[7] Smt. Shamita Didi Sandhu v. Mr. Sanjay Singh Sandhu and Ors, 174(2010) DLT 79(DB) 7

[8] Smt. Mira Das v. Ms. Dipali Dey, (2008) 4 SCC 1134