Tenanted premises where a woman lives with her husband comes within the category of shared household, but as long as the tenancy survives

Delhi High Court: While disposing of an appeal relating eviction of tenant on the ground of termination of tenancy the Court held that, the tenanted premises where a woman lives with her husband would definitely come within the category of shared household but as long as the tenancy survives. The case involved a matrimonial dispute between the tenant and his wife, which led to filing of a complaint under Domestic Violence Act. The landlord had entered a tenancy agreement with the tenant (the husband) which ended in February 2015, but on completion of the agreement the suit property was not vacated, due to which the landlord files a suit for eviction. On the basis of the pleadings, the Trial Court vide judgment dated 30.09.2015, decreed the suit under Order 12 Rule 6 of the CPC holding that the tenant (husband)who was the main contestant, admitted the existence of landlord-tenant relationship as also of the expiration/termination of the tenancy. The appellant (wife) challenged the aforesaid judgment and decree of the Trial Court on the ground that the suit of eviction and possession was misused, solely for the purposes of ousting the appellant from the suit property which was the matrimonial home/shared household and thus she was divested of her Constitutional as well as statutory right of residence and shelter. The stand of the appellant before the Trial Court was that she was entitled to any one of the reliefs under Sections 19 to 21 of the Domestic Violence Act and such relief could be sought by her before any court as per Section 26(1) of the Domestic Violence Act. The appellant raised the issue that under Section 26(2) of the Domestic Violence Act, the relief sought by her to continue in the tenanted household ought to have been granted in addition to or along with any other relief.

The single judge bench comprising of Ashutosh Kumar, J. observed that the right of the appellant, under Section 17 of the Act would not be enforced against the landlord, who cannot be called a respondent in the first instance, a respondent in a domestic relationship; in the second instance; his premises which were let out for a specified period to the appellant along with her husband in a shared household after the expiry of the lease agreement and proposed eviction is only in accordance with the procedure established by law i.e by filing a suit for eviction before the competent Court. Similarly, the residence orders which could be obtained by an aggrieved wife under Section 19 of the Act also would not include a landlord in whose premises the couple resided under a lease agreement, the period of which has expired. No doubt, right of residence is a part of the right of maintenance to a wife. Had the appellant taken the plea that she would continue to pay the monthly rental, the situation would have been different. However, this is also debatable in as much as no person could be forced to enter into a contract with another without his consent or choice. Thus it would have depended upon the desire and willingness of the landlord to continue with the tenancy when the tenancy has expired.

The Court while rejecting the claim of the appellant held that it would not be lawful, in the opinion of this Court, to force an outsider who is not privy to any dispute between the warring couple or has any truck or alliance with them to extend tenancy in their/in wife’s favour without his choice or willingness despite the beneficent provisions of the Domestic Violence Act when the term of lease has expired and the tenancy also stands terminated. The rights of a person are no less valuable than the right of the appellant, here in this case to have a place of residence and protection. [Anukriti Dubey v. Partha Kansabanik, 2016 SCC OnLine Del 1930, Decided on 23-03-2016]

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