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S. Vanitha vs The Deputy Commissioner on 15 December, 2020

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Reportable

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

Civil Appeal No. 3822 of 2020
(Arising out of SLP (C) No. 29760 of 2019)

Smt. S Vanitha ….Appellant

Versus

The Deputy Commissioner, …. Respondents
Bengaluru Urban District Ors.

Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
Sanjay Kumar
Date: 2020.12.15
17:28:55 IST
Reason:

1
JUDGMENT

Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, J

Index

A Background

B Submissions

C Legislative scheme: Senior Citizens Act 2007

D A woman‟s right of residence: safeguard against domestic violence

E Harmonising competing reliefs under the PWDV Act 2005 and Senior Citizens

Act 2007

F Summation

2
PART A

A Background

1 The present dispute arises out of an application filed by the Second and Third

respondents against the appellant, who is their daughter-in-law. The Second and

Third respondents are the parents of the Fourth respondent, who is the estranged

spouse of the appellant. The Second and Third respondents filed an application

under the provisions of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens

Act 20071, and inter alia, sought the appellant and her daughter‟s eviction from a

residential house in North Bengaluru2.

2 The Assistant Commissioner, and the Deputy Commissioner in appeal,

allowed the application under the Senior Citizens Act 2007 and directed the

appellant to vacate the suit premises. Aggrieved by this order, the appellant

unsuccessfully pursued a writ proceeding under Article 226 of the Constitution

before a Single Judge, and in appeal before a Division Bench of the High Court of

Karnataka. The Division Bench by its judgment dated 17 September 2019 held that

the suit premises belonged to the mother-in-law (the Second respondent) of the

appellant and the remedy of the appellant for maintenance and shelter lies only

against her estranged husband (the Fourth respondent). The Division Bench upheld

the Order of the Deputy Commissioner, and directed the appellant to vacate the suit

premises before 31 December 2019. Challenging the jurisdiction of the authorities3

1
“Senior Citizens Act 2007”
2
“suit premises”
3
The Assistant Commissioner, Bengaluru North Sub-Division at Bengaluru and the Deputy Commissioner,
Bengaluru District

3
PART A

to decree her eviction under the Senior Citizens Act 2007, the appellant has moved

this Court under Article 136 of the Constitution.

3 The appellant and the Fourth respondent were married on 30 May 2002.

Soon thereafter, a matrimonial dispute arose between the parties. The appellant

alleges that she was harassed for dowry and even compelled to institute a suit for

partition against her father in 2003 4 which she later withdrew, after her spouse

allegedly deserted her to be in a relationship with another woman. The subject

matter of the controversy is a residential house situated at Gangondonahalli,

Dasanapura, Hobli, Bengaluru North Taluk. The land was purchased by the Fourth

respondent on 2 May 2002, a few months before the appellant married him. The

appellant alleges that her father had financed a portion of this purchase.

4 On 5 October 2006, the Fourth respondent sold the land to his father – the

Third respondent. The transaction of sale between the father and the son was for

the same consideration of Rs.1.19 lacs, as was paid by the Fourth respondent for

the original purchase of the property in 2002. By then, the appellant and the Fourth

respondent had a daughter. In 2009, the Fourth respondent instituted a petition for

divorce 5 under Section 13(1)(ia) and (ib) of Hindu Marriage Act 1955 before the

Senior Civil Judge and Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Nelamangala6. The Third

respondent, following the purchase of the property and after constructing a house,

gifted it to his spouse – the Second respondent, on 19 July 2010. Soon thereafter, on

4
OS 211 of 2003
5
MC 22 of 2009
6
“Trial Judge”

4
PART A

17 August 2010, the Second respondent instituted a suit against the appellant 7

before the JMFC, Nelamangala seeking a permanent injunction restraining the

appellant from interfering with the possession of the suit property. The suit is

pending. On 5 December 2013, the petition for divorce was allowed by the Trial

Judge and the marriage between the appellant and the Fourth respondent was
8
dissolved. On 19 March 2014, the appellant instituted a proceeding for

maintenance. She also filed an appeal before the High Court of Karnataka9 against

the dissolution of her marriage by the Trial Judge. The proceedings for divorce and

maintenance are also pending.

5 In 2015, the Third and Fourth respondents invoked the provisions of the

Senior Citizens Act 2007 by instituting an application before the Assistant

Commissioner, Bengaluru North Sub Division. Their son (the Fourth respondent)

and the appellant were impleaded as respondents to the petition 10 . The reliefs

sought were:

(i) Eviction of the appellant from the suit premises where she was residing;

(ii) A direction to the Fourth respondent to pay an amount of Rs.15,000 to the

parents by way of monthly maintenance; and

(iii) A direction to the appellant and fourth respondent to pay an amount

quantified at Rs. 25,000 towards legal expenses.

7

OS 312 of 2010
8
Criminal Miscellaneous 114 of 2014 before the Civil Judge (Jr. Dn.), JMFC Nelamangala
9
MFA 3968 of 2014
10
Petition 31 of 2015

5
PART A

The appellant filed an objection to the petition filed under the Senior Citizens Act

2007, alleging it to be a malicious proceeding that was instituted with the sole intent

to evict her from the suit premises. The appellant also claimed that the proceedings

were collusive in nature and an attempt by the Second and Third respondents and

her estranged spouse (the Fourth respondent) to evict her from her matrimonial

home. The appellant specifically raised an objection to the jurisdiction of the

authorities to entertain the proceedings seeking her eviction from the premises. She

submitted that while the Senior Citizens Act 2007 provides for the maintenance of a

senior citizen or a parent, there is no provision envisaging an order of eviction, and

that the authorities had no jurisdiction to direct her removal from the premises.

6 The Assistant Commissioner by an Order dated 25 June 2015, held that the

residential house was the self-acquired property of the Third respondent which he

subsequently gifted to the Second Respondent. The appellant was residing in the

property, but was held to have no right or authority. The appellant‟s plea for

maintenance could (in the view of the Assistant Commissioner) only be raised

against the Fourth respondent. Therefore, the Assistant Commissioner allowed the

petition by directing (i) the Fourth respondent to pay a monthly maintenance of

Rs.10,000 to his parents; and (ii) the appellant to vacate the premises.

7 The appeal filed by the appellant under Section 28 of the Hindu Marriage Act

1955 against the decree for dissolution of marriage, was allowed by a Division

Bench of the Karnataka High Court on 14 January 2016. The High Court set aside

the order of the Trial Court and remanded the proceedings to the jurisdictional

6
PART A

Family Court, for passing fresh orders after hearing the parties. During the pendency

of the appeal, the Fourth respondent entered into a marriage with another woman.

On remand, the proceedings for divorce and the application for maintenance are

pending disposal.

8 On 29 February 2016, the Deputy Commissioner, acting as the appellate

authority under the Senior Citizens Act 2007, dismissed the appeal filed by the

appellant as well as a companion appeal by the Fourth respondent against the order

of the Assistant Commissioner. The order requiring the appellant to vacate the suit

premises was thereby confirmed. The appellant challenged the order passed by the

Deputy Commissioner in proceedings under Article 226 of the Constitution. The

Single Judge of the Karnataka High Court, by a judgement dated 18 June 2019, held

that the suit premises have been transferred by the Third respondent to his wife – the

Second respondent – by a registered gift deed dated 19 July 2010. The Single Judge

noted the contention of the Second and Third respondents that following a

matrimonial dispute, their son (the Fourth respondent) had left the house after which

the appellant had ousted them on 12 August 2010 and they are currently living in

their “native place”. In light of the fact that the marriage between the appellant and

Fourth respondent had been dissolved by the Trial Judge, the Single Judge held that

the appellant had no right over the suit premises and her claim for maintenance

could only by asserted against the Fourth respondent. Though, the appellant has

specifically questioned the jurisdiction of the authorities under the Senior Citizens

Act 2007 to order her eviction, the Single Judge did not address the submission.

7
PART B

Aggrieved by the order of the Single Judge, the appellant challenged the order in a

writ appeal. Once again, it was urged in the course of the hearing that the

proceedings which were instituted under the Senior Citizens Act 2007 were only a

device to oust the appellant and that the authorities had no jurisdiction to direct her

eviction. The Division Bench reiterated the views of the Single Judge, and held that

the appellant had no cause of action against the Second and Third respondents who

owned the suit premises. It held that the appellant‟s claim for maintenance and

shelter would lie only against the Fourth respondent. In dealing with the preliminary

objection as regards the jurisdiction of the Assistant Commissioner to direct eviction,

the Division Bench merely observed that it was not in agreement with the

submission that “the Assistant Commissioner was powerless to pass an order

directing dispossession of the appellant”.

B Submissions

9 The appellant, aggrieved by the judgement of the Division Bench of the High

Court, has preferred the present special leave petition. Mr Yatish Mohan, learned

Counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant submitted that:

(i) The appellant is residing in her matrimonial home as the lawfully wedded

spouse of the Fourth respondent and she cannot be evicted from her shared

household, in view of the protection offered by Section 17 of the Protection of

Women from Domestic Violence Act 200511;

11
PWDV Act 2005”

8
PART B

(ii) The proceeding under Sections 3 and 4 of the Senior Citizens Act 2007 was

filed by her mother-in-law and father-in-law in connivance with her estranged

spouse to deprive her of her matrimonial home;

(iii) The finding of the Division Bench on the appellant‟s current residential status

was based on a fraudulent set up. The alleged postal cover was dispatched

on 21 June 2018, during the pendency of the proceedings before the Single

Judge, and merely indicated a postal endorsement (“no such person”) as it

arrived when nobody was present at home to receive it;

(iv) The decree for the dissolution of marriage which was passed against the

appellant by the Trial Judge on 5 December 2013 has been set aside by the

High Court on 14 January 2016 and the proceedings have been remanded

back to the jurisdictional Family Court for a disposal afresh. Hence, as of

date, the appellant continues to be in a lawful relationship of marriage with the

Fourth respondent and she has no other place to live except the suit

premises, with her minor daughter;

(v) The provisions of the Senior Citizens Act 2007 have been manipulated to

defeat the rights of the appellant. The manner in which the premises were

transferred by the spouse of the appellant to his father and the gift deed

thereafter to mother-in-law of the appellant are indicative of an attempt to

misuse the provisions of the Act, to defeat the claims of the appellant; and

9
PART B

(vi) In asserting her right under Section 17 of the PWDV Act 2005, the appellant

relies on the decision of this Court in Satish Chander Ahuja vs Sneha

Ahuja 12 . In sum and substance, it has been urged that the authorities

constituted under the Senior Citizens Act 2007 had no jurisdiction to order the

eviction of the appellant. Moreover, the proceedings have been utilised to

secure the eviction of the appellant so as to deny her claim of a right to reside

in the shared household under the PWDV Act 2005.

10 On the other hand, while seeking to rebut the submissions of the appellant,

Mr Rajesh Mahale, learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the Second and Third

respondents submits that:

(i) Both the Second respondent (who is 72 years old) and the Third respondent

(who is 82 years old) are senior citizens;

(ii) The suit premises was constructed by the Third respondent- the father-in-law

of the appellant, on a plot of land admeasuring 1200 square feet situated in

Gangondanahalli, Bengaluru North Taluk. This was subsequently gifted to the

Second respondent, the mother-in-law of the appellant;

(iii) The appellant has been concurrently found to have ousted the Second and

Third respondents from the property belonging to them and to have illegally

entered into possession; and

(iv) The Second and Third respondents filed an application under the Senior

Citizens Act 2007 before the Assistant Commissioner for evicting the

12
Civil Appeal No. 2483 of 2020, decided on 15 October 2020

10
PART B

appellant and for the restoration of their possession, which has been allowed

by the authorities and the High Court concurrently.

11 Dealing with the issue of jurisdiction, Mr Mahale submitted that

(i) The Tribunal constituted under the Senior Citizens Act 2007 has the

jurisdiction to pass appropriate orders for protecting the life and property of

parents and senior citizens, including orders of eviction;

(ii) The intent and object of the Act is to provide for an inexpensive and speedy

relief to parents and senior citizens;

(iii) While Chapter II entitles parents and senior citizens to apply for orders to

provide monetary relief for sustenance and maintenance, Chapter V contains

provisions for protecting the life and property of parents and senior citizens;

(iv) The Tribunal constituted under the Act has been entrusted to issue orders

after a summary enquiry, for effective maintenance of parents and senior

citizens including relief against neglect, harassment and protection of the

property of senior citizens;

(v) Section 23 confers two separate and distinct rights:

(a) Section 23(1) empowers the Tribunal to declare a transfer of property

by a senior citizen void, where the transfer was conditioned upon

providing basic amenities and physical needs to a senior citizen, where

the transferee fails to provide them;

11

PART B

(b) Section 23(2) recognises a pre-existing right of a senior citizen to

receive maintenance out of an estate and secures the right of making it

enforceable against a transferee who had notice of the right;

(vi) The expression “maintenance” in Section 2(b) includes provision for residence

and a right to reside can be enforced by a senior citizen, if the property is

transferred without making a suitable provision for maintenance; and

(vii) Though the Senior Citizens Act 2007 does not contain an express provision

enabling the Tribunal to pass eviction orders, the power has to be read within

its jurisdiction by necessary implication. Such an interpretation, it has been

urged, would be purposive, in order to effectuate the provisions of the Act.

The contrary view would cause hardship to senior citizens who would be

powerless, despite being forcibly dispossessed of their means of sustenance.

Parliament has empowered the State governments to authorise local

authorities to take remedial measures for protecting the life and property of

senior citizens and it would be incorrect to limit the relief that can be granted

by a Tribunal only to monetary relief. Relegating a senior citizen to a civil court

for the recovery of their property would result in defeating the provisions of the

Act. Hence, it has been urged that such an interpretation should not be

adopted.

12
PART C

C Legislative scheme: Senior Citizens Act 2007

12 The rival submissions will now be analysed.

13 Our analysis of the rival submissions must begin with explaining and

interpreting the salient feature of the Senior Citizens Act 2007 which have a bearing

on the present controversy. „Maintenance‟ is defined in an inclusive manner to

incorporate, among other things, provisions for food, clothing, residence, medical

assistance and treatment13. In defining the expression „property‟, the legislation uses

broad terminology encompassing “property of any kind” and to include “rights or

interests in such property” 14 . Overriding effect is given to the provisions of the

enactment by Section 315. Besides the definitions which are comprised in Chapter I,

Chapter II is titled “Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens” while Chapter V is

titled “Protection of Life and Property of Senior Citizen”. The Statement of Objects

and Reasons indicates the rationale for the enactment of the law:

“Traditional norms and values of the Indian society laid stress
on providing care for the elderly. However, due to withering of
the joint family system, a large number of elderly are not
being looked after by their family. Consequently, many older
persons, particularly widowed women are now forced to
spend their twilight years all alone and are exposed to
emotional neglect and to lack of physical and financial
support. This clearly reveals that ageing has become a major
social challenge and there is a need to give more attention to
the care and protection for the older persons. Though the
parents can claim maintenance under
the Code of Criminal

13
2(b) “maintenance” includes provisions for food, clothing, residence and medical attendance and treatment
14
2(f) “property” means property of any kind, whether movable or immovable, ancestral or self acquired,
tangible or intangible and includes rights or interests in such property;

15

3. Act to have overriding effect.—The provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything
inconsistent therewith contained in any enactment other than this Act, or in any instrument having effect by
virtue of any enactment other than this Act.

13
PART C

Procedure, 1973, the procedure is both time – consuming as
well as expensive. Hence, there is a need to have simple,
inexpensive and speedy provisions to claim maintenance for
parents.”

Briefly reviewed, Section 4 recognises an entitlement of maintenance to inhere in

parents and senior citizens. Section 5 lays down the procedure by which an

application for maintenance can be made. Section 6 elucidates provisions governing

jurisdiction and procedure. Section 7 contains stipulations for the constitution of a

Maintenance Tribunal. Section 8 envisages a summary procedure for making an

inquiry. Section 11 provides for the enforcement of an order of maintenance.

14 A senior citizen, including a parent, who is unable to maintain themselves from

their own earning or out of property owned by them, is entitled to make an

application under Section 4(i). A parent or grand-parent may make an application

against one or more of their children. A childless senior citizen can make an

application against a relative specified in Section 2(g). Section 4 recognises a

corresponding obligation on the part of the children or relative to maintain a senior

citizen, extending to such needs as would enable them to lead a normal life. In the

case of a relative, the obligation is if they are in possession of the property of the

senior citizen or would inherit property from them. Hence, in the case of the children

of a senior citizen, the obligation to maintain a parent is not conditional on being in

possession of property of the senior citizen or upon a right of future inheritance16.

16

4. Maintenance of parents and senior citizens.—(1) A senior citizen including parent who is unable to
maintain himself from his own earning or out of the property owned by him, shall be entitled to make an
application under section 5 in case of—

(i) parent or grand-parent, against one or more of his children not being a minor;

14
PART C

15 The procedure to be followed by a Maintenance Tribunal (constituted under

Section 7) is of a summary nature as provided in Section 8(1) and with all the

powers of a Civil Court, as provided in Section 8(2) 17 . Under Sub-section (1) of

Section 9, where a senior citizen is not able to maintain himself or herself and the

children or relatives, as the case may be, neglect or refuse to maintain them, the

Tribunal is empowered to order them to make a monthly allowance at such monthly

rate for the maintenance of the senior citizen, as the Tribunal may deem fit 18. The

amount of the monthly allowance can be altered inter alia upon a change in

circumstances, under Section 1019.

(ii) a childless senior citizen, against such of his relative referred to in clause (g) of section 2.
(2) The obligation of the children or relative, as the case may be, to maintain a senior citizen extends to the
needs of such citizen so that senior citizen may lead a normal life.
(3) The obligation of the children to maintain his or her parent extends to the needs of such parent either father
or mother or both, as the case may be, so that such parent may lead a normal life.
(4) Any person being a relative of a senior citizen and having sufficient means shall maintain such senior citizen
provided he is in possession of the property of such citizen or he would inherit the property of such senior
citizen:

Provided that where more than one relatives are entitled to inherit the property of a senior citizen, the
maintenance shall be payable by such relative in the proportion in which they would inherit his property.
17

8. Summary procedure in case of inquiry.—
(1)In holding any inquiry under
section 5, the Tribunal may, subject to any rules that may be prescribed by the
State Government in this behalf, follow such summary procedure as it deems fit.
(2) The Tribunal shall have all the powers of a Civil Court for the purpose of taking evidence on oath and of
enforcing the attendance of witnesses and of compelling the discovery and production of documents and
material objects and for such other purposes as may be prescribed; and the Tribunal shall be deemed to be a
Civil Court for all the purposes of section 195 and Chapter XXVI of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of
1974
18

9. Order for maintenance.—
(1) If children or relatives, as the case may be, neglect or refuse to maintain a senior citizen being unable to
maintain himself, the Tribunal may, on being satisfied of such neglect or refusal, order such children or relatives
to make a monthly allowance at such monthly rate for the maintenance of such senior citizen, as the Tribunal
may deem fit and to pay the same to such senior citizen as the Tribunal may, from time to time, direct.
19

10. Alteration in allowance.—
(1) On proof of misrepresentation or mistake of fact or a change in the circumstances of any person, receiving
a monthly allowance under
section 9, for the maintenance ordered under that section to pay a monthly
allowance for the maintenance, the Tribunal may make such alteration, as it thinks fit, in the allowance for the
maintenance. (2) Where it appears to the Tribunal that, in consequence of any decision of a competent Civil
Court, any order made under
section 9 should be cancelled or varied, it shall cancel the order or, as the case
may be, vary the same accordingly

15
PART C

16 Of particular relevance to the facts of the case at hand is Chapter V, which

enacts provisions for protecting the life and property of a senior citizen. Section 23

proceeds in the following terms:

“23. Transfer of property to be void in certain
circumstances.—(1) Where any senior citizen who, after the
commencement of this Act, has transferred by way of gift or
otherwise, his property, subject to the condition that the
transferee shall provide the basic amenities and basic
physical needs to the transferor and such transferee refuses
or fails to provide such amenities and physical needs, the
said transfer of property shall be deemed to have been made
by fraud or coercion or under undue influence and shall at the
option of the transferor be declared void by the Tribunal.

(2) Where any senior citizen has a right to receive
maintenance out of an estate and such estate or part thereof
is transferred, the right to receive maintenance may be
enforced against the transferee if the transferee has notice of
the right, or if the transfer is gratuitous; but not against the
transferee for consideration and without notice of right.

(3) If, any senior citizen is incapable of enforcing the rights
under sub-sections (1) and (2), action may be taken on his
behalf by any of the organisation referred to in Explanation to
sub-section (1) of
section 5.”

Sub-section (1) of Section 23 covers a situation where property has been transferred

after the enactment of the legislation by a senior citizen (by gift or otherwise) subject

to the condition that the transferee must provide the basic amenities and physical

needs to the transferor. In other words, Sub-section (1) deals with a situation where

the transfer of the property is accompanied by a specific condition to provide for the

maintenance and needs of a senior citizen. In such an event, if the transferee fails to

provide the maintenance and physical needs, the transfer of the property is deemed

to have been vitiated by fraud, coercion or under undue influence. Sub-section 1, in

16
PART C

other words, creates a deeming fiction of the law where the transfer of the property

is subject to a condition and the condition of providing for maintenance and the basic

needs of a senior citizen is not fulfilled by the person upon whom the obligation is

imposed. Then, at the option of the transferor, the transfer can be declared as void

by the Tribunal. On the other hand, Sub-section (2) of Section 23 envisages a

situation where a senior citizen has a right to receive maintenance out of an estate.

Where such a right exists, the right of maintenance can be enforced where the

estate or a portion of it, is transferred against a transferor who has notice of the

right; or if the transfer is gratuitous. The right however cannot be enforced against a

transferee for consideration and without notice of the right. Now, Sub-section (1) of

Section 23 envisages a situation where the transfer of property is by the senior

citizen. This is evident from the language of sub-Section (1) namely “where any

senior citizen who, after the commencement of this Act, has transferred by way of

gift or otherwise, his property…”. On the other hand, sub-Section (2) of Section 23

does not confine itself to a transfer by a senior citizen, unlike sub-Section (1). Sub-

Section (2) uses the expression “such estate or part thereof is transferred”. Where a

senior citizen has a right to receive maintenance out of the estate and any part of it

is transferred, sub-section 2 permits the enforcement of the right to receive

maintenance out of the estate against a transferee with notice or against a

gratuitous transferee. Sub-Section (2), in other words, may cover a situation where

the transfer of the estate (in which a senior citizen has a right to maintenance) is by

a third party, in which event, the provision provides the right to enforce the claim of

maintenance against such transferee (other than those transferees for consideration
17
PART C

or without notice of the pre-existing right). Arguably, the language of sub-section (2)

is broad enough to also cover a situation where the transfer is by the senior citizen,

in which event the transferee with notice of the right; or a gratuitous transferee, can

be made subject to the enforcement of the right against the transferred estate.

Another distinction between sub-Section (1) and sub-Section (2) of Section 23 must

also be noticed. Under sub-Section (1), where a transfer has been made by a senior

citizen subject to the condition that the transferee will provided for basic amenities or

physical needs of the transferor and if there is a failure of the transferee to fulfil the

condition, two consequences follow: (i) the transfer of property shall be deemed to

have been made by fraud or coercion or under undue influence; and (ii) the transfer

shall, at the option of the transferor, be declared to be void by the Tribunal. The

deeming consequence which is provided for in sub-Section (1) is not incorporated in

sub-Section (2). Sub-Section (2), in contradistinction, stipulates that the right to

receive maintenance can be enforced against a gratuitous transferee or a transferee

with notice of the pre-existing right of a citizen to receive maintenance out of an

estate notwithstanding who is the transferee of the estate. In keeping with the

salutary public purpose underlying the enactment of the legislation, the expression

„transfer‟ would include not only the absolute transfer of property but also transfer of

a right or interest in the property. This would also be in consonance with the

provisions of Section 2(f) which defines the expression property to include “rights or

interests in such property”. The expression „transfer‟ not having been

defined specifically by the legislation, it must receive an interpretation which would

advance the beneficent object and purpose of its provisions. Sub-section (2) of
18
PART C

section 23 speaks of the enforcement of the “right to receive maintenance” which is

more comprehensive in its nature, than merely enforcing an order for maintenance

passed under Section 9 of the Act.

17 The substance of sub-Section (2) of section 23, as submitted by the Second

and Third respondents, is that the Tribunal had the jurisdiction to pass an order

directing the eviction of the appellant who is their daughter-in-law. According to the

submission, the power to order eviction is implicit in the provision guaranteeing a

„right to receive maintenance out of an estate‟ and the enforcement of that right. In

supporting the submission, they have referred to the view which has been taken by

several High Courts, indicating that the Tribunal may order the eviction of a child or

a relative from the property of a senior citizen, where there has been a breach of the

obligation to maintain the senior citizen. The Tribunal under the Senior Citizens Act

2007 may have the authority to order an eviction, if it is necessary and expedient to

ensure the maintenance and protection of the senior citizen or parent. Eviction, in

other words would be an incident of the enforcement of the right to maintenance and

protection. However, this remedy can be granted only after adverting to the

competing claims in the dispute. It is necessary to recapitulate that the situation in

the present case is that the eviction was sought of the daughter-in-law, i.e. the

appellant. The land, where the house has been constructed, was originally

purchased by the son of the applicants who are seeking eviction of their daughter-in-

law. The son had purchased the property a few months before his marriage to the

appellant. He had subsequently transferred the property by a registered sale deed to

19
PART D

his father and the fact that it was for the same consideration after the lapse of

several years is of significance. The father, in turn, executed a gift deed in favor of

his spouse. The appellant has asserted that she had been living in the house, as her

matrimonial residence, until the application was filed. Her spouse has (according to

her) deserted her and their minor daughter and left them in the lurch. The electricity

to the premises was disconnected for non-payment of dues. Their daughter has

sought admission to an engineering degree course however her father- Fourth

respondent has not provided any financial support. The transfers which took place

cannot be viewed in isolation from the context of the on-going matrimonial dispute

which has taken place. The issue is whether the appellant as the daughter-in-law

and the minor daughter could have been ousted in the above manner.

D A woman’s right of residence: safeguard against domestic violence

18 In arriving at a decision of this issue it becomes necessary to elucidate the

right, which is asserted by the appellant. The appellant has submitted that the

premises constitute a “shared household” within the meaning of Section 2(s) of the

PWDV Act 2005. Section 2(s) defines the expression “shared household” in the

following terms:

“(s) “shared household” means a household where the
person aggrieved lives or at any stage has lived in a domestic
relationship either singly or along with the respondent and
includes such a household whether owned or tenanted either
jointly by the aggrieved person and the respondent, or owned
or tenanted by either of them in respect of which either the
aggrieved person or the respondent or both jointly or singly
have any right, title, interest or equity and includes such a
household which may belong to the joint family of which the

20
PART D

respondent is a member, irrespective of whether the
respondent or the aggrieved person has any right, title or
interest in the shared household;”

(emphasis supplied)

Section 1920 contemplates the passing of a residence order by the Magistrate on an

application under sub-Section (1) of Section 12 of the PWDV Act 2005. The essence

of the submission of the appellant is that the order of eviction which has been made

in the exercise of the summary powers entrusted by the Senior Citizens Act 2007

would completely displace the appellant from seeking recourse to her remedies

under Section 12(1) read with Section 19 of the PWDV Act 2005 in respect of the

premises, which she claims to be her shared household. The definition of the

expression “shared household” in Section 2(s) uses the familiar legislative formula of

a “means and includes” definition. Where the definition of an expression in an

enactment adopts a „means and includes‟ stipulation, it is intended to be exhaustive.

The „means‟ part of the definition indicates what would normally fall within the ambit

of the expression, while the „includes‟ element gives it an extended meaning.

Together they indicate that the legislature has provided for an exhaustive

20

19. Residence orders-

1) While disposing of an application under sub-section (1) of section 12, the Magistrate may, on being satisfied
that domestic violence has taken place, pass a residence order – (a) restraining the respondent from
dispossessing or in any other manner disturbing the possession of the aggrieved person from the shared
household, whether or not the respondent has a legal or equitable interest in the shared household; (b)
directing the respondent to remove himself from the shared household; (c) restraining the respondent or any of
his relatives from entering any portion of the shared household in which the aggrieved person resides; (d)
restraining the respondent from alienating or disposing off the shared household or encumbering the same; (e)
restraining the respondent from renouncing his rights in the shared household except with the leave of the
Magistrate; or (f) directing the respondent to secure same level of alternate accommodation for the aggrieved
person as enjoyed by her in the shared household or to pay rent for the same, if the circumstances so require:
Provided that no order under clause (b) shall be passed against any person who is a woman.

21
PART D

enumeration of what falls within the ambit of the definition. Justice G P Singh in his

seminal treatise on the Principles of Statutory Interpretation21 observes:

“The Legislature has the power to define a word even
artificially. So the definition of a word in the definitions section
may either be restrictive of its ordinary meaning or it may be
extensive of the same. When a word is defined to „mean‟
such and such, the definition is prima facie restrictive and
exhaustive.”

On the other hand, “includes” is titled so as to comprehend an extensive meaning:

“Whereas, where the word defined is declared to „include‟
such and such, the definition is prime facie extensive. When
by an amending Act, the word „includes‟ was substituted for
the word „means‟ in a definitions section, it was held that the
intention was to make it more extensive…..”

The use of the expression „means‟ is intended to make it exhaustive. On the other

hand, the use of the expression „includes‟ is intended to make it more extensive. The

legislature by using an expression „includes‟ evinces, notwithstanding the meaning

of the phrase, an intention:

“to enlarge the meaning of the words or phrases occurring in
the body of the statute”.

“Includes” is utilized so as to comprehend:

“not only such things as they signify according to their nature
and import but also those things which the interpretation
clause declares that they shall include”

21
Lexis Nexis, 14th Ed. Page 197-199

22
PART D

However, when a statutory definition incorporates the „means and includes‟

approach, the intent is to make the definition exhaustive.

“Further, a definition may be in the form of „means and
includes‟, where again the definition is exhaustive.”

[See in this context the decisions in Jagir Singh vs State of
Bihar; AIR 1976 SC 997, pp. 999, 1001 :1976 SCC (Tax) 204
: (1976) 2 SCC 942;
Kasilingam vs P.S.G. College of
Technology, supra,
Bharat Coop. Bank (Mumbai) Ltd. vs
Coop. Bank Employees Union, (2007) 4 SCC 685 (para 23) :

(2007) 4 JT 573 : (2007) 2 LLJ 825 : AIR 2007 SC 2320; Paul
Enterprise vs Rajib Chatterjee and Company, (2009) 3 SCC
709 para 28 : (2009) 1 JT 632]”

19 The definition of „shared household‟ in Section 2(s) of the PWDV Act 2005 is

exhaustive. This has also recently been held to be so, by a judgment of a three

judge bench of this Court, delivered by Justice Ashok Bhushan, in Satish Chandra

Ahuja vs Sneha Ahuja22 [Satish Chandra].

The definition of the expression „shared household‟ in Section 2(s) of the PWDV Act

of 2005 is in two parts: in the means part of the definition the expression „shared

household‟ means

(i) A household where the person aggrieved lives in a domestic relationship

either singly or along with the respondent or;

(ii) At any stage has lived in a domestic relationship either singly or along with

the respondent.

22
Civil Appeal No. 2483 of 2020, decided on 15 October 2020

23
PART D

This is followed by an inclusive element, so as to cover such a household (i) whether

owned or tenanted either jointly by the aggrieved person and the respondent or (ii)

owned or tenanted by either of them in respect of which either the aggrieved person

or the respondent or both jointly or singly have any right, title or equity. This has also

been given an inclusive or extended meaning, which extends to a household which

may belong to the joint family of which a respondent is a member, irrespective of

whether the respondent or the aggrieved person have any right, title or interest in

the shared household. The last part of the inclusive definition is intended to extend

the meaning of a shared household to a situation where the household in fact

belongs to a joint family, of which the respondent is a member. The legislature has

made it clear that though neither the respondent, nor the aggrieved person in such

case may have a right, title or interest in the shared household it would irrespective

fall within the ambit of the definition.

The meaning which has been attributed above to the plain language of the definition

is in consonance with the judgment of the three judge Bench in Satish Chandra

where it has been explained as follows:

“55…the definition can be divided in two parts, first, which
follows the word “means” and second which follows the word
“includes”. The second part which follows “includes” can be
further sub-divided in two parts. The first part reads “shared
household means a household where the person aggrieved
has lived or at any stage has lived in a domestic relationship
either singly or along with the respondent”. Thus, first
condition to be fulfilled for a shared household is that person
aggrieved lives or at any stage has lived in a domestic
relationship. The second part subdivided in two parts is- (a)
includes such a household whether owned or tenanted either
jointly by the aggrieved person and the respondent and

24
PART D

owned or tenanted by either of them in respect of which either
the aggrieved person or the respondent or both jointly or
singly have any right, title, interest or equity and (b)includes
such a household which may belong to the joint family of
which the respondent is a member, irrespective of whether
the respondent or the aggrieved person has any right, title or
interest in the shared household. In the above definition, two
expressions, namely, “aggrieved person” and “respondent”
have occurred. From the above definition, following is clear:-

(i) it is not requirement of law that aggrieved person may
either own the premises jointly or singly or by tenanting it
jointly or singly; (ii) the household may belong to a joint family
of which the respondent is a member irrespective of whether
the respondent or the aggrieved person has any right, title or
interest in the shared household; and (iii) the shared
household may either be owned or tenanted by the
respondent singly or jointly.”

After noticing the ambit of the definition of „shared household‟ and the object and

purpose of the PWDV Act of 2005, Justice Ashok Bhushan noted:

Section 2(s) read with Sections 17 and 19 of Act, 2005
grants an entitlement in favour of the woman of the right of
residence under the shared household irrespective of her
having any legal interest in the same or not.”

The expression „respondent‟ has been defined in section 2 (q) of the PWDV Act of

2005 in the following terms:

“(q) “respondent” means any adult male person who is, or has
been, in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved person
and against whom the aggrieved person has sought any relief
under this Act:”

Noticing the above definition and the provisions of section 2(s), the Court in Satish

Chandra held:

“64…The definition of shared household as noticed in Section
2(s) does not indicate that a shared household shall be one
which belongs to or taken on rent by the husband. We have

25
PART E

noticed the definition of “respondent” under the Act. The
respondent in a proceeding under
Domestic Violence Act can
be any relative of the husband. In [the] event, the shared
household belongs to any relative of the husband with whom in
a domestic relationship the woman has lived, the conditions
mentioned in
Section 2(s) are satisfied and the said house will
become a shared household.”

The Bench concluded that:

“84…The definition of shared household given in Section 2(s)
cannot be read to mean that shared household can only be
that household which is household of the joint family of which
husband is a member or in which husband of the aggrieved
person has a share.”

E Harmonising competing reliefs under the PWDV Act 2005 and Senior
Citizens Act 2007

20 Section 3623 of the PWDV 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

Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 is undoubtedly a

later Act and as we have noticed earlier, 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 PWDV Act

23
36-Act not in derogation of any other law- The provisions of this Act shall be in addition to, and not in
derogation of the provisions of any other law, for the time being in force

26
PART E

2005. Principles of statutory interpretation dictate that in the event of two special

acts containing non obstante clauses, the later law shall typically prevail. 24 In the

present case, as we have seen, 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 analyzed to ascertain which

one should prevail over the other. The primary effort of the interpreter must be to

harmonize, not excise. A two-judge bench of this Court, in the case of Bank of India

v. Ketan Parekh25, in examining a similar factual scenario, observed that:

“28. In the present case, both the two Acts i.e. the Act of 1992
and the Act of 1993 start with the non obstante clause.
Section
34 of the Act of 1993 starts with non obstante clause, likewise
Section 9-A (sic 13) of the Act of 1992. But incidentally, in this
case
Section 9-A came subsequently i.e. it came on 25-1-

1994. Therefore, it is a subsequent legislation which will have
the overriding effect over the Act of 1993. But cases might
arise where both the enactments have the non obstante clause
then in that case, the proper perspective would be that one
has to see the subject and the dominant purpose for which the
special enactment was made and in case the dominant
purpose is covered by that contingencies, then notwithstanding
that the Act might have come at a later point of time still the
intention can be ascertained by looking to the objects and
reasons. However, so far as the present case is concerned, it
is more than clear that
Section 9-A of the Act of 1992 was
amended on 25-1-1994 whereas the Act of 1993 came in
1993. Therefore, the Act of 1992 as amended to include
Section 9-A in 1994 being subsequent legislation will prevail
and not the provisions of the Act of 1993.”
(emphasis supplied)

This principle of statutory interpretation was also affirmed by a three-judge bench of

this Court in Pioneer Urban Land and Infrastructure Ltd. v. Union of India.26 In the

24
Solidaire India Ltd. v. Fairgrowth Financial Services Ltd, (2001) 3 SCC 71
25
(2008) 8 SCC 148
26
(2019) 8 SCC 416

27
PART E

present case, Section 36 of the PWDV 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.

21 In this case, both pieces of legislation are intended to deal with salutary

aspects of public welfare and interest. The PWDV Act 2005 was intended to deal

with the problems of domestic violence which, as the Statements of Objects and

Reasons sets out, “is widely prevalent but has remained largely invisible in the

public domain”. The Statements of Objects and Reasons indicates that while Section

498A of the Indian Penal Code created a penal offence out of a woman‟s subjection

to cruelty by her husband or relative, the civil law did not address its phenomenon in

its entirety. Hence, consistent with the provisions of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the

Constitution, Parliament enacted a legislation which would “provide for a remedy

under the civil law which is intended to protect the woman from being victims of

domestic violence and to prevent the occurrence of domestic violence in the

society”. The ambit of the Bill has been explained thus:

“4. The Bill, inter alia, seeks to provide for the following:-

(i) It covers those women who are or have been in a
relationship with the abuser where both parties have lived
together in a shared household and are related by
consanguinity, marriage or through a relationship in the nature
of marriage or adoption. In addition, relationships with family
members living together as a joint family are also included.

Even those women who are sisters, widows, mothers, single
women, or living with the abuser are entitled to legal protection
under the proposed legislation. However, whereas the Bill
enables the wife or the female living in a relationship in the
nature of marriage to file a complaint under the proposed
enactment against any relative of the husband or the male
partner, it does not enable any female relative of the husband

28
PART E

or the male partner to file a complaint against the wife or the
female partner.

(ii) It defines the expression “domestic violence” to include
actual abuse or threat or abuse that is physical, sexual, verbal,
emotional or economic. Harassment by way of unlawful dowry
demands to the woman or her relatives would also be covered
under this definition.

(iii) It provides for the rights of women to secure housing. It
also provides for the right of a woman to reside in her
matrimonial home or shared household, whether or not she
has any title or rights in such home or household. This right is
secured by a residence order, which is passed by the
Magistrate.

(iv) It empowers the Magistrate to pass protection orders in
favour of the aggrieved person to prevent the respondent from
aiding or committing an act of domestic violence or any other
specified act, entering a workplace or any other place
frequented by the aggrieved person, attempting to
communicate with her, isolating any assets used by both the
parties and causing violence to the aggrieved person, her
relatives or others who provide her assistance from the
domestic violence.

(v) It provides for appointment of Protection Officers and
registration of non-governmental organisations as service
providers for providing assistance to the aggrieved person with
respect to her medical examination, obtaining legal aid, safe
shelter, etc.”

The above extract indicates that a significant object of the legislation is to provide for

and recognize the rights of women to secure housing and to recognize 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 which the Parliament sought

to achieve in enacting the latter legislation. The law protecting the interest of senior

citizens is intended to ensure that they are not left destitute, or at the mercy of their

29
PART E

children or relatives. Equally, the purpose of the PWDV Act 2005 cannot be ignored

by a sleight of statutory interpretation. Both sets of legislations have to be

harmoniously construed. Hence 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.

22 This Court is cognizant that the Senior Citizens Act 2007 was promulgated with

a view to provide a speedy and inexpensive remedy to senior citizens. Accordingly,

Tribunals were constituted under Section 7. These Tribunals have the power to

conduct summary procedures for inquiry, with all powers of the Civil Courts, under

Section 8. The jurisdiction of the Civil Courts has been explicitly barred under

Section 27 of the Senior Citizens Act 2007. However, the over-riding effect for

remedies sought by the applicants under the Senior Citizens Act 2007 under Section

3, cannot be interpreted to preclude all other competing remedies and protections

that are sought to be conferred by the PWDV Act 2005. The PWDV Act 2005 is also

in the nature of a special legislation, that is enacted with the purpose of correcting

gender discrimination that pans out in the form of social and economic inequities in a

largely patriarchal society. In deference to the dominant purpose of both the

legislations, it would be appropriate for a Tribunal under the Senior Citizens Act,

2007 to grant such remedies of maintenance, as envisaged under S.2(b) of the

Senior Citizens Act 2007 that do not result in obviating competing remedies under

30
PART E

other special statutes, such as the PWDV Act 2005. Section 2627 of the PWDV Act

empowers certain reliefs, including relief for a residence order, to be obtained from

any civil court in any legal proceedings. Therefore, in the event that a composite

dispute is alleged, such as in the present case where the suit premises are a site of

contestation between two groups protected by the law, it would be appropriate for

the Tribunal constituted under the Senior Citizens Act 2007 to appropriately mould

reliefs, after noticing the competing claims of the parties claiming under the PWDV

Act 2005 and Senior Citizens Act 2007. 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.

In the event that the “aggrieved woman” obtains a relief from a Tribunal constituted

under the Senior Citizens Act 2007, she shall duty-bound to inform the Magistrate

under the PWDV Act 2005, as per Sub-section (3) of Section 26 of the PWDV Act

2005. This course of action would ensure that the common intent of the Senior

Citizens Act 2007 and the PWDV Act 2005- of ensuring speedy relief to its protected

groups who are both vulnerable members of the society, is effectively realized.

Rights in law can translate to rights in life, only if there is an equitable ease in

obtaining their realization.

27

26. Relief in other suits and legal proceedings. —(1) Any relief available under sections 18, 19,20, 21 and 22
may also be sought in any legal proceeding, before a civil court, family court or a criminal court, affecting the
aggrieved person and the respondent whether such proceeding was initiated before or after the
commencement of this Act.

(2) Any relief referred to in sub-section (1) may be sought for in addition to and along with any other relief that
the aggrieved person may seek in such suit or legal proceeding before a civil or criminal court.
(3) In case any relief has been obtained by the aggrieved person in any proceedings other than a proceeding
under this Act, she shall be bound to inform the Magistrate of the grant of such relief.

31
PART E

23 Adverting to the factual situation at hand, on construing the provisions of sub-

Section (2) of section 23 of the Senior Citizen Act 2007, it is evident that it applies to

a situation where a senior citizen has a right to receive maintenance out of an estate

and such estate or part thereof is transferred. On the other hand, the appellant‟s

simple plea is that the suit premises constitute her „shared household‟ within the

meaning of Section 2(s) of the PWDV Act 2005. We have also seen the series of

transactions which took place in respect of the property: the spouse of the appellant

purchased it in his own name a few months before the marriage but subsequently

sold it, after a few years, under a registered sale deed at the same price to his father

(the father-in-law of the appellant), who in turn gifted it to his spouse i.e. the mother-

in-law of the appellant after divorce proceedings were instituted by the Fourth

respondent. Parallel to this, the appellant had instituted proceedings of dowry

harassment against her mother-in-law and her estranged spouse; and her spouse

had instituted divorce proceedings. The appellant had also filed proceedings for

maintenance against the Fourth respondent and the divorce proceedings are

pending. It is subsequent to these events, that the Second and Third respondents

instituted an application under the Senior Citizens Act 2007. The fact that specific

proceedings under the PWDV Act 2005 had not been instituted when the application

under the Senior Citizens Act, 2007 was filed, should not lead to a situation where

the enforcement of an order of eviction deprives her from pursuing her claim of

entitlement under the law. The inability of a woman to access judicial remedies may,

as this case exemplifies, be a consequence of destitution, ignorance or lack of

resources. Even otherwise, we are clearly of the view that recourse to the summary
32
PART F

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 (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

F Summation

24 For the above reasons, we have come to the conclusion that the claim of the

appellant that the premises constitute a shared household within the meaning of the

PWDV Act 2005 would have to be determined by the appropriate forum. The claim

cannot simply be obviated by evicting the appellant in exercise of the summary

powers entrusted by the Senior Citizens Act 2007. The Second and Third

Respondents are at liberty to make a subsequent application under Section 10 of

the Senior Citizens Act 2007 for alteration of the maintenance allowance, before the

appropriate forum. For the above reasons, while allowing the appeal, we issue the

following directions:

(i) The impugned judgment and order of the Division Bench of the High

Court of Karnataka dated 17 September 2019 affirming the order of

33
PART F

eviction against the appellant shall stand set aside with the

consequence that the order of the Assistant Commissioner ordering

and directing the appellant to vacate the suit premises shall stand set

aside;

(ii) We leave it open to the appellant to pursue her remedies under the

PWDV Act 2005. For that purpose, it would be open to the appellant to

seek the help of the District Legal Services Authorities and if the

appellant does so, all necessary aid and assistance shall be furnished

to her in pursuing her legal remedies and rights;

(iii) IA 111352/2020 for restoration of the electricity connection is allowed

by directing the Fourth respondent to take all necessary steps for

restoration of the electricity connection to the premises within a period

of two weeks from the receipt of a certified copy of this judgment. The

Fourth respondent shall also continue to pay the electricity dues in

future; and

(iv) In order to enable the appellant to pursue her remedies under the

PWDV Act 2005, there shall be an order and direction restraining the

respondents from forcibly dispossessing the appellant, disposing of the

premises or from creating any right, title and interest in favor of any

third party in any manner whatsoever for a period of one year, to

enable the appellant to pursue her remedies in accordance with law.

The appellant is at liberty to move the Court to espouse her remedies

34
PART F

under the PWDV Act 2005 for appropriate orders, including interim

protections.

The directions contained in (iii) and (iv) above emanate in exercise of the powers of

this Court under Article 142 of the Constitution.

25 The Appeal is allowed in the above terms. The appellant is entitled to costs

quantified at Rs 25,000 from the private respondents.

26 Pending application(s), if any, stand disposed of.

…..….………….…………………………………………J.

[Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud]

……….…………………………………………………….J.

[Indu Malhotra]

……….…………………………………………………….J.

[Indira Banerjee]

New Delhi;

December 15, 2020.

35

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