Elderly can’t use Senior Citizens Act to evict daughter-in-law, says Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has held that, the right of a wife to a shared household under the Domestic Violence Act will prevail against a decree obtained by her aged in-laws under the Senior Citizens Act.

The division bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee has passed this Judgement while hearing a civil appeal filed by Smt. S Vanitha.

The bench analyzed both the laws and found that Section 3 of the 2007 Act had an overriding effect over any other law. It was this argument that the aged parents of the husband used to obtain an eviction order against their daughter-in-law from their Bengaluru home.

Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (PWDV) Act, 2005, which seeks to protect wives facing domestic violence, and the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007, created to protect senior citizens by providing a speedy and inexpensive remedy to secure their interests at an advanced stage of life.

“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 Court said. 

The court further noted that Section 3 of Senior Citizens Act observed that its provisions will have effect, notwithstanding anything inconsistent contained in any other enactment and that 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 bench observed that both pieces of legislation are intended to affect salutary aspects of public welfare and interest. However, the definition of ‘shared household’ was exhaustive, the bench observed, quoting the October 2020 judgment gone by the highest court while handling similar facts where the wife was sought to be evicted through an attempt court decree by the aged in-laws who owned the house in question.

The 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  other special statutes, such as the PWDV Act 2005. Section 26/27 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 200, 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.”

The appellant is at liberty to move the Court to espouse her remedies under the PWDV Act 2005 for appropriate orders, including interim protections.

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