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The Supreme Court of India recently clarified that live-in partner would also be entitled to approach the Court for maintenance under the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
The observation was made in an order passed last month by the Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices UU Lalit and KM Joseph. The appellant in the case had alleged economic abuse by her partner.
A Family Court had earlier granted maintenance to both the appellant as well as the son born out of her relationship with him in 2010. Thereafter, a criminal revision petition filed by her partner prompted the Jharkhand High Court to set aside the Family Court order to the extent that it granted the appellant maintenance as well. The High Court based its decision on the fact that Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973 only envisages the grant of maintenance for married women.
However, on appeal before the Supreme Court, it was noted that relief for economic abuse is contemplated for both married women as well as live-in partners under the Domestic Violence Act. In other words, the Court appears to have taken the view that an estranged live-in partner may invoke the Domestic Violence Act for maintenance as well, if it is shown that she has suffered economic abuse on account of her partner.
Explanation (iv) to Section 3 of the Domestic Violence Act defines economic abuse in the following terms, i.e.
“(iv) “economic abuse” includes-
(a) deprivation of all or any economic or financial resources to which the aggrieved person is entitled under any law or custom whether payable under an order of a Court or otherwise or which the aggrieved person requires out of necessity including, but not limited to, household necessities for the aggrieved person and her children, if any, stridhan, property, jointly or separately owned by the aggrieved person, payment of rental related to the shared household and maintenance;
(b) disposal of household effects, any alienation of assets whether movable or immovable, valuables, shares, securities, bonds and the like or other property in which the aggrieved person has an interest or is entitled to use by virtue of the domestic relationship or which may be reasonably required by the aggrieved person or her children or her stridhan or any other property jointly or separately held by the aggrieved person; and
(c) prohibition or restriction to continued access to resources or facilities which the aggrieved person is entitled to use or enjoy by virtue of the domestic relationship including access to the shared household.”
The Court also noted that the reliefs contemplated under the Domestic Violence Act are much broader than what is provided for under Section 125 of the CrPC.
“In fact, under the provisions of the DVC Act, 2005 the victim i.e. estranged wife or live-in-partner would be entitled to more relief than what is contemplated under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, namely, to a shared household also.”
Having clarified the same, the Bench disposed of the appeal, observing that the appellant may move the appropriate court for relief under the Domestic Violence Act.
“The appellant is left with the remedy of approaching the appropriate Forum under the provisions of the DVC Act, 2005, if so advised. If in the event the appellant moves the appropriate Forum under the provisions of the DVC Act, 2005, we would request the said Forum to decide the matter as expeditiously as possible.“
Though certain questions had been posed before the Court for reference, it was observed that there was no need for the Court to answer the same since the case laws prompting the questions had been passed before the introduction of the Domestic Violence Act.
Advocates Kaushik Poddar, Kumar Ranjan, Gautam Singh and Isha Singh appeared for the appellants. Respondents were represented by advocates Shikhil Suri, Shiv Kumar Suri, Jayesh Gaurav and Gopal Prasad.
Read the Order: