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Right to Reside in Matrimonial Home – No Liability of Builder

A married woman is entitled to live, subsequent to her marriage, with rest of her family members on the husband’s side, in case it is a joint-property. If she resides in an accommodation as an independent family unit with her husband and children, the matrimonial home would be that residential unit. This right is embedded in her right as a wife. It is implicit under the provisions of Section 18 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 in situations that statute is applicable. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 has recognised the concept of “shared household” in terms of Section 2(s) of this statute. Alienating an immovable asset to defeat the right of a victim lady under the said Act can constitute domestic violence, coming, inter-alia, within the ambit of the expression “economic abuse” under Section 3(iv) of 2005 Act. A Magistrate having jurisdiction under Section 19 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act is empowered to pass a residence order to protect a victim of domestic violence from being removed from her shared household. But for a husband to compel his wife to live in a separate household, which is not her matrimonial home, an order from appropriate legal forum would be necessary. There cannot be forcible dishousing of a wife from her matrimonial home.

When a builder has discharged his obligation by accommodating the original owners in the redeveloped portion as per a scheme, a lady married into that family would not be entitled to invoke the writ jurisdiction of the High Court to enforce her right to matrimonial home citing the provisions of the said statute, if her husband does not permit her to reside in the allocated portion. She does not have any independent claim on title or interest to that property having its genesis in that statute. Her claim of right to reside in her matrimonial home is sought to be projected by her as collateral to the statutory right of her husband to be rehoused or rehabilitated in the new building. But her right to reside in her matrimonial home stands detached from and is independent of the statutory scheme under the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Act. Neither MHADA, nor the builder can have any further legal obligation to rehouse her. She was an occupier under Section 2 (25) of the MHADA Act, 1976 but such occupier status was dependent upon her husband’s independent right as part owner of the property. Her right flowing from her matrimonial status cannot get diffused with her right of rehousing or rehabilitation under the statutory scheme. Her right to reside in her matrimonial home does not flow from the 1976 Act. Aishwarya Atul Pusalkar v. Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority, Civil Appeal No. 7231 of 2012 (SC).

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