The Supreme Court severely criticized the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act for “clumsy” drafting of definition of terminology that could easily be exploited by some to appropriate property of a husband and his family.
Referring to Section 2(s) that grants a divorced woman half the proceeds of a “shared household,” the bench said that the definition was loose that it could easily be interpreted to include every house that the couple lived in even if they had lived in the house of any of his family. That could mean that through this law, the house of his parents, brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces.
Refusing the plea of Taruna Batra claiming rights under the Section 2(s) of this new law a part of the house owned by her mother-in-law because they had lived in it as husband and wife. Passing the verdict, the bench said that the definition of “shared household” in this legislation “is not happily worded” and this “clumsy drafting” forces the court “to give it an interpretation which is sensible and which does not lead to chaos in society.” They observed that I the legislation is accepted verbatim, then “shared household” will include “wherever the husband and wife lived together in the past” irrespective of who owns it and hence can be attached by the divorced woman which they said was “absurd.”
Clarifying the definition, the bench ruled that “the wife is only entitled to claims a right to residence in a shared household” and that would include “the house belonging to or taken on rent by the husband, or the house which belongs to the joint family of which the husband is a member.” Interestingly, the lawmakers did not discuss this legislation much and passed it hurriedly to demonstrate their good intentions and also to move on to more politically convenient items. The legislation on the Other Backward Classes Reservation, Tribal Bill, Forest Bill, etc have all been passed in a similar fashion.
Once again, this episode displays a lack of process of due diligence where legislation are discussed, conferred, evaluated, and tested before becoming law. Indian democracy needs a mechanism by which experts may be asked to comment on pending legislation in transparent and public forums to incorporate suitable changes in a draft before it is taken to the Parliament.