Right of Senior Citizen to evict Daughter-in-law

Senior citizen v daughter-in-law

When a senior citizen approaches a writ court to direct the eviction of his son and daughter-in-law from a shared household, it must be viewed from the prism of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

This is the remark that the Calcutta High Court made on 23rd July 2021 in the case Ramapada Basak & Anr v. State of West Bengal & Ors while deciding a plea by two senior citizens (petitioners) seeking the eviction of the son and daughter-in-law from their residence.

The Court, in an earlier order on 12th July 2021 in the case, directed the Officer-in-charge, of the Police Station to evict the son and daughter-in-law from the premises of the petitioners so as to ensure the well-being of the aged petitioners. The police acted upon the direction.

Children and spouses are licensees

The court observed that the law is well settled that the children and their spouses living in a senior citizen’s house are licensees at best.

Such a license to reside at the senior citizen’s residence ceases to be in force as and when the senior citizen finds it uncomfortable to stay with the children and their family members.

This principle has been followed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the cases Manmohan Singh v U.T. Chandigarh and Ors (Case No. 1365/2015).

Senior citizen can file writ petition

One crucial issue that the court adjudicated was whether the availability of alternative remedies under the provisions of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents Senior Citizens Act, 2007 (2007 Act) prohibits the senior citizens (the petitioners) from approaching the High Court under its Writ jurisdiction.

In that issue the Bench came to the conclusion that a senior citizen’s right to exclusively reside in his own house emanates from the fundamental right to life and personal liberty enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution.  Therefore, it would be unjust to compel such senior citizens to take recourse to alternate remedies provided under the 2007 Act.

The court decided that compelling a senior citizen in the sunset days of life to take recourse to a special Statute like the 2007 Act would be wholly erroneous. Therefore, the principle of alternative remedy cannot be strictly applied to Senior Citizens. Hence a Writ Court must come to the aid of a Senior Citizen in such a case.

Senior Citizens Act v D V Act

The Court also opined on a daughter-in-law’s right to residence if a claim to this effect is made under the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (D V Act), relying on the Supreme Court judgement in S. Vanitha v Deputy Commissioner, Bangaluru Urban District case (2020 SCC online SC 1023).

In the case, the apex court held that since both, the 2007 Act and the D V Act are special legislations, both the statutes must be construed harmoniously while adjudicating a plea of senior citizens who do not want their children to live with them.  However, the Section 3 of the 2007 Act cannot be deployed to over-ride and nullify a woman’s right to a shared household under Section 17 of the DV Act 2005. That means the right of a wife to a shared household under the D V Act will prevail against a decree obtained by her aged in-laws under the 2007 Act. This is a tricky situation.

In the judgement, the SC states that the law protecting the interest of senior citizens is intended to ensure that they are not left destitute, or at the mercy of their children or relatives. Equally, the purpose of the D V Act 2005 cannot be ignored by statutory interpretation.

Therefore, both the legislations have to be harmoniously construed by the courts.

No claim for residence by daughter-in-law

In the present case, the daughter-in-law had not claimed any right of residence. Therefore, it was easy for the court to arrive at a decision.

The court allowed the petitioner’s (senior citizens’) exclusive residentiary rights in the house and directed the eviction of the son and daughter-in-law.