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Matrimonial Home: A Comprehensive Analysis

In India, marriage is an important institution. Marriage is a sacrament. The place where both husband and wife stay together after their marriage is known as a Matrimonial home. In India, it is believed that women belong to their husband's families after their marriage, therefore, in most cases, the Matrimonial home is the husband's residence.

A married woman is having the right to live in her husband's home. This home becomes the woman's matrimonial home, and she cannot be thrown out of this home. In the same way, when the woman is self-efficient (mentally, economically, etc.) and wishes not to stay in her husband's home, on some reasonable ground, then she is free and cannot be forced to stay at her husband's home.

Concept Of Matrimonial Home:

In Hindu laws, the term Matrimonial home is nowhere defined directly, but some laws include the concept of Matrimonial home.

Matrimonial home, under the concept of Restitution of Conjugal Rights:

According to the HMA, 1955[1], "When either the husband or the wife has, without reasonable excuse, withdrawn from the society of the other, the aggrieved party may apply, by petition to the district court, for restitution of conjugal rights and the court, on being satisfied with the truth of the statements made in such petition and that there is no legal ground why the application should not be granted, may decree restitution of conjugal rights accordingly."

The term 'Restitution of Conjugal Rights' implies restoring marital obligations. 'Marital obligation' may be understood as the duty to cohabit and the duty to give company to each other.
When one of the parties to marriage refuses to share the household, or deserts the other, without a reasonable ground then the other party may seek the Restitution of conjugal right or Restoration of marital obligation.

The above section includes the term 'society of the other' which in many cases may be assumed as the Matrimonial Home. Hence, it is the duty or obligation of marriage for the husband and wife to stay together in the Matrimonial home.

In the case, Harvinder Kaur v. Harmander Singh Choudhry[2] The petitioner, the husband, filed a petition for restitution of conjugal rights against the wife on the ground of her unreasonable withdrawal from his company. Trial court passed an order in favour of the husband. The petitioner filed an appeal in the high court relying on T. Sareetha v. T. Venkata Subbaiah. But the high court upheld the constitutionality of section 9 and held that conjugal right is an inherent right in the institution of marriage. Principles of constitutional law finds no place in domestic norms.

But no one can force the husband or wife to stay together or to stay in the matrimonial home when the husband or the wife has left the home on some reasonable ground.
In the case, Chand Narain Gautam v. Smt Saroj Gautam[3] Court held that the wife's reason to be in a separate residence is justifiable as the husband forced her to consume alcohol and non-vegetarian food.

Matrimonial home, under the concept of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005.

It is the implied right of a woman, after their marriage to reside in her matrimonial home. No one can throw a woman out of her matrimonial home. Section 17 of the Protection of women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 protects the right of women to reside in a shared household.
According to the Protection of women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 [4]
  1. Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, every woman in a domestic relationship shall have the right to reside in the shared household, whether or not she has any right, title or beneficial interest in the same.
  2. The aggrieved person shall not be evicted or excluded from the shared household or any part of it by the respondent save by the procedure established by law.

Shared Household:

A shared household is a household where both spouses stay together, in most cases it is the place of residence of the husband.

According to the Protection of women from Domestic Violence Act,2005 [5] shared household means a household where the person aggrieved lives or at any stage has lived in a domestic relationship either singly or along with the respondent and includes such a household whether owned or tenanted either jointly by the aggrieved person and the respondent, or owned or tenanted by either of them in respect of which either the aggrieved person or the respondent or both jointly or singly have any right, title, interest or equity and includes such a household of joint family where the respondent is a member, irrespective of whether the aggrieved person or the respondent has any right, title or interest in the shared household."

It means a shared household is a household where the wife had a domestic relationship with her husband and where she lived either singly or along with her husband. Where the house was owned or tenanted by the husband, by her, or by both of them. It also includes the household which belongs to a joint family where the wife is also a member.

Thus, section 17 protects the residence rights of the wife in the shared household. If she is thrown out the court can pass an order to provide her with the shelter in the same home and if the woman does not want to return to a violent home the court may also order the respondent to provide the woman with alternative accommodation.

In the case, S.R. Batra & Another v. Smt. Taruna Batra [6]the Supreme Court held that the wife has the right to reside in a shared household where the husband holds some share.
The claim for alternative accommodation can be only made against the husband and not against the laws or other relatives.

In the recent case, Satish Chander Ahuja v. Sneha Ahuja, (2020), the court held that woman has the right to stay in the house of in-laws. Section 2(s) was an all-inclusive definition and on being read with sections 17 and 19 of the DV Act, 2005 confers the right of residence in favor of the aggrieved woman even if she does not have any interest or title over such shared household. This means that even if the husband or his relatives have an absolute interest in the matrimonial property, the woman can still make a valid claim over the same under the provisions of the 2005 Act.

How can a woman protect this right?

To protect this right, a woman must first believe that by the virtue of her marriage she has the right to reside in her matrimonial home. No one can dispossess her from this home. Most often, women lose their right to their matrimonial home because they do not believe that they have a right to reside there. Even when they are asked to leave the home, Every woman must believe that they have a right to reside in the home, even if they are asked to leave the home and this right can be protected by law.

Division Of Matrimonial Property/ Home:

The issue of matrimonial home and division of matrimonial property is a fallout of any divorce litigation. One of the issues that surface after the dissolution of marriage, relates to the division of matrimonial properties and matrimonial homes. While the personal law does make some reference to this, the provisions are far from satisfactory.

According to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955[7] (disposal of property) "In any proceeding under this Act, the court may make such provisions in the decree as it deems just and proper concerning any property presented, at or about the time of marriage, which may belong jointly to both the husband and the wife."

In this section it is mentioned, 'in any proceeding under this act, as this act deals with Hindu marriages, therefore, the property can be considered as the matrimonial property.
When both husband and wife are presented with the property at or about the time of marriage which jointly belongs to both of them then the court may pass any decree that it feels to be just and proper in respect of that property in any proceeding under this act.

For example, A and B are married to each other, they were gifted with a property at their marriage which jointly belonged to both of them. After a few years, A filed a Divorce petition against B, now, in this divorce proceeding court can make provisions in the decree which deems to be just and proper in respect of this joint property.

The two pre-conditions under the section are:
  1. Property should have been gifted at, or about the time of marriage.
  2. Both the parties must have interest in the property.

In the case, Sunita Shankar Salvi v. Shankar Lakshman Salvi[8], A flat was allotted to the parties by way of alternate accommodation to them by the builder and developer of the building. The share certificate issued by the housing society, showing membership and interest in the flat was in the joint names of both husband and wife; they were as joint owners. The husband himself admitted that the wife's name was incorporated as co-owner of the flat at his request.

On the wife's petition under section 27 of the Hindu Marriage Act, read with section 115 of CPC for a share in the flat, the Family Court held that since the wife had no interest, title, or right as she had paid no consideration and secondly, since the right to acquire the flat arose out of tenancy right which the husband had surrendered in favour of the builder, therefore the wife does not have share in the flat. Hence, the wife's appeal. The family court order was reversed.

The high court held that even though tenancy was not made in wife's name, it was made for the benefit of the family and she occupied the premises as a member of the family. Moreover, there was an "unambiguous unequivocal admission" by the husband that the wife is treated as co-owner. Thus, by his conduct, he is estopped from contending to contrary.

The court, accordingly, ordered that the wife was entitled to an equal share in the flat, and in case equitable division was not possible, the parties should be given the right to purchase 50% of the share of the other party and further, in case none of the parties wish to purchase the share of the other, then the court ordered that the flat should be put to sale and the proceeds must be shared equally.

In B.R. Kadam v. S.B. Kadam[9], the Supreme Court construed the expression at or about the time of marriage', more liberally to include even property given before or after the marriage, provided it is relatable to the marriage. It, however, reiterated that such property should belong jointly to both spouses. However, a wife who had claimed certain jewellery, stating that she had received the same, 'at or about the time of marriage,' was refused the relief, as according to the court, there was no proper trial to establish the jewelry belonged jointly to both the spouses. The matter was remanded.

Rights Of Women On Their Matrimonial Property:

In India, it is believed that women belong to their husband's families after their marriage. But many women in India are not getting rights from their matrimonial home. Their work, like taking care of children, cooking, and looking after the family is not recognized as productive, rather it is treated as their duty. But a woman must recognize her rights, some of those rights are:
The history of Stridhan can be traced back to Vedic literature. The word means "women's property". A Stridhan is any property, movable or immovable which is gifted to a woman by her family, friends, and relatives during her marriage. A woman has the absolute right of ownership of her stridhan.

Though there is no legal obligation on the family to provide Stridhan to the woman customary law suggests that women should be provided with some property during their marriage. The object of providing Stridhan is to help her, economically during the hard time she faces in her marital life.

In the case of Pratibha Rani v. Suraj Kumar[10], the Supreme Court held that Stridhan is the wife's absolute property and therefore the husband or his relatives will have no rights over the Stridhan and they would be deemed to be trustees if the Stridhan was ever placed in their hands.

Right to reside in her Matrimonial Home:

Every woman, in India after her marriage is having a right to reside in her matrimonial home. The right of residence of a woman may form a part wife's right to maintenance. But in the case of Domestic Violence, it in itself is a right, under section 17 of the Protection of women from Domestic Violence Act,2005.

In the case, of Bharat Heavy Plates and Vessels Ltd.[11], the spouses were living in a quarter allotted to the husband by his company. There arose some differences between the husband and wife, the husband vacated the quarter and asked the company to terminate the lease. The wife sought an injunction, restraining the company from evicting her. The same was granted. The husband and the company had both recognized the quarter as the matrimonial home where the wife too was living. It was directed that the amount of rent must be deducted from husband's salary.

The Bombay High Court ruled that a woman who leaves her matrimonial home before a divorce cannot claim the right to reside at her matrimonial home.

Share of property to a married woman:

According to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956[12], "The interstate's widow, or if there are more widows than one, all the widows together shall take one share."
According to this section, the deceased's wife is having equal rights in his property as other legal heirs and if there are no shares of that property then the widow is entitled to inherit all the property of her deceased husband.

If the husband has married another woman without giving divorce to his first wife, then the marriage between the second wife and the husband would be void. The second wife will not have any right to her husband's property but the right of properties of the husband for the first wife would remain intact. However, the children from the second marriage will be entitled to get a share in the property with other legal heirs.

In the case of divorce:
In case of mutual divorce, if the property is in the husband's name, then the wife will have no right to the property. According to the Registration Act, of 1908, the property belongs to the person under whose name the property has been registered.

The wife has no right to her husband's investments. She doesn't have a claim over any insurance for which the payment is made in the name of the husband. However, if they are not legally separated but are merely staying separate, then the wife can claim the insurance amount in the unfortunate event of her husband's death.

According to sections 15 and 16 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, if the woman dies intestate, then her self-acquired property would be entitled by her husband's heirs and not by her parents. But if the husband dies intestate then his relatives have entitled to the property and not his wife's legal heirs. Hence, there is a bias based on gender as the husband's relatives are entitled to the woman's property but the wife's relatives are not having such rights.

Matrimonial Home is a concept that is not directly expressed but is included indirectly in many Indian laws, like the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; the Hindu Succession Act, 1956; the Protection of Woman from Domestic Violence Act, 2005; etc. In the case of joint property, the court can pass a decree that it feels to be just and proper.

A woman is having the right to reside in her matrimonial home, the widow is having a share in her husband's property. But there are laws in India, which are still biased against women. There is still a need for effective law for divorced women for residence or alternative allocation as it is difficult for a divorced woman in India to reside in her matrimonial home and her parental home.

List Of Abbreviations
i.e. That is
v. Versus
Eg. Example
DV Domestic violence
CPC Civil Procedure Code
& And
Etc Etcetera
AIR All India Report
HMA Hindu Marriage Act
SC Supreme Court
Del. Delhi
Raj. Rajasthan
Bom. Bombay
AP Andhra Pradesh
S. Section

  1. S. 9, the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
  2. AIR 1984 Del 66
  3. AIR 1975 Raj 88
  4. S. 17, the Domestic Violence Act, 2005
  5. S. 2(s), the Domestic violence Act, 2005
  6. AIR 2007 SC 1118 (Del)
  7. S. 27, the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
  8. AIR 2003 Bom 431
  9. AIR 1997 SC 3562
  10. AIR 1985 SC 628
  11. AIR 1985 AP 207
  12. Rule 1 S. 10, the Hindu Succession Act, 1956

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Bammidi Preethy
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Authentication No: AP410133235289-10-0424

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