Can a mother-in-law seek action against her daughter-in-law under the domestic violence act? The Centre says “No”.
In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court on Friday, the Centre said a mother or a daughter can invoke this law against her son or brother but not against her daughter-in-law or sister-in-law. This is to ensure that the right of one woman is not upheld at the cost of another woman.
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, is generally invoked by women facing domestic, matrimonial and dowry-related violence against husbands and in-laws.
But the Centre told the top court that a mother or a sister can invoke this law only against her son or brother, and not against her daughter-in-law or sister-in-law.
It means the law against domestic violence can be invoked against a man not just by his wife or female partner but also by his mother or sister.
The Centre was responding to a notice issued by a Supreme Court bench headed by Ranjan Gogoi which which had in December 2015 asked it to clarify whether a mother-in-law can seek action against her daughter-in-law under the Act.
A woman from Mumbai had moved the apex court last year seeking protection from prosecution after the Bombay high court, in September 2015, ruled that she could be prosecuted under the Act on a complaint from her mother-in-law.
The woman challenged the high court’s verdict which had read down Section 2(q) of the Act on the ground that it discriminated among women victims.
The HC held that the section classified victims into two categories—women who can seek relief against husbands and mothers-in-law, and mothers and sisters who may be victims of domestic violence, but can only seek relief against the son or brother, not against the daughter-in-law or sister-in-law.
In its judgment, the Bombay HC had stated that the law did not exclusively protect women who were in a matrimonial alliance with a man.
The objective behind the law would get defeated if a mother or sister-in-law were not allowed to avail remedy under it, the HC had held, adding that a woman in a “domestic relationship” with a man could move the court for relief. The man may not necessarily be a husband but would also include the son.
The court had allowed the mother to move the trial court against her son and daughter-in-law, seeking compensation. “If the mother is entitled to get relief against the adult son, there is no reason why mother should not be entitled to get relief against relatives of the adult son, that is, against wife of the son,” the HC had said.