Bombay HC says domestic violence works both ways

  • Bhadra Sinha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 09, 2015 00:54 IST
The Supreme Court’s clarification came after a ruling made by the Bombay high court, which stated that the woman in question could be prosecuted under the Domestic Violence Act on a complaint from her mother-in-law. (Representative Photo)

The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to spell out its stand on the question whether a mother-in-law can seek action against her daughter-in-law under the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act.

This is after a woman from Mumbai moved the apex court 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 judgment which had read down Section 2 (q) of the Act on the ground that it discriminated among women victims. The high court held that the section classified victims into two categories – women who can seek relief against husbands; and mothers-in-law, mothers and sisters who may be victims of domestic violence, but can only seek relief against the son or brother but not against the daughter-in-law or sister-in-law.

A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi took note of the legal question raised before it on Monday and asked the Centre to spell out its stand on the issue. The Attorney General’s office was also directed to assist the court on February 17, when it takes up the petition.

“An important question has been raised before us. Let the Maharashtra government also file its response to the petition,” the bench said. The petitioner’s mother-in-law was also asked to place her submissions.

In its judgment, delivered on the mother-in-law’s petition filed through her daughter, the 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 a woman in a “domestic relationship” with a man could move the court for relief. The man necessarily may not be a husband but would also include the son.

The HC 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.

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