Just In: Mothers-in-law cannot sue their daughters-in-law for domestic violence

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This is to "ensure that the right of one woman is not upheld at the cost of another woman" says the Central Government in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court.

The Central Government has told the Supreme court, the highest Civilian court in India, that while a woman can sue her brother or son for domestic violence she can't seek action against her daughter-in-law or sister-in-law.

The government also said that this is to "ensure that the right of one woman is not upheld at the cost of another woman" in the affidavit, which was filed in the Supreme Court last week.

The statement was passed to clarify the norms of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act that was passed by the government in 2005. The act protects the right of women who face domestic or matrimonial abuse and even dowry-related cases against the husbands and in-laws.

This statement also means that the domestic violence act can also be used by mothers or sisters who are facing abuse by a man in their family that could be their son or even their brother.

What lead to the change

The statement was passed by the government in response to a notice that was issued by the Supreme Court in December 2015. Ranjan Gogoi, the head of the Supreme Court bench, wanted to know if a mother-in-law could also seek action against her bahu under the Domestic Violence act.

This action was triggered after a woman was told by the Bombay High Court that she could be prosecuted on the basis of a complaint by her mother-in-law. She had then moved the Supreme Court asking for protection, challenging the High court's verdict.

The High Court in the judgement had quoted Section 2(q) of the Domestic Violence Act that "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."

The HC also said that a woman seeking protection under that act need not be a man's wife but also a mother or a sister.

"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. 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 High Court said.

Also Read: SC: Daughters-in-laws should be treated as family not housemaids

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