“While the object and purpose of the DV Act is to protect a woman from domestic violence, it does not confer a right on a mother-in-law to prosecute the father and brother of her daughter-in-law under the DV Act,” said Justice Neela Gokhale in a ruling on Friday.
The daughter-in-law, Zareena (name changed), her father and brother moved the HC to quash the complaint and November 2018 summons by a Satara magistrate. Zareena married in May 2016. Since her husband and family ill-treated and subjected her to tremendous cruelty. She had filed a complaint in December 2017, under the DV Act against her husband and his family. Her mother-in-law also filed a DV complaint.
Zareena’s advocate Sushil Upadhyay said there was never any shared household among the parties and his clients do not fit in the categories against whom a DV complaint can be filed. Justice Gokhale said the complaint suggests that Zareena’s father and brother were never in a domestic relationship with her mother-in-law. The mother-in-law, however, claimed Zareena’s father was her husband’s cousin and hence related to her through marriage. “However, the complaint in its entirety clearly reveals that the allegations made against these petitioners are in their capacity as father and brother of Zareena, and not through her marital relation. The inept attempt of the mother-in-law, in some way or the other, to fit these petitioners in a domestic relationship is farfetched and hence, fails,” Justice Gokhale added.
The mother-in-law alleged Zareena’s father and brother insisted that her son live with them and there were threats against her. Justice Gokhale said these averments themselves do not bring them both under definition of ‘aggrieved person’, ‘domestic violence’ , ‘respondent’ or ‘shared household’ in the Act. “Mere allegations of threats and violence by the father and brother are not sufficient to make them liable for prosecution under the Act,” she added.
Justice Gokhale quashed the complaint against the father and brother and set aside the summons. She said that though the complaint does not indicate Zareena and her mother-in-law lived in a ‘shared household’ for a substantial period, they are related by marriage and also lived in a joint family for some time. Noting that domestic violence is now gender neutral, she said Zareena will fall within the definition of ‘respondent’. Therefore, Justice Gokhale held that the mother-in-law’s complaint against Zareena is maintainable, “subject to the satisfaction of other (DV) criteria.”
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