Domestic Violence Complaint Maintainable Against Daughter-In-Law But Not Maintainable Against Her Father, Brother: Bombay High Court


Chambers of Ishaan Garg

Ch. No. 217, Western Wing, District & Sessions Court, Tis Hazari, New Delhi, Delhi 110054

+91 8851742417, +91 8800386163

The Bombay High Court has held that a complaint filed by a mother-in-law (MIL) against her daughter-in-law (DIL) under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (DV Act) is maintainable. However, it quashed the complaint against the daughter-in-law's father and brother.

“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,” the judge observed.

Justice Dr. Neela Gokhale partly allowed a petition filed by the DIL, her father and brother challenging a DV complaint filed by the woman's MIL before the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Koregaon, Satara.

The court quashed the proceedings against the father and brother, noting that the complainant failed to show any domestic relationship between MIL and the two as defined under Section 2(f) of the DV Act. It held that mere allegations of threat and violence without existence of a domestic relationship is not sufficient to prosecute under the DV Act.

It rejected the MIL's claims that the DIL's father was also her husband's second cousin and therefore they were related through marriage. “...complaint in its entirety clearly reveals that the allegations made against them are in their capacity as father and brother of the Petitioner No.1 (DIL) and not through her marital relation. The inept attempt of the Respondent No.2, in someway or the other, to fit these Petitioners in a domestic relationship is farfetched and hence, fails,” the court observed.

However, the court refused to quash the complaint against daughter-in-law, holding that the parties were related by marriage and were family members living together in a joint family, thereby satisfying the 'domestic relationship' criteria under Section 2(f).

Relying on the Supreme Court's decision in Hiral P. Harsora v. Kusum Narottamdas Harsora, the HC held that the term 'respondent' in Section 2(q) of the DV Act is gender neutral. Therefore, a mother-in-law can file a complaint under the DV Act against her daughter-in-law for acts of domestic violence.

The court clarified that it has not examined the merits of allegations in the complaint and has only decided on the maintainability of the complaint against the respective parties. The truthfulness of the allegations will be determined by the concerned DV Court during trial.

The DIL had filed a police complaint and a maintenance petition under Section 125 CrPC against her husband Mohsin and in-laws, alleging cruelty. She also filed a DV complaint subsequently. The MIL then filed a DV complaint against the DIL, her father and brother under Sections 18, 19, 20 and 22 of the DV Act, alleging ill-treatment by the DIL.

The Judicial Magistrate, Koregaon issued summons to the three. DIL and her family members challenged the complaint and summons before the Bombay High Court.

Case Title - Mrs. Zeba Mohasin Pathan @ Zeba Easak Pathan vs The State of Maharashtra