As per a HelpAge India report, daughter-in-law emerged as the major abuser of the elderly. Now abuse of a daughter-in-law is protected under various special laws of the country, whereas no such law is for the elderly. An interesting question arises, can an abused elderly mother-in-law take protection of any law against abuse by her daughter-in-law?
We will analyse this question in this article.
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (“Domestic Violence Act”) was enacted by the parliament in 2005 to provide for an effective protection of women who are victims of violence of any kind within the four walls of the house. Therefore the intention of the act was to safeguard women from domestic violence.
The domestic violence can be invoked only if persons are living in a Domestic Relationship which is defined u/s 2(f) as:
“domestic relationship” means a relationship between two persons who live or have, at any point of time, lived together in a shared household, when they are related by consanguinity, marriage, or through a relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family.
Therefore, based on the above definition all family members living together as a joint family are considered to be in a domestic relationship.
The person who is facing domestic violence and can take shelter under the act is defined under section 2(a) as:
“aggrieved person” means any woman who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the respondent and who alleges to have been subjected to any act of domestic violence by the respondent;
Therefore, any women in a domestic relationship and subjected to domestic violence can take shelter under the act. The person who are perpetrators of violence against whom she can proceed is defined under section 2(q) as:
“respondent” means any adult male person who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved person and against whom the aggrieved person has sought any relief under this Act. Provided that an aggrieved wife or female living in a relationship in the nature of a marriage may also file a complaint against a relative of the husband or the male partner.
This definition is in two parts, the first part defines the respondent as male members and the proviso also allows the women to proceed against any female relative of the husband or the male partner.
There are three ingredients for taking recourse under the act:
- Recourse is available to women
- Who are in a domestic relationship
- Against a respondent
Now we come to the pertinent question, can a mother-in-law take shelter under this act against domestic violence conducted by her daughter-in-law? The answer is ‘Yes’. Do refer to the above ingredients to take shelter under this act.
- Any woman can be an aggrieved person, the only qualification is that she ought to be in a domestic relationship.
- A domestic relationship is not only a relationship of husband and wife but also includes persons living in a joint family.
- The protection is available against a respondent, which includes any female relative of her husband or male partner.
Hence, based on the above, protection under Domestic Violence Act can be taken by an elderly mother-in-law against her abusive daughter-in-law.
The Delhi High Court in the case of Kusum Lata Sharma vs State & Anr, had allowed a mother-in-law to proceed against the daughter-in-law as a respondent under the Domestic Violence Act.