New Delhi: One of the oldest rivalries in the world will play itself out early next year in the Supreme Court that will rule whether mothers-in-law can access what a daughter-in-law has claimed to be her sole preserve.
At the centre of the tug-of-war is the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, which the daughter-in-law insists is meant to protect those like her and not mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law.
If the court rules that the law promulgated in 2005 is available to all women in a household, it will mean that a mother can sue her son for physical and mental harassment.
"An important question has been raised before us. Let the learned attorney-general (Mukul Rohatgi) assist this court on the issue. Let the Maharashtra government also file its response to the petition," an apex court bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and N.V. Ramana said.
The matter has been posted for further hearing to February 17.
The directives were passed on an appeal filed by Hiral, a daughter-in-law, against a Bombay High Court order that said the act could be invoked not only by daughters-in-law but also mothers or sisters-in-law or any other aggrieved woman in a household.
Hiral's mother-in-law Pushpa H. had sought Rs 5 crore as compensation from her son Harsora, saying she was dispossessed of the joint family property and was harassed mentally and physically.
In her appeal, daughter-in-law Hiral has questioned the high court verdict and contended that Section 2(q) of the act was available only to daughters-in-law seeking remedy against the husband and his other male relatives.
The high court had held otherwise in September, interpreting the section to broadbase its coverage. Otherwise, the court said, the provision would be discriminatory against all other female victims of domestic violence.
The Union government, too, had filed an affidavit in the high court saying the provision did not restrict the remedy to daughters-in law. Any woman living in a domestic relationship with the perpetrator, as long as the latter is a male, can seek protection under the law, it said.
In its judgment, the high court had classified female victims into two categories - daughters-in-law who can seek relief against husbands as well as mothers-in-law; and mothers and sisters who may be victims of domestic violence but can only seek relief against the son or brother but not against daughters-in-law and sisters-in-law.
The high court had allowed Pushpa to move a trial court for seeking the compensation of Rs 5 crore, following which daughter-in-law Hiral moved the apex court.
The Supreme Court has also asked Pushpa and one of her daughters backing her, Kusum, to file their responses.