Brother-in-law Can Also be Ordered to Pay Alimony Under Domestic Violence Law, Rules SC

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The Domestic Violence Act, said the top court, was widely worded so as to include every male member in a domestic relationship.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has held that even a brother-in-law can be ordered to pay maintenance to a woman under the domestic violence law.

According to a bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud, there is no immunity to any “adult male person” if he happens to be in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved complainant.

The Domestic Violence Act, said the top court, was widely worded so as to include every male member in a domestic relationship. “The substantive part of Section 2(q) of the Act indicates that the expression “respondent” means any adult male person who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved person and against whom relief has been sought.

The proviso indicates that both, an aggrieved wife or a female living in a relationship in the nature of marriage, may also file a complaint against a relative of the husband or the male partner, as the case may be.

Section 2(f) defines the expression ‘domestic relationship’ to mean a relationship where two persons live or have lived together at any point of time in a shared household when they are related by consanguinity, marriage or through a relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption or are members living together as a joint family.

“All these definitions indicate the width and amplitude of the intent of Parliament in creating both an obligation and a remedy in the terms of the enactment,” held the bench, affirming an order to a man to pay alimony to his brother’s wife and a child.

The court dismissed the appeal moved against an interim order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which had directed the brother-in-law to pay Rs 4,000 to his deceased brother’s wife and another Rs 2,000 to his niece as monthly maintenance.

The bench found favour with the approach of the subordinate courts, which had taken into account that before the woman’s husband death, the joint family lived in an ancestral house at Panipat. Her husband and his brother ran a grocery store together as well before the former’s demise and the earnings were divided equally.

The brother-in-law contended that there was no lawful basis under the provisions of the Act to fasten liability on the appellant, who is the brother of the deceased spouse.

But the apex court, citing Section 12 of the Act, underscored that the magistrate has been empowered to pass orders necessary to provide succour to an aggrieved woman, and in this case, there are sufficient averments made by the complainant to be awarded the monthly maintenance.