Empowering woman or Women’s Equality doesn’t mean giving her free lunches for life just because she gets married. The Supreme Court in May this year, held that even a brother-in-law (Husband’s Brother) can be ordered to pay maintenance to a woman under the domestic violence law.
- 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
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 court further cited that 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.
While affirming an order to a man to pay alimony to his brother’s wife and a child, the bench held,
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.
- On one hand we talk of Equal Rights, and on the other, we want to burden only and only the Men as providers
- Also, the Men in question are only from the Matrimonial side
- Why are the Men from Maternal side exclude?
- If the Male Gender has to be held accountable, why not include the father and brothers of the woman to support her as well for her sustenance?
- On one side, laws give equal rights to daughters in the property of their parental homes, then why are the parents and brothers not made equally accountable to support her in her troubled times?
- Secondly, we never see any steps taken by government to make married women self-sufficient so that they don’t have to stand with a begging bowl in front of any Man or Woman
- However, the government and our legal system unfortunately defines ’empowerment’ by throwing alms in the form of alimony
- This only encourages women NOT to become independent at any point in time, thereby becoming a mere burden on someone for the rest of their lives
- As far as the children of deceased or separated fathers are concerned, the courts must keep their interest separate so that the women don’t take undue advantage of claiming endless money in the name of children
- Including brother-in-law in the maintenance game is simply unreasonable, and the courts could look for a permanent solution to ensure the wife and her child get their permanent due after the death of the husband
- Infact, the parents and the brother of the woman must come forward to support her equally, but excluding them out from any responsibility is allowing them to do away with the “Female” burden once she is married