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The Supreme Court recently upheld an order of the Punjab & Haryana High Court directing the brother-in-law of a complainant under the Domestic Violence Act to pay maintenance to her.
The order passed by a Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta held that the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 provides for the liability of maintenance on any adult male person who has been in a domestic relationship with the complainant.
The complainant had filed a case under the Domestic Violence Act alleging that she and her child were not being permitted to reside in her matrimonial home following the death of her husband. Her husband, along with the appellant, carried out a business together and resided in a family property in a joint Hindu family setup.
The trial judge granted a certain sum of interim maintenance to be paid to the complainant. The appellant in the case – the woman’s brother-in-law – was directed by the Court to pay this amount of maintenance. The same view was affirmed by the High Court, which led to this appeal before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court analyzed the scope and object of various definitions under the Act such as that of a “domestic relationship” and “shared household”.
It was contended by the appellant that there was no basis for the liability of payment of maintenance to be fastened to him. The Court, in this regard, also examined the scope of the term “respondent” as under the Act.
The Court found that the word “respondent” included any adult male person with whom a complainant has been in a domestic relationship. Domestic relationship, as under the Act, is any relationship where the two persons have at any point in time resided in a shared household. A shared household, the Court observes, is defined to mean any property where the complainant and respondent have lived at any stage. Taking note of the scope of all these terms, the Court 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.”
It was thus concluded that there was enough material to justify the issuance of the interim maintenance order. The Court, therefore, dismissed the appeal.
Read the Order: