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In-laws cannot ask their daughter-in-law to pay maintenance: Bombay High Court

The decision that the in-laws cannot ask their daughter-in-law to pay maintenance as she does not come under the purview of ‘children’ under Section 2(a) of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 is upheld by the High Court of Bombay through the learned bench led by HONOURABLE JUSTICE S. S. SHINDE & HONOURABLE JUSTICE REVATI MOHITE DERE in the case of Sheetal Devang Shah Versus Presiding Officer of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens And Ors. (WRIT PETITION NO.3323 OF 2019).

Brief facts of the case are that Nalini Mahendra Shah and Mahendra Shah, who were 77 and 79 years old at the time, had approached the tribunal with the plea that their son and daughter-in-law, Devang Shah and Sheetal Shah tortured them mentally and physically to the extent that they were unable to survive in their own house. The Tribunal ordered Devang Shah and Sheetal Shah to leave their property and jointly pay the mother Rs 25,000 per month in maintenance. The daughter-in-law went to the HC and complained about the 2019 order. During the course of the procedures, the father-in-law passed away. The home property, according to the daughter-in-law, was inherited from the father-in-law and h er husband was regularly paying the rent of that house.

The Counsel for Petitioner, Yasmin Tavaria, claimed that the Family Court had issued an order in 2019 prohibiting the husband or anybody connected to him to stop her from accessing her matrimonial house. She further alleged that the order of the Senior Citizen Tribunal was made without any supporting evidence.

The Counsel for Respondent no.2, Vivek Kantawala, representing the mother-in-law said that his client had been subjected to ongoing mental and physical harassment, and that the tribunal’s decision deserved to be sustained. He said that his daughter-in-law had sought to insult their religious feelings by hurling eggs, despite the fact that the family was Jain. He further stated that because the mother in law was not a part of the Family Court’s proceedings, she was not subjected to the order. The court noted from the outset that Section 3 makes it clear that the Senior Citizens Act will take precedence over any other Act that is inconsistent with the requirements of the said Act.

The tribunal’s findings were supported by the Hon’ble court. It said that the family members, such as the son and daughter-in-law, should treat the mother-in-law with compassion, consideration, and respect, and provide her with the fundamental essentials for a tranquil life. Kindness, care, and respect, it is frequently noted, cannot be purchased with money. The court went on to say that it was the couple’s job to pay attention to the mother-in-daily law’s needs and do their best to accommodate them. The court found that there is disturbance in the residence and that the elderly parents are being harassed mentally and physically. The mother’s complaint led to the court ordering the son and daughter-in-law to evacuate the luxurious Juhu house. The son, on the other hand, was ordered to pay his mother the entire amount of Rs 25,000 awarded by the tribunal each month. In doing so, the HC absolved the daughter-in-law of any financial responsibility, as she does not come under the purview of ‘children’ under Section 2(a) of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. The husband, a diamond businessman, was also ordered to make arrangements for his wife and children to stay outside the family home. The court said that as the spouse and guardian of two sons, the son is legally obligated to provide them with housing commensurate with his status, income, and assets. The court observed that a daughter-in-law cannot be ordered to pay maintenance to her sick mother-in-law, especially without any confirmation and proper evidence of the woman’s income.

JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY-ATIVA GOSWAMI

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