Bombay High Court: Woman's Matrimonial Home Cannot be Taken Away for In-Laws' Peace of Mind

The Bombay High Court ruled against evicting a woman from her matrimonial home to appease elderly in-laws. Justice Sandeep Marne stressed that while seniors deserve peace, it shouldn't infringe on women's rights under the DV Act.

The recent ruling by the Bombay High Court addressed a crucial issue regarding the rights of women in matrimonial homes, particularly when faced with eviction by their elderly in-laws. Justice Sandeep Marne emphasized the importance of balancing the rights of senior citizens with those of women under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

In clarifying the court's stance, Justice Marne highlighted that while senior citizens are entitled to peace of mind in their own homes, this cannot be achieved at the expense of a woman's rights. He stated, "No doubt, senior citizens are entitled to reside in their own house with peace and without any disturbance on account of marital discord between Petitioner (daughter-in-law) and her husband. But at the same time, the machinery under Senior Citizens Act cannot be used for the purpose defeating right of a woman under Section 17 of the DV Act."

This observation came in response to an order issued by a tribunal under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, which directed the eviction of a woman from her matrimonial house based on a complaint filed by her in-laws. The petitioner, who had been married for approximately 27 years and lived in her in-laws' home, faced eviction amidst marital discord.

Despite the tribunal's order, the petitioner's husband did not vacate the premises, leading the court to question the motives behind the eviction proceedings. It was believed that the in-laws' actions were merely a ploy to remove their daughter-in-law from the household. Recognizing the petitioner's vulnerability and lack of alternative accommodation, the court asserted, "She has no other place to reside. Therefore, she cannot be rendered homeless to ensure peace of mind of the senior citizens."

Furthermore, the court highlighted the husband's failure to arrange separate accommodation despite the passage of six months since the eviction order. Had the husband established a separate residence, the wife would have been entitled to protection from eviction under her husband's ownership. However, the court emphasized that residing with in-laws should not diminish a woman's legal protection, stating, "Does it mean that a wife staying separately from her in-laws enjoys better protection than the one who chooses to reside in a joint family with her in-laws? The answer to the question would obviously be in the negative."

Ultimately, the Bombay High Court overturned the tribunal's eviction order, recognizing the need for a balanced approach in cases where the rights of senior citizens conflict with those of women. Additionally, the court directed the magistrate to expedite the petitioner's plea under the Domestic Violence Act, ensuring timely resolution of her right to remain in the shared residence.

This landmark ruling serves as a significant step towards protecting the rights of women in matrimonial homes and preventing their unjust eviction under the guise of preserving the peace of elderly in-laws. It underscores the principle that no individual's rights should be sacrificed for the comfort of others, and highlights the importance of upholding legal safeguards to ensure gender equality and justice within familial relationships.