Our Constitution has unlatched the door to the dissipation of law. In this world of viability, we come across cases which were once unheard of, unknown and unseen. The laws which were earlier formulated to provide support to the violated rights of women are now used by the women themselves to boil down the morality of the law itself.
The Delhi High Court recently has denied a woman the right to reside in a house owned by her father-in-law, saying that she has no right in a property which exclusively belongs to her parents-in-law. While setting aside the order of a magisterial court, Additional Sessions Judge Pulastya Pramachala allowed the appeal filed by the woman’s parents-in-law, saying that she is entitled to claim a right to reside in a house only if it is her husband’s property or if he has a share in it. Relying on a Supreme Court verdict, the judge said, “It is held that the daughter-in-law has no right in a property which exclusively belongs to her parents-in-law and such a property cannot be treated as a shared accommodation.” 
I came across a pronouncement that falls under the same category as the recent one. The Delhi High Court in an earlier judgment, where the wife of a man harrowed his parents for his matrimonial property in spite of the fact that they were separated, has given a sigh of relief to all the aged parents-in-law from their agony.
Justice Kailash Gambhir proclaimed, “One cannot shy away from the hard-hitting reality that it is not always the daughter-in-law who is berated but at times the in-laws who are at the receiving end of the daughter-in-law’s cantankerousness. It should not be consigned to oblivion that the parents-in-law have every right to live in peace in their own property and the right to property vested in them cannot be snatched away and used as a tool to harass them”.“The daughter-in-law has no right to stay in her father/mother-in-law’s property especially after the exit of her husband from the property,” he added.
But if we see the reverse side of the judgment, we have always read under Section 19 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, a father-in-law is liable to maintain his daughter-in-law if she cannot maintain herself and if her husband cannot or is not there to maintain her.
The right to claim maintenance from the father-in-law, in the circumstances stated above, is however conditional upon the father-in-law having in possession of coparcenary property out of which widowed daughter-in-law has not obtained any share. Though under the Act, the right to claim maintenance by widowed daughter-in-law against her father-in-law is limited to the extent of coparcenary property in the hand of father-in-law, out of which widowed daughter- in-law has not taken any share, but under the old Hindu Law, prevailing before the enactment of the Act, this right of maintenance to the widowed daughter-in-law against the self acquired property of her father-in-law, was available. This right is still available to the widowed daughter-in-law of the pre-deceased son against the self acquired property of her father-in-law, as this right shall not cease to be in force because the same is not inconsistent with any provision contained in the Act. Thus, the widowed daughter-in-law of a pre-deceased son is entitled to claim right of maintenance against the self acquired property of her father-in-law, whether it is in his hand or in the hand of his heir or donee. 
According to my notion, the accountability of the father-in-law to maintain his daughter-in-law hedges with the responsibility to provide her with the elementary necessities such as food, shelter and clothing.
However, this ultimately boils down to a contradictory denouement. Though law based on the principles of justice and fairness is being followed, but the judgment in this case was general and may not assure justice to all. However, the question of what justice is, exactly, and how it is achieved are more difficult matters. The principles of justice and fairness point to ideas of fair treatment and “fair play” that should govern all modes of exchange and interaction in a society. They serve as guidelines for carrying out justice. 
Bombay High Court, B.P.Dharmadhikari, J, Venubai Wd/O Wasudeo Rambhad … vs Laxman Lahanuji Rambhad (Since … on 18 January, 2008
About the Author
Amrita Dasgupta is pursuing her B.A. LL.B., from South Calcutta Law College. She loves doing research and holds a predilection for new things. Criminology has always been her field of interest but uncommon fields attract her more. Currently, she is interning at the Model Governance Foundation.