Law · Public Policy

Daughters-in-law: Married and home brought so-called Daughters’ Rights denied

This begins with the very prospective of our Indian society’s differences between daughters-in-law and the daughters of the family that are still prevalent even after the modernization in thoughts and living standards over the periods of time. Although daughters in a family enjoy the share of around 50% of their ancestral or father’s property even after going to the well settled family but the contradictory part comes here when the daughters –in- law considered so called “NEXT DAUGHTERS” of the family are denied for the same if in need. This has not yet found any significant improvement in the households especially prevailing in India and so in its influence the order has been passed which in a sense raises questions around on the credibility of Indian women as a Daughter-in-law.

A Delhi court has denied a woman the right to reside in a house owned by her father-in-law, saying 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 residence in a house only if it is her husband’s property or if he has a share in it.

“In view of such uncontroverted facts and the fact that husband of applicant (woman) has already taken a house on rent, wherein she can seek a right to residence, the impugned order of the trial court cannot be sustained,” the judge said.

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.” The court remanded the case back to the magisterial court to decide the woman’s claim regarding her right to residence afresh and directed her and the parents-in-law to appear before it. The appeal was filed by the parents-in-law of the woman against the trial court’s order in a domestic violence case in which they were directed to allow her re-entry in their house considering it as shared household. In their appeal filed against a Mahila Court order, the parents-in-law of the woman had denied her allegation of torture or demand of dowry and claimed that her father in-law is the absolute owner of the property. They had further contended that the property is not a shared household property as considered by the trial court because the husband of the applicant has no right, share or title in it.

In this significant order the Delhi High Court has mentioned that a daughter-in-law cannot enforce her right in the self-acquired property of her parents-in-laws as it does not fall under the definition of a “shared household” enunciated in the Domestic Violence Act. She has a right over her husband’s property only. The court further held that not only a daughter-in-law, even an adult son or daughter has no right to occupy the self-acquired property of their parents against their wishes, reports The Times of India. “A son or daughter if permitted to live in the house occupies the same as a gratuitous licensee and if such licence is revoked, he has to vacate the said property,” noted Justice A K Pathak in one of his recent orders.

The court made the observation while dismissing an appeal of a woman, a doctor in a government hospital here, seeking right of residence in her mother-in-law’s house, in which her husband does not have any share. In her plea in the HC, the woman said she is a legally wedded wife and has a right to live in the property from where her father-in-law wants her evicted, said the report.

The proposed order raises the alarming question – Instead of eyeing their husbands’ ancestral property, why don’t Indian daughters in law make their own homes?

Here’s why.

A huge majority of married Indian women live with their in laws in their ancestral homes – in Patriarchal Joint Families. Patriarchal laws allow Indian parents to disinherit their daughters, keep them in dependence, marry them into joint families where the dependence continues and where they have no financial (and many other) rights.  We also have laws that leave divorced women (and their children) homeless and with generally no alimony, maintenance or child support – because please note, our society, family values and culture does not approve of divorced women, they were supposed to Get Married and Stay Married or Die Trying.

Moving away from the Joint Family is condemned by the society, resisted by the husband and frequently disapproved by the woman’s own parents. Women who do that are condemned as home-breakers. Some Indian parents of sons prefer earning daughters in law to dowry. Why? Because it is understood that whatever a daughter in law earns belongs to the in laws. But the working daughters in law and their parents do not wonder if her earnings get her financial security. It’s enough for them if she has her in laws’ approval.

How does one change this?

It can’t be easy, because an Indian paraya dhan‘s spouse’s parents feel entitled to her earnings, her dowry and sometimes even her inheritance. They get away with this because Getting and Staying married is seen as the only goal in an Indian woman’s life. The only way to change this is make sure every woman sees financial self-reliance and not marriage as her biggest goal in life.

And self-reliance also involves claiming her share from her brothers, and if married, from the husband and in-laws. Threats or fear of divorce should not result in giving up self-reliance.


About the Author

PicsArt_1401725409511Rashi is currently pursuing her second year in Electronics and Communication engineering from Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, Noida. Her areas of interest extend to Administration and Politics. She is looking forward to a career in the same, in future. She wants to be a change for the society as she loves interacting with new people and stand apart due to her out of the box vision. She likes to read, play badminton, travel, and explore new activities. Currently, she is interning with the Model Governance Foundation.

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