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Last Updated : Jul 16, 2020 06:58 PM IST | Source: PTI

Delhi HC thwarts mother-in-law's attempt to keep daughter-in-law out of home citing COVID-19 lockdown

The daughter-in-law had left her matrimonial home on May 10 to visit her mother and a mere six days later on May 16, the mother-in-law filed an application seeking a direction to her daughter-in-law to remain at her mother's house, till lifting of the lockdown restrictions and to observe home quarantine.

PTI

A mother-in-law's attempt to take advantage of COVID-19 lockdown to keep her daughter-in-law out of the matrimonial home and have an upper hand in the property dispute between them surprised the Delhi High Court which thwarted her endeavour saying it was unfortunate that what could not be achieved directly was sought to be achieved indirectly.

The daughter-in-law had left her matrimonial home on May 10 to visit her mother and a mere six days later on May 16, the mother-in-law filed an application seeking a direction to her daughter-in-law to remain at her mother's house, till lifting of the lockdown restrictions and to observe home quarantine.

Justice C Hari Shankar, who dismissed the plea, said "the basis, for seeking these reliefs, is completely incomprehensible, as it is candidly admitted, by the counsel for the plaintiff (mother-in-law), that neither the first defendant (daughter-in-law), nor her mother, are COVID-19 positive,"

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The judge further said it was "obvious" that the mother-in-law was "seeking to capitalize on the departure of her daughter-in-law" to visit her mother.

"The plaintiff did not even wait for a week, after her departure, before moving this Court, with a prayer to restrain her from returning home. To say the least, this is unfortunate," the high court said in its order of July 2.

The judge further said,"Had the first defendant not left, on May 10, 2020, to visit her mother, there is little doubt that the plaintiff could not, at this interlocutory stage, have sought a direction, from this Court, to direct the first defendant not to return to the suit property.

"What could not have been achieved directly is, in my opinion, being sought to be achieved indirectly, by way of this application...In my view, this is totally impermissible, and may teeter perilously on the edge of abuse of the legal process."

The judge also observed that in the property row between the two women, a high court order July 10, 2019 was there directing them to maintain status quo and that direction has not been sought to be varied or modified in the present application.

The counsel for the mother-in-law had contended that the July 10, 2019 order was not applicable to her and was only applicable to her daughter-in-law.

This submission was rejected by the high court which said that a plain reading of the order would show that it was a direction to maintain status quo with regard to the property in dispute and was not intended to operate against either woman individually.

"Status quo, regarding title and possession, has been directed to be maintained qua the suit property. Allowing the prayer, in the present application, for a restraint, on the first defendant, from returning to the suit property, would amount to disturbing the status quo..," the high court said.

According to the order, the plaintiff's son and his wife started residing with her since 2014, as licensees, and thereafter "acrimony" developed between the two women and the marital relationship of the daughter-in-law and her husband also soured.

Thereafter, the daughter-in-law allegedly started filing false complaints against her mother-in-law who in April 2018 terminated her licence to reside in the matrimonial home by a legal notice.

"The status of the first defendant in the suit property is, therefore, it is alleged, that of a trespasser as, despite the plaintiff's repeated entreaties to that effect, the first defendant refuses to vacate the suit property. Various alleged incidents of harassment, of the plaintiff by the first defendant, have been adverted to in the plaint," the high court noted.

The mother-in-law has contended that the property was initially purchased in her and her husband's name and later he had gifted his share to her and therefore, she was the sole owner of the residence.

This contention has been disputed by the daughter-in-law who has claimed that the property in question was in the nature of a joint family property, purchased out of joint family funds.

She has also claimed that consequent to the amendment of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, her minor daughter is also a coparcener in the suit property.

She has further contended that the property was her matrimonial home and that she could not, therefore, be legally ousted therefrom.

The mother-in-law, in her response, has contended that in a domestic violence case initiated against her by her daughter-in-law, the latter has admitted that the former is the owner of the property in question.

The high court while dismissing the application moved by the mother-in-law, said,"In the present case, the first defendant has squarely questioned the title, of the plaintiff, to the suit property, and has contended that it is joint family property. She has claimed her right, therein, not merely on the ground that it is her matrimonial home, but as the mother of a coparcener to the joint family.

"These disputes required to be adjudicated, in the suit, and no order, interlocutory or otherwise, can be passed on the premise that the plaintiff is right, and the first defendant is wrong."
First Published on Jul 16, 2020 06:45 pm
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