Friday, February 22, 2013

In-laws must maintain widow: Bombay HC

MUMBAI: A widowed woman has a right to be maintained by her father-in-law after her husband's death, the Bombay high court has ruled. Twelve years after Mumbai resident Seema Shah was allegedly driven out of her matrimonial home by her in-laws after her husband died, the high court has granted her a reprieve-it said that she has a right in not only the property left by her deceased husband Jayantibhai Shah, but also that owned by her father-in-law.

"She has not received her share in the estate of the deceased since she has not lived in her matrimonial home. She has also not been maintained out of the estate of the deceased although as a Hindu daughter-in-law she is entitled to be maintained even by her father-in-law as the widow," said Justice Roshan Dalvi while granting Seema letters of administration to the entire estate of her late husband.

The court held that Seema had 1/3rd right in the flat which was purchased by her husband. Since Jayantibhai would have inherited part of the property of his father on the latter's death, she had a right to half of such property that he would inherit. The other half would go to the couple's daughter Vaishali.

Seema's mother in law Jaywantiben and her daughter Vaishali had objected to the letters of administration to her. They claimed that Seema had left her husband and gone to live in her parents house and abandoned the couple's only daughter Vaishali.

The court however pointed to the evidence and refused to believe this story. "(Seema) is not shown to be a career person. She would have been only a homemaker. It needs some depth and visualisation of the social position of a woman of the kind that Seema was," said the judge adding, "A woman/widow, her young husband having expired, would be in a fragile situation. She cannot prevent the entry of her parents-in-law in her home. She cannot take charge and control of her life at such a sudden misfortune. She is very likely to be thrown out of her home as she has deposed. She has nowhere except her parental home to go to. She may or may not be able to strike back. She knew that her daughter is not alone. She chose not to complain of the action or claim custody of her child. Perhaps that has been her sacrifice as a mother. She has since been bereft of her husband as well as her only child."

The court also refused to believe Vaishali's story that her mother had abandoned her pointing out that she was just a child of six years at that time and her statements were hearsay. In fact Vaishali had told the trial court that her mother used to live with her father till his death. "The child would not know if and how her mother may have tried to get back into her husband's house, but was not allowed by her grandparents. She has been left where she was, uninterrupted, undisturbed and unobstructed. It may be unfortunate that she considers that she was abandoned by her mother."

Jaywantiben and Vaishali also claimed that Seema had appropriated the gratuity and other dues that had to be shared with them. The court though said that while Seema may at the most owe Jaywantiben and Vaishali about Rs 1 lakh, they owed her lakhs of rupees as part of the value of the flat.

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