The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed a lower court order directing the husband, father-in-law and brother-in-law of a woman to pay her Rs.50,000 per month as interim maintenance under the Domestic Violence Act, saying that the sub-ordinate court had ignored the fact of divorce between the couple and applied the provisions of the Act to the case in an arbitrary manner.

The woman, Payal Malik, had married Nagesh Malik, based in the U.S., at Panipat in Haryana in 2001. The couple had thereafter shifted to the U.S. They stayed together there for more than seven years and a baby was born to them before they separated.

After having been divorced by her husband following an ex-parte decree by a New Jersey court in the U.S, Payal Malik filed a complaint in a Metropolitan Magistrate court here seeking protection, residence order, monetary relief and compensation under the Act.

Admitting her complaint, the Magistrate asked the respondents, husband, father-in-law and brother-in-law of the woman to pay to her an interim relief of Rs. 50,000 per month.

Thereafter, the respondents moved a Sessions court which also upheld the Magistrate's order. The Sessions court directed that a request be sent to the Ministry of External Affairs for execution of the order.

Then the three respondents filed appeals in the High Court against the Sessions court order. The husband of the woman submitted that he could be proceeded against as Payal Malik had filed the complaint under the Domestic Violence Act after separating from him.

The father and brother of Nagesh Malik argued that they had no liability in the matter as Payal Malik had been living separate from them with her husband in the U.S. Harbans Malik and Varun Malik, father and brother of Nagesh Malik, live at Panipat in Haryana.

Upholding the contentions of the respondents, Justice S.N. Dhingra said the lower courts were wrong in allowing the complaint of Payal Malik.

A complaint under the Domestic Violence Act against the husband of a woman can only be entertained when there are living together in a shared household at the time of filing of the complaint, Justice Dhingra held. He further ruled that relatives of a woman aggrieved of domestic violence are also absolved of their liability under the Act if they are living separate from the couple.

Justice Dhingra also allowed the divorce decree against Payal Malik by the New Jersey court and on that ground he also dismissed her complaint saying the she had moved the court after separating from Nagesh Malik.

  • Dismisses a lower court order
  • ‘In-laws not responsible if living separately'