This paper focuses on acts of domestic violence perpetuated against women by their mothers-in-law in India. Specifically, it attempts to unpack legislative and legal discourses surrounding these crimes in order to understand how such violence is conceptualised within the Indian justice system. In India, such cases are tried under domestic violence laws. However, legal understandings conceptualise mother-in-law perpetrated violence as intra-women relational conflict between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law or dowry related, rather than as a form of gender based violence against women. Conviction rates for domestic violence remain low, and there are numerous allegations of legal malfeasance and abuse surrounding such incidents. In this paper we explore whether the problem lies in the implementation of a good law or if, following Foucault, whether the law itself is a form of negative patriarchal power which limits the ability of women to receive justice. Further, we argue that the problems faced by some Indian feminists to engage with mother-in-law violence as an integral part of domestic violence may have allowed highly patriarchal understandings of such violence to predominate in legislative and legal discourses. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.