DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AMIDST LOCKDOWN : LEGAL PROVISIONS

by Shruti Prakash Pandav


Introduction :

The world today is well–equipped with technology, knowledge and information. As it is seen that in the past few years that people are more advanced and well–informed about various aspects of the society, their rights and duties. But one of the major concerns for any country is to safeguard and protect the women of the country. The crimes against women include domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, etc. Violence against women is no new news today. Every day, there is news of a crime committed against a woman. Domestic Violence is one of the biggest crime against women. It is not only limited to any one country, it is seen through all over the world. It prevails not only in the rural areas or the illiterate population but also through upper class societies and literate population. Roots of the patriarchy system society are deeply rooted in the Indian society and it even continues till today. It can be said that this system laid the foundation stone for the abuse of women.Various legal provisions are laid down for the protection of women against Domestic Violence. However, still number of domestic violence cases has not reduced.


Domestic Violence Amidst Lockdown :

As per the reports from National Commission for Women (NCW) there is an increase of at least 2.5 times in domestic violence complaints since the lockdown in the country. Cases from various parts of the country have been reported. It is very difficult to find out the cases until and unless the victim or someone on her behalf comes forward. In the lockdown it has become difficult to report such cases as most of the places were sealed and there was a restricted movement and most of the time they were told to make peace with the perpetrator and live inside home.

Between March 25 and May 31, 1477 complaints of domestic violence has been reported. A helpline number was set up to ensure women who couldn’t access emails or send complaints by post, receive help. 727 of these complaints were received on whatsapp helpline number. There is not only increase in domestic violence but also in the severity of these assaults and their traumatic effects on women. Domestic violence is a reality that existed but it intensified during the lockdown. The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has decided to open online legal assistance services by a panel of women lawyers in each district to come to the aid of victims of domestic violence and child abuse which saw a major spike during the lockdown.


Legal Provisions :


Women can ensure their right to protection against domestic violence under the Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005, Section 498-A of Indian Penal Code which states a Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty, Section 113 A of Indian Evidence Act - Presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman.


Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act, 2005 :

In 2005, the government introduced “The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005” which aimed to protect women from this very issue. The objective of the Act was to provide for more effective protection of the rights of women guaranteed under the Constitution who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family and formatters connected therewith or incidental thereto.[1] The legislative intent was further emphasized by the Supreme Court of India it was stated that the DV Act is enacted to provide a remedy in civil law for the protection of women, from being victims of such relationship, and to prevent the occurrence of domestic violence in the society.[2]


Definition of Domestic violence :

For the purposes of this Act, any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent shall constitute domestic violence in case it

(a) harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well-being, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person or tends to do so and includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse; or

(b) harasses, harms, injures or endangers the aggrieved person with a view to coerce her or any other person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any dowry or other property or valuable security; or

(c) has the effect of threatening the aggrieved person or any person related to her by any conduct mentioned in clause (a) or clause (b); or

(d) otherwise injures or causes harm, whether physical or mental, to the aggrieved person.[3]

In simple terms domestic violence can be said when a person harms or endangers the health, safety or well-being of a woman mentally or physically and includes causing physical assault, sexual abuse, emotional and verbal abuse. It basically means when a woman is beaten, or humiliated or deprived of any economic or financial resources.

The Act ensures the protection of the aggrieved person through various provisions. Under section 4 of the Act, any person who has reason to believe that an act of domestic violence has been, or is being, or is likely to be committed, may give information about it to the concerned Protection Officer.[4] Section 5 enlists the duties of the police officer, Protection Officer, service provider or Magistrate who has received a complaint of domestic violence or is otherwise present at the place of an incident of domestic violence or when the incident of domestic violence is reported to him, shall inform the aggrieved person about her right to make an application for obtaining a relief, availability of services of service providers, availability of services of the Protection Officers, her right to free legal services under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 (39 of 1987), her right to file a complaint under section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).[5] It further provides under section 6 the duties of the shelter home to provide shelter to her if an aggrieved person or on her behalf a Protection Officer or a service provider requests the person in charge of a shelter home.[6] Section 7 mentions to provide any medical aid to her.[7]


Reliefs available under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 :

Protection of Women from domestic violence Act, 2005 provides for the remedies under section 18 – 23. Section 18 - 23 includes Protection orders, Residence orders, Monetary relief, Custody orders, Compensation orders and the Magistrate’s power to grant interim and ex parte orders.


Filing a Complaint of Domestic Violence :

An aggrieved woman, in order to file a complaint for domestic violence may approach the police station and register the complaint, file a complaint to a Protection Officer or Service Provider, Directly approach the Magistrate.[8]

In a recent decision, the Supreme Court held that petition under DV Act can be filed in a court where “person aggrieved” permanently or temporarily resides or carries on business or is employed, Shyamlal Devda v. Parimala, (2020) 3 SCC 14.[9]


Section 498 – A of Indian Penal Code :

Section 498-A was introduced in the year 1983 to protect married women from being subjected to cruelty by the husband or his relatives. Section 498-A states that whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.[10]

A punishment extending to 3 years and fine has been prescribed. The term ‘cruelty’ has been defined under this section which states that cruelty means inflicting mental or physical pain or any willful conduct which drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to her life. It also includes harassment of woman with a view to coerce her or her relations to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security. Harassment for dowry also falls under this section.


Under section 113-A of Indian Evidence Act - Presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman when the question is whether the commission of suicide by a woman had been abetted by her husband or any relative of her husband and it is shown that she had committed suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage and that her husband or such relative of her husband had subjected her to cruelty, the court may presume, having regard to all the other circumstances of the case, that such suicide had been abetted by her husband or by such relative of her husband.[11]


Conclusion :

If the victims do not approach for help, no one can help them. It is very necessary for the victims of domestic violence to approach police or NGOs or any other government body. Domestic violence is not something which can be figured out easily as the crime took place inside the four walls of the house. It is also important for government to take action and stop these cases and provide proper protection to the survivors and victims of domestic violence.

[1] The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 [2] Indra Sarma v. V.K.V Sarma, (2013) 15 SCC 755 [3] Section 3, The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

[4] Section 4, The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 [5] Section 5, The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 [6] Section 6, The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 [7] Section 7, The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

[8]The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 [9] Shyamlal Devda v. Parimala, (2020) 3 SCC 14

[10] Section 498-A, IPC

[11]Section 113-A, Indian Evidence Act


Disclaimer : The opinions expressed by the author are for informational purposes only and and is made in their personal capacity and does not, in any way or manner, reflect the views of The Legal Outlook. Nothing herein shall deemed constitute legal advice.