The position of women in Indian society has never been stable. Their journey started from enjoying equal rights in the ancient period to struggle against discrimination in the medieval time and fighting for their rights in the modern era.
Women have been facing abuses since long back. They have not only suffered emotionally, mentally, verbally, religiously but also physically. This all often takes a wrong turn and women end up suffering from marital rape, dowry death, suicide, acid attacks, beating, female genital mutation, etc.
According to former Union Minister for Women, Renuka Chowdhary 70% of women in India are the victims of Domestic Violence.
These practices became so prevalent and entrenched that the Government of India took a step forward and implemented an Act on 13 September 2005 for the protection of women from all kind of violence. The Act came to be known as The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
Domestic Violence – Definition
The word ‘domestic violence’ has been defined in Section 3 of the PWDVA, 2005. The definition has a significant amplitude and covers all types of abuses against women. It covers physical, sexual, verbal and emotional, and economic abuse.
The sections read as follows-
For this Act, any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent shall constitute domestic violence in case it—
- 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
- harasses, harms, injures or endangers the aggrieved person 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
- 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
- Otherwise, injuries or causes harm, whether physical or mental, to the aggrieved person.
The framework of the definition has been taken from ‘UN Declaration on Violence Against Women and a Model Code’.
Read More Here: Domestic Violence Act
Who can file a complaint under the Domestic Violence Act?
Any ‘aggrieved person’ as per Section 2(a) of the Act can seek relief.
“Aggrieved person” means any woman who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the respondent and who alleges to have been subjected to any act of domestic violence by the respondent.
- It is very clear from the definition that only a female victim can be an ‘aggrieved person’.
- The victim should have a ‘domestic relationship’ with the respondent. According to Section 2(f), the domestic relationship includes a relationship by means of living together or sharing household and is related to each other by consanguinity, marriage, relationships in nature of marriage, adoption, etc.
The victims of Live-in Relationships are also protected under the Act. This right has been recognized in various judgments like Khusboo v. Kannimal; Chanmuniya v. Virendra Kumar Singh Khushwaha.
Against whom the complaint can be filed?
Section 2(q) defines ‘respondent’ as follows:
“Respondent” means any adult male person who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved person and against whom the aggrieved person has sought any relief under this Act: Provided that an aggrieved wife or female living in a relationship in the nature of a marriage may also file a complaint against a relative of the husband or the male partner;
Therefore, from the above definition, it is very clear that the victim can file a suit against her husband who commits such act against her or any other male partner with whom she is in a live-in or the relatives of the husband/male partner, i.e. the in-laws.
Who may or may not be included in the ambit of relatives is of utmost importance and differs from case to case.
This was upheld in Sandhya Wankhede v. Manoj Bhimrao Wankhede.
Relief that can be sought by the victim under the Act
The Act recognizes many reliefs to empower a woman to tide over an emergency.
If the victim obtains relief under this law that does not mean she is barred from approaching courts under the personal law. The PWDVA is a secular law and runs parallel to personal laws.
The Act provides the following reliefs-
- Counseling (Sec. 14)
The magistrate before whom the parties are presented may direct either the parties or the party who requires to the counseling process.
- Protection Orders (Section 18)
The magistrate can issue protecting order against the respondent. This is generally done to keep the victim in a protective shell so that the respondent doesn’t reach out to her for causing violence.
A Protection Officer, preferably a woman, is appointed by the concerned government to file a domestic incidence report.
- Residence ( Sec. 19)
The Magistrate can restrict the respondent from the place of the victim. Further, the respondent cannot evict the victim from the place of the residence.
- Maintenance (Sec. 20)
Under Section 20, the respondent may be directed to provide monetary compensation to the victim for any loss she has accrued, be it property loss, medical loss or any other financial loss.
- Child’s Custody (Sec. 21)
The custody of the child should be in the victim’s hand. The father of the child may be provided visiting rights.
Retrospective effect of the Act
The Delhi HC in its 2012 decision of V.D. Bhanot v. Savita Bhanot viewed that “even a wife who had shared household before the DV Act came into force would also be entitled to the protection of this Act”.
Therefore, giving the aggrieved party the right to file a suit even for the acts which have been committed before the enforcement of the Act.
 The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, s 3
 The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, s 2(a)
 Khusboo v. Kannimal (2010) 5 SCC 600.
 Chanmuniya v. Virendra Kumar Singh Khushwaha 1 SCC 141.
 Sandhya Wankhede v. Manoj Bhimrao Wankhede (2011) 3 SCC 650.
 V.D. Bhanot v. Savita Banot(2012) 3 SCC 183
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