The patriarchal setup has been deeply rooted in the Indian society since time immemorial. It is believed that this system laid down the foundation stone for the abuse of women. Domestic violence affects women from every social background irrespective of their age, religion, caste, or class. Domestic violence means, Causing hurt, injury or danger to life, limb, health, safety or well-being, whether psychological or physical and causing harm, injury, or danger to the woman with an intention to coerce her or any other person related to her to meet any demand for dowry. The term physical abuse means hurt of any kind like Assault, criminal intimidation and use of criminal force. The Act, in a bold break from prior legislations, gives a very expansive definition to the term “domestic violence”, a term hitherto not even used in legal parlance.
Domestic violence act:
This act enlarges and defines the forms of abuse. For instance, it includes in its ambit sexual abuse like marital rape which, though excluded under the IPC, can now be legally recognised as a form of abuse under the definition of sexual abuse in the domestic violence Act,2005. The definition also encompasses claims for compensation arising out of domestic violence and includes maintenance similar to that,provided under the Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Most importantly, the Act identifies emotional abuse as a form of domestic violence, including insults on account of the victim’s not having any children or male children. And further this act includes economic abuse and stalking in order of offences against women. This Act is an extremely progressive one not only because it recognizes women who are in a
live in relationship but also extends the protection to other women in the household, including sisters and mothers. Thus, the Act includes relations of consanguinity, marriage, or through relationships in the nature of marriage, adoption, or joint family. Thus, 'domestic relationships' are not restricted to the marital context alone. This legislation was enacted after a ratification of the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women).
The definition of ‘domestic relationship’ in the domestic violence act, 2005 is broad enough to cover all sorts of household arrangements. Some important definitions covered under the domestic violence Act are,
Defined as an act or conduct that is of such a nature as to cause bodily pain, harm, or danger to life, limb or health or impair the health or development of the aggrieved person’. Physical abuse also includes assault, criminal intimidation and criminal force.
The legislation defines this as conduct of “sexual nature” that ‘abuses, humiliates, degrades or otherwise violates the dignity of a woman.’
Any form of Insults/ ridicule, including those with regard to inability to have a male child, as well as repeated threats.
Categorized as including deprivation of financial resources required for survival of the victim and her children, the disposing of any assets which the victim has an interest or stake in and prohibition or restriction of financial resources which the victim is used to while in the domestic relationship.
According to the definition provided under the Domestic Violence Act in Section 2(a), an “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.
According to Section 2(f) of Domestic violence act, “domestic relationship” means a relationship between two persons living in a shared household. Domestic relationships can be through marriage such as wives, daughters-in-law, sisters-in-law, widows and any other members of the family; or blood relationships such as mothers, sisters or daughters; and other domestic relationships including through adoption, live-in relationships, and women in bigamous relationships or victims of legally invalid marriages.
According to Section 2(s) of domestic violence Act, 2005 a shared household is where the aggrieved person or a woman lives in a domestic relationship, either singly, or along with the man against whom the complaint is filed. It may also imply a household where a woman has lived in a domestic relationship but has been thrown out.
The objective of the Act lays down “An Act 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 for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
The new act contains five chapters and thirty seven sections. The special Features of the Act are as follows:
The definition of an 'aggrieved' person' is equally wide and covers not just the wife but a woman who is the sexual partner of the male irrespective of whether she is his legal wife or not. The daughter, mother, sister, child (male or female), widowed relative, in fact, any woman residing in the household who is related in some way to the respondent, is also covered by the Act.
The respondent under the definition given in the Act is "any male, adult person who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved person" but so that his mother, sister and other relatives do not go scot free, the case can also be filed against relatives of the husband or male partner [Chapter I - Sec2(a)].
The information regarding an act or acts of domestic violence does not necessarily have to be lodged by the aggrieved party but by "any person who has reason to believe that" such an act has been or is being committed. Which means that neighbours, social workers, relatives etc… all can take initiative on behalf of the victim. [ Chapter III - Sec 4]
This fear of being driven out of the house effectively silenced many women and made them the silent sufferers. The court, by this new Act, can now order that she will not only reside in the same house but that a part of the house can even be allotted to her for her personal use even if she has no legal claim or share in the property. [Chapter IV - Sec 17]
Section 18 of the same chapter allows the magistrate to protect the woman from acts of violence or even "acts that are likely to take place" in the future and can prohibit the respondent from dispossessing the aggrieved person or in any other manner disturbing her possessions, entering the aggrieved person's place of work or, if the aggrieved person is a child, the school.
The respondent can also be restrained from attempting to communicate in any form, whatsoever, with the aggrieved person, including personal, oral, written, electronic or telephonic contact" . The respondent can even be prohibited from entering the room/area/house that is allotted to her by the court.
The Act allows magistrates to impose monetary relief and monthly payments of maintenance. The respondent can also be made to meet the expenses incurred and losses suffered by the aggrieved person and any child of the aggrieved person as a result of domestic violence and can also cover loss of earnings, medical expenses, loss or damage to property and can also cover the maintenance of the victim and her children.
Section 22 allows the magistrate to make the respondent to pay the compensation and damages for the injuries including mental torture and emotional distress caused by acts of domestic violence.
Section 31 imposes a penalty up to one year imprisonment and/or a fine up to Rs. 20,000 for the offence. The offence is also considered cognisable and non-bailable.
Section 32 (2) goes even further and says that "under the sole testimony of the aggrieved person, the court may conclude that an offence has been committed by the accused".
The Act also ensures speedy justice as the court has to start proceedings and have the first hearing within 3 days of the complaint being filed in court and every case must be disposed of within a period of sixty days of the first hearing.
It makes provisions for the state to provide for the Protection Officers and the whole machinery by which to implement the Act.
The act enunciates the certain duties of central and state government to make wide publicity & training programs for the police officers.
The Act also provides for the assistance of welfare experts if found necessary by the Magistrate.
The Act also provides for the penalty for not discharging the duty of Protection Officer.
In terms of concepts, the aim of the legislation, in addressing the problem of domestic violence visited on a woman by a man in a domestic relationship, has to a great extent been served. It may be concluded from an overall study of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005, that the range and detail in which various definitions and forms of relief have been drafted, show a clear effort on the part of the legislators to provide adequate redressal and protection. Although the major objective of this law, being to protect the women against domestic violence has been secured, certain portions of the law still remains to be developed. The Act falls short in providing any relief to the male members in the community who are subjected to domestic violence, being one of the areas where the law falls short. However, it also needs to be considered that no crime can be abolished from society completely, it is only with stringent reforms and mechanisms that it can be curbed. It is, however, opined that it is too early to predict the usefulness of this legislation to its target beneficiaries and the society as a whole. It needs to be seen whether the practicality of the Act has been ensured by the legislature and also the responsibility of implementation lies in the hands of the executive which will be the actual scale for measuring the effectiveness of this Act.