Implications of Domestic Violence Act 2005
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, grants Indian women more rights and protections than have ever been granted to them in the past. The act gives a very broad definition of domestic violence including everything from physical to emotional to economic abuse.
Laws are made so that the people who are victims of crime or whose rights are taken away unjustifiably can file a criminal complaint, or civil petition to restore their rights. Most men are also aware of such women protection laws, and they implicitly agree that women need to be protected, by not raising voice against such unjust laws.
But men do fear harassment apprehending false cases and vague complaints from a woman living under the same roof. Men’s organizations such as the SAVE INDIAN FAMILY FOUNDATION have been opposing the law, arguing that it is highly prone to misuse by women during household disputes. There have been various instances where the legal provisions made for protection purposes have been subjected to misuse to settle scores. It is unfortunate that the laws meant to protect women get abused as instruments of “extracting money” and “oppression”. The definition of domestic violence under the act includes verbal and emotional abuse also. Verbal and emotional abuse is puzzling and open to numerous interpretations. There are hyper sensitive people who perceive hurt and imagine insults when none is meant or intended. The act is becoming a weapon to take revenge. Relatives of man can also be made respondents under this act. In such cases, there is unnecessary harassment and mental torture to those relatives also who aren’t even involved but are made parties by the aggrieved person.
What needs to be kept in mind by the respondents in a DV case?
- It is not possible by legal means to prevent a complaint from being filed against you or to prevent a civil petition for maintenance or such reliefs by a wife. So there is no way to protect oneself, the only legal way is to fight it out in court based on evidence, and of course reasonably good legal preparation overall during the case. By law, courts can’t presume anything without evidence.
- If the plaintiff has produced some prima-facie good evidence or if the magistrate is satisfied that a prima-facie case of domestic violence is made out at the time of application, surely court can take a call based on that. But it may be useful for some initial relief only.
- The respondent has a right to be notified of the date of hearing. Such notice enables the respondent to prepare his case.
- The magistrate may make an order only after considering the domestic incident report submitted by protection officer if any.
- The respondent can make an application to the magistrate for alteration, modification or revocation of any order made under this act upon a plea of change of circumstances. The magistrate upon his satisfaction may pass a suitable order on such application after recording reasons in writing.
- The respondents have a right to appeal against the latest orders of the magistrate. Such appeal shall lie to the Court of Session within 30 days of the date of order.
- Although DV laws don’t typically contain specific provisions for discovery, the principles of due process and fair play require that all discovery methods be available to DV defendants. Therefore, you (or your attorney) should ask the plaintiff for the following documents:
- copies of medical records or reports regarding any physical injuries the plaintiff claims to have suffered
- a list of witnesses the plaintiff intends to call at trial, and
- copies of all evidence that the plaintiff will rely on or introduce at trials such as photographs, tape recordings, and expert reports.
It’s also important to get relevant documents from the police department and other third parties so you can see what the plaintiff has said about the DV claims. Ask for the following:
- domestic violence reports and telephone recordings
- forms filled out by the plaintiff