What are the legal rights of domestic abuse victims?
In 2005, the government of India passed new legislation on domestic violence called the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (PWDVA). It is a civil law aimed at providing relief to million of women including wives, mothers, daughters and sisters affected by violence in their homes.
Through the PWDVA, affected women are entitled to:
Protection: The magistrate can pass orders to stop the offender from aiding or committing violence within and outside the home, communicating with the woman, taking away her assets, and/or intimidating her family and those assisting her against the violence
Residence: The woman cannot be evicted from the shared household.
Monetary relief and maintenance: The woman is entitled to maintenance, including loss of earnings, medical expenses, and damage to property.
Compensation: She can claim damages for mental and physical injuries.
Custody: The court can grant her temporary custody of children. Interim order/ex parte order. The court can pass an interim order to prevent violence before the final order. In the absence of the other party to the dispute, an Ex Parte order can be passed.
Legal service: Women have the right to free legal services under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
What is the PWDV Act of 2005?
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 includes actual or threatened abuse against women in their homes, including those of a physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic nature. This legislation is critical considering that more than two-thirds of married women between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced some form of sexual or domestic violence, including being beaten, raped, or forced to provide sex.* Punishment for such acts includes a jail sentence of up to one year and a 20,000 rupee fine. The new law also provides a share of the husband’s earnings and property to the victim, including medical costs.
(Source: The Independent, “India brings in first law to protect women from abuse.” Justin Huggler, October 27, 2006)
Where can I file a case on domestic violence?
The woman or somebody on her behalf can file a Direct Information Report (DIR) with :
The Protection Officer (PO) who is appointed by the government. The PO registers the DIR, presents it before the Magistrate and ensures that the orders passed by the court are enforced.
A Service Provider – a voluntary organization registered with the state government, Service Providers assist in filing the DIR with the PO, provide her with legal aid, medical care, counseling or any other support.
The Police can file a criminal complaint under Section 498A of the IPC. On request the police will record a DIR under the PWDVA at the same time and forward the same to the magistrate.
The Magistrate – A woman can directly approach the Magistrate’s court to file a DIR under the PWDVA. If the woman already has a pending case, then she can fill in an application under the PWDVA and file it as an “Interim Application” in the pending proceedings.
What if the abuser continues to commit violence or violates the orders passed by the court?
Violation or not complying with the order of the court is a criminal offence under the PWDVA 2005. In such cases, the woman can complain to the magistrate or the police or the appointed Protection Officer. The abuser can be arrested following such a complaint, and necessary action would be taken against him.