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Overview of Domestic Violence

The matters related to domestic violence were dealt under section 498-A of the IPC or Indian Penal Code before the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act of 2005. A special Act was passed due to shortcomings in Section 498-A. There was no provision related to compensation to the victim under the section and only married females were allowed to file a complaint of domestic violence.

In order to expand the ambit of people being protected under the section, a separate Domestic Violence Act was enacted to provide relief to females. There are different available reliefs under the Act.

Domestic Violence against women

An act by a person which injures or causes harm to a woman who has been living with the accused in a domestic relationship is said to be an act of domestic violence. It can be caused to a female by abusing her sexually, mentally, emotionally, financially and verbally.

It is not important that a wrongful act needs to be committed, a threat of committing a wrong is also considered to be an act of domestic violence. The unlawful demand of dowry made by the family members and relatives of the male spouse is also considered a form of domestic violence under the Domestic Violence Act.

The law has been primarily enacted to protect married female spouses and female partners in a live-in-relationship.

Beneficiaries under the Act

The below-mentioned list contains the category of people who are considered beneficiaries under the Act:

  • Women: The Domestic Violence Act was primarily established to protect the women who have been victims of domestic violence and have been living in a shared household with the respondent wherein the victim is related to blood, marriage, etc. Any woman who has been a victim of bigamous or fraudulent marriage or woman who has unknowingly been involved in invalid marriage is also protected under the Act.
  • Children: Children who are below the age group of 18 years either born out of wedlock or adopted who have been a victim of domestic violence in the physical, financial or mental form are also protected under the Act. A person who has been a witness can file a complaint on behalf of the child.

Types of Domestic Violence against women

There are different forms of domestic violence against women which vary from physical to emotional abuse. These are as follows:

Physical abuse

It is one of the most common forms of abuse noticeable in India and most cases filed are related to physical abuse. Physical abuse has been defined under the Domestic Violence Act as an act causing bodily harm or endangering the life, health or development of a victim. It also includes assault, criminal force and intimidation.

Sexual abuse

A common example of sexual abuse is marital rape. A person is said to have committed an offence of marital rape if the spouse rapes his wife who is below the age of 15 years without or against her will. Any act which leads to abuse, humiliation, and degradation of the dignity of a woman is called an act of sexual abuse.

Verbal and emotional abuse

A threat or remark made to the victim with regard to the relation between parties is a verbal form of domestic violence committed against the females. A constant verbal abuse leads to emotional abuse. Constant threat or abuse decreases the self-esteem of a woman and affects the psychology of the woman.

Economic abuse

Making economic abuse a form of abuse has been one of the good efforts of the legislature through the Domestic Violence Act. Whenever the victim and the children are denied or threatened from using financial resources to living is caked financial or economic abuse.

Causes of Domestic Violence in India

There is no specified reason that leads to domestic violence. There are several factors such as history, religion, culture and behavior of people that lead to the performing of activities of domestic violence. These are as follows:

  • Sociological/Behavioral Factors: It includes factors such aggressive behaviour, severe anger issues, financial crises, the difference in religion, dominating nature, consumption of drugs, etc are the factors that constitute sociological factor that leads to the commission of acts of domestic violence. Whenever a person fails to perform activities which he is required to perform under conjugal relation or is involved in an extra-marital affair, a victim can file a complaint before the court under the category of acts of domestic violence.
  • Historical Factors: Some men follow the patriarchal approach where they were considered superior to the women leading to the occurrence of acts of domestic violence to make the females feel subordinate to them.
  • Cultural Factors: It has been observed that people have a desire to have a male child born out of wedlock and people have an obsession with this. Lack of awareness and superiority complex of males in a family causes acts of domestic violence. There are other cultural factors too that trigger the acts of domestic violence.
  • Dowry: Taking or demanding dowry is declared as an offence under the Dowry Prohibition Act. It has been seen very frequently that people demand dowry from the females during the time of marriage. Some families make illegal demands for the dowry that lead to mental abuse to the female and her family members.

Procedure of filing complaint and the court's duty

A person who has been a victim of domestic violence must follow the below-mentioned procedure for filing a complaint before the competent court:

  1. A party who has been the victim of domestic violence or a person who has been a witness to the offence is eligible to approach a service provider, police officer, protection officer or a Magistrate directly for filing a complaint under the Domestic Violence Act of 2005 to seek immediate and long term reliefs mentioned under the Act. The person who has informed about the commission of an act related to domestic violence in good faith will not be held liable for any sort of criminal or civil liability
  2. After the complaint has been filed before the competent court, the court is under an obligation to take cognizance of the complaint by hearing parties within 3 days from which the complaint was filed.
  3. The Magistrate will then provide a date to parties for a hearing by asking the protection officer to serve to summon to parties and other relevant people within the time period of 2 days or any reasonable time as ordered by the magistrate.
  4. After hearing the parties, the court must dispose of the matter within 60 days from the hearing being held.
  5. The court in order to accuse a person of domestic violence can use the testimony of the victim only if no other piece of evidence or witness is available.
  6. If the court has been satisfied that the complaint made by the victim is true and genuine, the court will pass an interim protection order for the protection of the victim. Such an order will remain in force till the victim asks for discharging it. If the victim wishes to make modifications or alterations to the order, she may do so by filing an application before the magistrate by providing reasons in writing.
  7. A victim has the option to file a complaint under Section 498A (Cruelty) of the Indian Penal Code.

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Penalty/Punishment

The law related to the protection of women from domestic violence contains punishment for the wrongdoers and the protection officers:

  • For Respondent: A person who has been accused of committing acts of domestic violence violates the terms of the protection order, he is said to have committed an offence which is a non-bailable and cognizable offence. Such a person is punishable with imprisonment for a time period of a maximum of one year or fine, or both. The maximum amount of fine which can be levied upon the accused is Rs. 20,000. If there are some serious offences committed by the person which fall under the offences mentioned under the Dowry Prohibition Act and Indian Penal Code, he can be tried for such offences too.
  • For Protection Officer: If the protection officer fails to perform his duties as ordered by the Magistrate without any valid reason, then such an officer will be held liable for committing an offence under the Act and will be liable for similar punishment as that of the respondent. A protection officer can only be penalized only after the state government has given prior sanction for levying a penalty on the officer. Such an officer will not be penalized if he/she has taken any steps in good faith.

Appeal

An aggrieved party who has been dissatisfied with the order passed by the Magistrate can file an appeal before the Court of Session challenging the order passed by the magistrate within the time period of 30 days from the date on which the order of the Magistrate was served to either of the party to the lawsuit.

How is domestic violence different from other forms of violence?

The pattern of abuse on the victim is the differentiating character of domestic violence which makes it different from other forms of violence. The person who has been accused of domestic violence is seen to have constant control and power over the life of the victim forming a pattern of control and threat over the other.

Whereas, violence other than domestic violence occurs when both parties are involved in violent acts against each other to cause harm or injury. It occurs in less or no repeated acts as compared to acts of domestic violence.

Does verbal abuse amount to Domestic Violence?

When people hear about domestic violence, they usually tend to limit it to physical violence- especially in the sense of what remains visible. The idea of verbal abuse doesn’t often come up. This leads to the normalization of the impact of verbal abuse. However, domestic violence usually starts with a verbal form of abuse before becoming a full-blown pattern of violence. Section 3 of the Domestic Violence Act includes verbal violence as a form of domestic violence. This makes verbal abuse a legally recognizable mode of perpetrating domestic violence against women. Verbal Abuse affects one’s sense of self-worth and spirit leading to self-doubt. Any attack on self-worth further results in psychological trauma and depression.

Is a male person allowed to file a case for domestic violence in India?

The Domestic Violence Act of 2005 has no provisions with regard to the protection of males and the right to them for filing a case for domestic violence under the Act. This Act was enacted primarily to protect the women who have been victims of domestic violence.

However, a male who has been a victim of domestic violence has the right to approach the competent court and apply for judicial separation or divorce by stating cruelty (mental or physical) as a ground to seek divorce or judicial separation under the relevant personal law of the party. The laws related to domestic violence in India are silent about provisions to protect and safeguard the rights of a man.

Consequences of domestic violence against women

Women have faced severe consequences and the impact of domestic violence on them. The effect is both short-term and long-term. It also affects the children and the elder members of the woman who has been a victim of domestic violence. It creates a very unhealthy and poor effect on the mind of the child.

  • Short-Term Consequences: Domestic violence against a woman has short terms physical effects. It includes serious physical conditions and injuries in the body of the victim. It also includes cuts, bruises, internal bleeding, fractures, or other internal and external injuries in the body of the victim. There are certain situations where the nature of the injury is known only after an x-ray or other relevant tests are performed by a doctor. The effect of such violence badly affects the daily mood of the people who have been affected and ultimately reduces the efficiency and ability to perform tasks.
  • Long-term Consequences: Violence can be physical or mental. The violent act generates fear in the mind of the victim for a long term leading to many health problems and disorders. The long-term consequences of physical and mental violence can result in depression, anxiety or mental disorder due to trauma, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions

An act by a male which includes abuse (physical, mental, emotional, sexual or financial) in any form used to control the behaviour of the female who are living together in a relationship is called the act of domestic violence. Some offenders have complete control over the lives of victims. They give threats of violence to the victims.

No, the filing of a case of domestic violence does not guarantee a divorce between parties.

Yes, such an act will come under the definition of domestic violence.

Yes, a woman who has been aggrieved can seek maintenance under a case of domestic violence.

It has been found that people have started misusing the concept of domestic violence and have started filing a lot of false cases of domestic violence to threaten the opposite party. There is no defined punishment for people who file false cases of domestic violence under the domestic violence law in India.

Yes, the residency rights of a woman are protected under the Domestic Violence Act in India.

The Domestic Violence Act contains a provision under section 17 for the protection of residency rights which have been provided to a woman who is in a domestic relationship with a male and lives in a shared household.

The Protection of women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005 has been specially enacted to protect the woman in India.

Yes, a woman who is involved in a live-in relationship is protected under the domestic violence law in India.

Documentary proof, audio or visual proof is acceptable in the court while proving a case of domestic violence.

No, a male is not covered under the purview of the domestic violence law in India. Thus, he has no right to file a complaint against his wife under the Act.

If the defendant claims that he has been falsely accused of domestic violence, he needs to approach an advocate who is an expert in dealing with matters related to domestic violence.

Verbal, mental, physical, financial or emotional abuse concludes the definition of abuse under the Domestic Violence Act in India.

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