Abuse of Domestic Violence Act
When the United Nations framed the Human Rights charter, it specifically held those rights to be the most essential in order for a person to live in a civilized society. Under the charter, right to live with dignity was also given an important role. However, with the ever increasing cases of domestic abuse, such right have been diminishing at a tremendous pace. It had been universally accepted principle even by the Supreme Court in its several judgments that domestic violence in any household must be construed as violation of human rights.
Women have been subjected to domestic violence since a long time. The only protection available to them was in the form of Section 498A IPC. Even with some sort of protection granted, former president Pratibha Patil expressed her views on the misuse of domestic violence laws accepting that there have been instances whereby protective legal provisions for the benefit of women have been subjected to distortion and misuse to wreak petty vengeance and to settle scores the fair invocation of legal provisions and their objective and honest implementation.
However, with the passage of time and continuous increase in the domestic abuse cases before the courts across the country, legislation felt the need to draft a framework in order to protect the interest of women, as an important section of the society.
In order to the protect the interest of the women, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was introduced. Under the Act, scope of the definition of violence was increased and any form of violence including physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic were punishable offence under it, as against previous definition, which only includes violence in physical form. Furthermore, the Act tend to draws its strength from Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Indian Constitution, that guarantees right to equality. Furthermore, under the Act the complaint for domestic abuse can not only be made against husband but his family members as well.
As a result of the Act, women started coming forward against the domestic abuse with various organizations supporting women’s who have been a victim of the abuse. They tend to draw their strength and power from this Act. On the face of it, this Act proved to be a blessing for the women’s in abusive or violent relationships.
However, the introduction of the Act was just the tip of the iceberg. The scenario tend to get worse when women started misusing the Act. Many cases came before courts across the country, wherein false complaints against husbands and his family members were initiated on grounds of personal vendetta.
As observed by Supreme Court in the case of Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand, wherein court commented that “serious relook of the entire provision is warranted by the legislature. It is a matter of common knowledge that exaggerated versions of the incident are reflected in a large number of complaints. The tendency of over implication is also reflected in a very large number of cases.”
Supreme Court again commented on the misuse of Domestic Violence Act in the case of Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India, and stated that although mere misuse of provision of law does not per se invalidate legislation. But it also accepted that in many instances, complaints under Section 498-A were being filed with an oblique motive to wreck personal vendetta. Furthermore, Supreme Court gave directions to the legislature to find ways to deal with the misuse of law and how to wipe out ignominies suffered by the accused on account of false complaints.
However, seeing the increasing trend of false complaints, Supreme Court in the case of Saritha v. R. Ramachandra asked the law commission to make offence under the Act non-cognizable and bailable one.
Again in the case of Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar, Supreme Court had to reiterate this position and further commented that “Section 498-A had become a powerful weapon in the hands of disgruntled wives where innocent people were arrested without any evidence due to non-bailable and cognizable nature of the law.”
The most recent case of abuse of the process of Domestic Violence Act came before the Supreme Court in the case of Machindra v. State of Maharashtra, wherein it quashed complaint of domestic violence filed by a woman against her in-laws. Supreme Court specifically observed that apart from the allegations of verbal abuse and demand for dowry, no material have been made available to substantiate the allegations made by the woman.
As per the statistics of the Ministry of Home Affairs, it was found that more than 5 lakhs complaint of domestic violence were filed between the period of 2003-06, out of which only 58,842 were convicted. This statistics clearly shows the arrest of thousand of innocent under the garb of the Act, which was supposed to protect the women.
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence was introduced with the sole motive of protecting the women. Women form an important part of the society. And in order to maintain those balance, legislature deemed it fit to provide more protection to women. However, on the face of it, looked like legislature never predicted the misuse of the Act. With several directions from the Supreme Court to make the offences bailable and provide for protection of husband and in-laws, the Act is still far away from achieving this objective.