The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
On September 13, 2005, the government of India passed this Act to provide more effective protection to women who are subjected to violence within the family. This law applies to women across India, with the exception of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (now Union Territory).
How does this Act define ‘domestic violence’?
The Act defines ‘domestic violence’ as conduct which harms or injures the health, safety, life, limb or well-being – mental and physical – of the aggrieved person. This includes physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic abuse. It includes conduct that harms, injures or endangers a woman in order to coerce her or her relatives to meet an unlawful demand for dowry, property or valuable security.
‘Aggrieved person’ refers to any woman who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship and who alleges she has been subject to domestic violence. Any adult male who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved person and against whom she has sought relief under this Act, is termed as a ‘respondent’.
Physical abuse includes bodily pain, harm, or danger to life, limb or health, including criminal assault, intimidation and force; sexual abuse includes conduct of a sexual nature that abuses, humiliates, degrades or otherwise violates the dignity of woman; verbal and emotional abuse includes insults, ridicule, humiliation, and repeated threats to cause physical pain; and economic abuse includes deprivation of economic, financial or other resources.
Who is covered under this Act?
The Act applies to women who are in a ‘domestic relationship’. It defines this as a relationship between two persons who live, or have lived, in a shared household when they are related by consanguinity, marriage, or through ‘a relationship in the nature of marriage’, adoption, or are family members living together.
What are the rights of an ‘aggrieved person’ under this Act?
The Act stipulates that the aggrieved person has the right to free legal services, medical help, shelter, legal aid and counselling. She has the right to approach, for help, a ‘protection officer’ (appointed by state governments to implement this Act), the police, and service providers (voluntary associations or companies which provide legal, medical, financial or other assistance, and are registered with the state government under this Act). She may apply for obtaining relief through a ‘protection order’, an order for monetary relief, a ‘custody order’, a ‘residence order’, and a ‘compensation order’.
She has the right to file a complaint under section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, which states that the husband or the relative a woman who subjects her to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of up to three years and shall be liable to a fine.
What are the various orders that can be issued by magistrates under this Act?
If the magistrate is satisfied that domestic violence has occurred or is likely to occur, they may issue a ‘protection order’, an order for monetary relief, a ‘custody order’, a ‘residence order’, and a ‘compensation order’.
Protection orders prohibit the respondent from committing, aiding and abetting acts of domestic violence; attempting to communicate with the aggrieved person – personally, orally, through writing or electronic contact; denying the aggrieved person access to joint assets such as bank accounts or any other property; causing violence to any dependents or relatives of the aggrieved person; and committing any other act specified in the protection order. The respondent can be punished with imprisonment for up to one year or a fine of up to Rs 20,000, or both, if they breach this order.
The magistrate may direct the respondent to pay monetary relief to meet the expenses incurred and losses suffered by the aggrieved person as a result of domestic violence. This includes, but is not limited to, the loss of earnings, medical expenses, destruction of property and maintenance cost for the woman and her children, if any. The magistrate shall decide whether this shall be paid monthly or in a lumpsum.
The magistrate may, through a custody order, grant temporary custody of a child or children to the aggrieved person or the person making an application on her behalf.
If the magistrate is satisfied that domestic violence has taken place or is likely to take place, they may pass a residence order restraining the respondent from dispossessing the aggrieved person from the shared household, directing the respondent to leave the household, restraining the respondent or his relatives from entering any portion of the shared household where the woman resides, restraining the respondent from disposing of the household, or directing the respondent to secure the same level of alternate accommodation for the aggrieved person as she had in their shared household.
The magistrate may direct the respondent to pay compensation and damages to the aggrieved person for the injuries committed by him – including mental torture and emotional distress – through a compensation order.
What are the duties of the central and state governments under this Act?
The central and state governments must publicise the provisions of this Act through the media, ensure that the police and members of the judicial services are periodically sensitised and trained to address cases of domestic violence, and ensure effective coordination between ministries and departments to address issues of domestic violence.
What does the law say about the right to appeal?
The aggrieved person and the respondent have the right to appeal to the Court of Session within 30 days from the day the magistrate passes an order after hearing the case.
Focus and Factoids by Bharti Patel.
Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India
Government of India, New Delhi
13 Sep, 2005