Even living in the 21st century, crimes against women have been on the rise. One such crime is of domestic violence, as we all know it is one of those crimes that are not spoken much about due to the patriarchal society we live in. In India, there is a specific and dedicated Act for domestic violence known as The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Not only this, Section 498A of The Indian Penal Code, 1860 deals with the same issue. In this article we will be discussing in detail the laws that govern domestic violence in India, further we will be seeing how Coronavirus has affected the number of cases in India and what we can expect when the lockdown is lifted and Coronavirus is no more.
In a patriarchal society like India, where gender roles and stereotypes have been prevalent since a very long time, there has been an assumption amongst men that they are superior and stronger than women. This is one of the deep rooted reasons for the crime of domestic violence. Even living in the 21st Century wherein we talk about equality and equal pay for equal work, sadly India still has the problem of domestic violence that needs to be resolved. It is unfortunate to note that even today, a woman is subjected to domestic violence every 4.4 minutes.[i] To tackle this issue, way back in 1983, IPC was amended to bring in Section 498A that deals with cruelty, further in 2005, The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was enacted in order to deal specifically with the problem of domestic violence. However, domestic violence is a social evil that still haunts our society. More so, during the times of Covid-19 where there has been a lockdown imposed in almost all countries including India, there has been a surge in the number of cases of domestic violence as women now have no option but to stay locked down with their abusers.
LAWS RELATING TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN INDIA
As discussed above, the laws relating to Domestic violence in India are broadly two in number. Let us discuss these laws in detail:-
- The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was enacted in 2005 with the aim and objective to eliminate a deep rooted social evil of domestic violence from our society. The Act defines domestic violence and even provides remedies in case of domestic violence.
Section 3[ii] of the Act defines domestic violence. The ambit of the section can be said to be broad. It includes not only physical abuse, but also sexual abuse, verbal or emotional abuse and also economic abuse. Further in the provision, these have been defined in detail in order to expand the scope even more. It is important to note that in, Ahmadabad Municipal Corporation v. Nawab Khan Gulab Khan[iii], Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has clearly held that Right to life includes a right to live with human dignity; moreover dignity includes a life without being insulted and abused both sexually and emotionally. This clearly shows that any sort of abuse inflicted would be directly in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. There are many remedies that are available under the Act. These include, Monetary relief, custody of children, right to reside in the shared household, protection orders for safety of women, it also includes a penalty on the respondent for not following orders and penalty on officers if no action is taken on their part, this helps in a big way and acts as a assurance that the officers are bound to work or else they will face penalty.
Another positive aspect of the Act is that it is not necessary that the woman should be the wife who is suffering from domestic violence. It can be a couple in a live in relationship or even a brother and sister living as a family. The only important ingredient is that there must a domestic relationship as defined under Section 2(f)[iv] of the Act, between the victim and the accused.
As we have see that there are various positive aspects of the Act, however one striking point that needs to be noted is that and needs to be resolved by further amendments is that the Act is not gender neutral and only considers women as victims, it fails to include male children who also go through a lot of domestic violence in their households. Moreover there were cases where the Act was being misused by various women to take revenge from their husbands. To improve this situation a little, the Supreme Court in the case of Kamlesh Devi vs Jaipal & Ors,[v] held that mere allegations are not sufficient to bring a case within the ambit of the Domestic Violence Act.
SECTION 498A OF IPC
Section 498A[vi] was introduced in 1983. It discusses cruelty by husband or the relatives of the husband. It includes in its scope physical as well as mental cruelty. The provision, further, expressly talks about suicide or even injury. The word “or” between the terms husband and relatives of husband has successfully broadened the scope of provision more. This has had an impact on the suicides that used to take place, further it has resulted in reduced cases of dowry. The term cruelty is defined the provision itself. However, it has come upon courts to interpret as to what constitutes cruelty. In, G.V. Siddaramesh v. State of Karnataka[vii], Supreme Court itself opined that the term cruelty is a relative term and that there can be no straight jacket formula to determine as to what constitutes cruelty. Further in, Gananath Pattnaik v. State of Orissa[viii], it was held that cruelty depends and differs in each case, it depends on each individual.
Over the years, this provision has played a vital role in the fight against domestic violence and as well as dowry deaths. However, it must be noted that now a days this provision is being highly misused by women in order to take revenge. Moreover, the language of the provision is not gender neutral and only takes account women as victims.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN TIMES OF CORONAVIRUS
The Coronavirus has forced states all around the world to impose lockdowns. As a result there has been an increase in the number of cases of domestic violence since the victim is locked down with the perpetrator under the same roof. This trend has been noticed even in countries like U.S, China, Brazil etc, the list also includes India. The National Commission for Women received approximately 315 cases[ix] of domestic violence; this number is notably the highest since August 2019. An important point to note is that these were only recorded via online means and Whatsapp. This clearly indicates that there were no complaints physically made and no one knows how many cases went unreported.
The surge in the number of domestic violence is as a sign that we as as a society need to introspect. But one wonders, what after the lockdown is lifted. It is important to note that India, cases have been heard by courts only if they were of urgency. Matters relating to domestic violence and custody battles are pending and are even expected to increase as the situation eases.
In this Article, we saw how crimes against women are still on the rise, we discussed the various laws that are in place in or to prevent domestic violence, the various drawbacks of such laws for deeper analysis. Further, we discussed how the domestic violence cases were already increasing but due to the lockdown they have already increased. It is time, that we as a society introspect and bring about the changes in order to keep our women safe. To conclude, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that number of cases of domestic violence are as terrifying as the number of Covid-19 cases, both of which are increasing at a high pace.
[i] Crime in India, 2018, https://ncrb.gov.in/sites/default/files/Crime%20in%20India%202018%20-%20Volume%201.pdf
[ii] The Prevention of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, § 3
[iii] (1997) 11 SCC 123
[iv] The Prevention of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, § 2(f)
[v] SLP (Crl) diary number 34053/2019
[vi] The Indian Penal Code, 1860 § 498A
[vii] 2010 (3) SCC 152
[viii] 2002 (2) SCC 619
[ix] Lockdown: NCW receives 352 domestic violence complaints in April, THE HINDU, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/lockdown-ncw-receives-315-domestic-violence-complaints-in-april/article31497599.ece
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