How to apply file a suit for domestic violence

Overview: The term domestic violence includes abuse or threat of abuse of physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic nature that can harm, cause injury to, endanger the health, safety, life, limb or well-being, either mental or physical to a women in a domestic relationship. A domestic relationship includes a live-in relationship.

 

In the present day scenario, a complaint for domestic violence can be filed by a woman who is in a domestic relationship against any person including her husband and his family members- mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law etc. or any relative of the husband for subjecting her to violence and harassment of any kind.

 

Common instances under domestic violence include harassment by in-laws on pretext of dowry, cruelty, physical abuse, sexual abuse, injury by coercion, insult/humiliation etc.

 

Purpose: To afford overall protection to women who suffer abuse of any kind in their matrimonial life. The Supreme Court has widened the scope of persons against whom relief can be sought to not only include the husband but also other family members who harass the aggrieved person.

 

Areas of Application of Law: Provisions of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

 

Process: Below is the step by step process for filing a suit for domestic violence:

 

  1. Engage a lawyer who will understand your situation and file the suit for domestic violence in the requisite forum, family court at the district level. You will be required to share all information that could form a ground for domestic violence and submit all below mentioned documents for this purpose.
  2. The applicant should ensure that he has read and understood the suit for domestic violence prepared by the lawyer before he files it and thereafter make sure that all affidavits and Vakalatnama (giving the lawyer the rights to represent you in court) are duly signed by him.
  3. A complaint for domestic violence can also be brought by somebody else who may be witness to such harassment by directly approaching a police officer, protection officer.
  4. The court would be required to take cognizance of the domestic violence complaint and have a hearing within three days of the complaint being filed in the court.
  5. On the first hearing, the magistrate would issue a notice to be served to the respondent and other persons by the protection officer.
  6. The complaint would include details including numerous incidents of physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse committed by the Respondent on the aggrieved person.
  7. Instances would include demands and harassment by in-laws for jewelry, household items, and other items, angry and violent physical backlash and opposition from the respondent on account of habitual drinking, physically abusing and being violent in front of the minor son and in public, etc.
  8. If the court is satisfied that a case is made out against the respondent, the aggrieved person can seek it to pass any of the following orders:

-      Protection order- The court can pass a protection order which operates as a restraining order and prevents the respondent from entering the workplace, school or other places frequented by the aggrieved person or establishing any kind of communication with her, her relatives or doing any other act specified in the order.

-      Residence order- The court can pass an order securing the aggrieved person’s right to reside in the household. Under this, a part of the house can be allotted to her for her personal use. It also ensures that the aggrieved person is her possessions are not alienated and in certain cases she could be provided an alternative accommodation by the respondent if she so requires.

-      Custody order- The court may grant temporary custody of children to the aggrieved person and make arrangements for visit of such child by the respondent. It may also disallow such visits at al by the respondent if it is not in the best interest of the child.

-      Monetary relief- the court could pass an order directing the respondent to pay the aggrieved person on account of expenses and losses incurred by the aggrieved person due to the domestic violence. This may include medical expenses, loss of earnings and payments towards maintenance of the aggrieved person and/or her children.

-      Compensation Order: The respondent may be directed to pay compensation for damages or injury caused to the aggrieved person as a result of the acts of domestic violence. These cover the injury on account of mental torture and emotional distress.

 

  1.  A complaint can also be filed under Section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1960 which covers the offence of matrimonial cruelty by the husband or his relatives.
  2. A case for domestic violence is a long procedure and takes anywhere between 3-5 years for final disposal.

Documents required to be submitted in the court if any: Marriage certificate, instances showing proof of harassment which could include medical reports showing injury suffered by the aggrieved person, family members’ information and background.

 

Punishment/Expected Relief: The aggrieved person can be expected to secure freedom from harassment at the hands of her husband, his relatives or live-in partner. The punishment would be in the nature of a protection order, custody order, compensatory order or monetary relief.

 

Landmark Judgments:

1. Scope of respondents is broadened from ‘adult male’ to include relatives of the husband who harass a woman in domestic relationship- Sou. Sandhya Manoj Wankhade vs Manoj Bhimrao Wankhade & Ors (https://indiankanoon.org/doc/134989405/) 

2. In the event of an alternative accommodation being offered or made available to aggrieved person before the concerned court, her right to continue in the premises would cease- Eveneet Singh vs Prashant Chaudhri and Ors. (https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1100075/)

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