Women can now make domestic violence complaints against other women, non-adults
Aniruddha Choudhury 24 Oct 2016

Women can now make domestic violence complaints against other women, non-adults

The scope of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 which was enacted with the sole intention of protecting women, has been widened. Now, a woman can file a complaint of domestic violence, not only against men but also other women who can be tried for the offence of domestic violence.

Under Section 2(q) of the 2005 Act, a complaint could only be made only against an “adult male person”. A Supreme Court bench comprising of Justices Kurian Joseph and Rohinton F Nariman removed the word “adult male” while observing that only allowing complaint against men frustrated the objective of the legislation as women could also be perpetrators and abettors of domestic violence. Apart from striking down ‘adult male’, which was considered discriminatory, the rest of the act remains unchanged.

One of the main reasons behind making this change was due to the fact that in several domestic violence cases, males are not in the fore front and usually involve another woman from the family to take the lead. This defeats the purpose of the legislation as previously women could not be persecuted. For instance, a non-adult of 16 or 17-year-old could aid or abet domestic violence and no complaint could be made against such a person.

The bench resorted to the “doctrine of severability” and struck down only that part of Section 2(q) that created a distinction based on gender relating to offenders under the Act. The landmark verdict came on an appeal filed against a judgment of the Bombay High Court in 2014 that had read down the act to hold that complaints could be filed against the women too.

Women can now bring cases of domestic violence against any of the members of the family, and not be restricted to the adult male. This opens up a new arena of domestic violence cases which can now be filed against women and other male members of the family who were earlier escaping the wrath of the law.

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