For many of us, home evokes a sense of warmth, stability and safety. For Sneha, her home was anything but a refuge. She was tired of the constant abusive language and threats of beating by her husband. Despite requesting him to stop this treatment, it continued.
She was afraid to resist because of the fear of retaliation, shame and embarrassment, lack of support and how her resistance would affect her marriage. This was affecting her health and peace of mind and she spoke to her friend about this.
Her friend felt that if speaking to him directly, or through family or friends, was not having any effect, she could consider action under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and Rules, 2006.
Domestic violence includes actual abuse, or threat of abuse, of physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic nature that can harm or cause injury to or endanger the safety, life, limb or well-being, either mental or physical of an individual. It includes child sexual abuse, harassment to a woman or her relatives by unlawful dowry demands and marital rape.
Who is protected?
Protection is provided to persons in a domestic relationship and includes relationships arising out of membership in a family and live-in relationships in a shared household. A shared household is one where the persons live/d in a domestic relationship – owned or tenanted, either, jointly or by either of them, and includes a household that belongs to a joint family of which the persons are members.
Women who have been living in a shared household are protected from persons related to her by blood, marriage or adoption.
Children below 18 years of age are also protected, including adopted, step or foster children who are subject to physical, mental or economic torture in the household.
A complaint under this law can be made against any adult male person, who is or has been in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved person. A complaint can also be made against relatives of the husband or male partner.
Under the jurisdiction and control of the court, they provide assistance to the court in preparing the Domestic Incident Report filed in the magistrate’s office. They are required to provide necessary information and to ensure compliance with the orders for monetary relief.
In Goa, Block Development Officers (BDOs) have been given the charge as Protection Officers.
Organizations working for women’s rights, constituted under the Companies Act or the Societies Registration Act, and registered with the State Government, help the aggrieved person in medical examination, advise about her rights in law and assist her in initiating legal proceedings or taking appropriate protective measures.
In Goa, the Court of First Class Judicial Magistrate (within whose jurisdiction either party resides or carries on business or employment, or where the incident of domestic violence took place) deals with cases of domestic violence.
The aggrieved person, or any witness on her behalf, can approach a Police Officer, Protection Officer and Service Provider or can directly file a complaint with a Magistrate. The Court is required to institute a hearing within three days of the complaint being filed in the court and is required to dispose of the case within sixty days of the first hearing.
Once domestic violence is established, the following orders can be sought by the aggrieved person from the Court:
Protection Order to prevent the Respondent from committing or aiding an act of domestic violence, entering the workplace, school or other place frequented by the aggrieved person, establishing any communication with her, alienating any assets used by both parties, causing violence to her relatives or doing any other act specified in the Protection order.
Residence Order to ensure that the aggrieved person’s possessions are not disturbed, shared household not disposed off or that she is provided alternative accommodation by the Respondent if she so requires; or that the Respondent is removed from the shared household, and he and his relatives are barred from entering the area allotted to her.
Monetary Relief (medical expenses, maintenance payments, loss of earnings or damage to property) to be provided by the Respondent for expenses incurred and losses suffered by the aggrieved person and her child due to the domestic violence.
Custody Order for temporary custody of children to the aggrieved person with arrangements for visit of such children by the Respondent or disallowing such visit if it is likely to harm the interests of the children.
Compensation Order directing the Respondent to pay compensation for injuries caused to the aggrieved person as a result of domestic violence.
If the protection order is breached by the Respondent, it is a cognizable and non-bailable offence, punishable with imprisonment upto one year or with a fine of upto twenty thousand rupees, or both.
An appeal can be made to the Sessions Court against any order passed by the Magistrate within 30 days from the date of the order being served on either of the parties.
The author has her focus on education, legal issues and governance and enjoys working with individuals and organizations towards enhancing their effectiveness