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    Domestic Violence

    Women in India are protected from being abused physically, psychologically, verbally, emotionally, sexually or monetarily by their family. The law not only protects them from their husband/partner but anyone (male or female) in their family or their husband's family.

    Acts of Domestic Violence

    Domestic violence is more than just violent acts, in some cases, not doing something can also be a form of domestic violence. The law recognizes any of these as being a form of domestic violence:

    • Acts that harm you, your health or well-being.
    • Harassing or hurting you or your relatives for dowry, money or property.
    • Threatening to be abusive or threatening to hurt you or your relatives for dowry, money or property.
    • Acts that cause physical or mental pain.
    • Neglecting basic needs.
    • Physical, sexual, verbal and emotional, as well as economic abuse.

    If you are still uncertain, it is best to check with an NGO which deals in Domestic Violence cases, a Protection Officer or a lawyer.

    Victim of Domestic Abuse and Abuser

    A woman should have been in a domestic relationship with the offender. She need not only be a married woman. A woman in a live-in-relationship can also file a case. She should have lived with the offender in a shared household.

    Any adult male who currently is in, or has been in a domestic relationship with the victim who has filed a complaint or any relative of such adult male or female family member can be an offender/abuser.

    Maintaining Privacy

    Normally, court proceedings are open for anyone to attend. In domestic violence cases, since the issues are sensitive and can involve personal information that the victim may not want the general public to know. She can ask the Magistrate to not allow the general public into the courtroom when her case is being heard. The Magistrate can also decide to do this on her own.

    Immediate Protection

    Given the harm being caused to victims in the case of domestic violence, even before the final decision is made, the victim can ask, the Magistrate to pass a 'protection order' that commands the offender:

    • not to commit or help commit domestic violence;
    • not to disturb the victim at her office, or in the case of a child, not to disturb her at her school;
    • not to contact the victim personally or through email, telephone or similar means;
    • not to do the following without her permission:
    • sell or give away their things, including victim’s stridhan(wedding gifts);
    • use their single/joint bank account.

    The law allows the Magistrate to pass an order in the absence of the offender if there is an immediate threat of violence.

    Further, the protection order is valid:

    • Until the victim feels comfortable without it
    • The magistrate can also change the conditions of the order if there is a need to do so if there is an application by either the victim or the offender.

    The victim also has the option of initiating criminal proceedings under S. 498A of the Indian Penal Code. Read more about that here. Please note that filing a criminal complaint can put the offenders in jail for up to three years. The victim must have suffered a graver degree of abuse (i.e. cruelty) to be able to file a complaint.

    Staying in the house

    The victim can request the Magistrate pass a ‘residence order’ which commands the offender

    • Not to throw the victim out of their shared home.
    • To leave the shared home (This doesn’t apply to any female relatives of the offender).
    • Not enter the victim’s portion of the shared home.
    • This can also be applied to his relatives not to sell, lease or mortgage the shared home, not to leave the shared home without the Magistrate’s permission.
    • To pay for or buy another house for the victim if need be. Additional conditions that the Magistrate believes will protect the victim and her children.

    Sometimes the Magistrate can order the offender to sign a bond with the court to ensure that he does not commit acts of domestic violence. The Magistrate can choose to require the offender to get sureties (other people who will take up responsibility for his behaviour).

    Custody of Children

    The victim or any person filing the case for her can ask the Magistrate to grant custody of the children to them. The Magistrate can decide whether to allow the offender to visit the children or refuse such visits if they decide the offender can hurt the children. However, this custody order would be temporary and will not grant the victim permanent custody. She will have to file a separate case under different laws to get permanent custody of her children.

    Compensation

    The victim or any person filing the case for her can ask the Magistrate to order the offender to compensate the victim and her children for specific injuries and losses they have been made to suffer. This can be in the form of payment for:

    • lost income (for example, if the victim did not receive a salary because she was in the hospital for a month when her husband hit her)
    • hospital bills and money for medicines
    • damaged property or property which the offender has taken away from the victim
    • child maintenance (note that the victim can claim maintenance under this Act even if she has filed a separate maintenance application under criminal law).

    The Magistrate should fix the amount according to the standard of living that the victim is used to. The Magistrate can order monthly or lump-sum maintenance. Copies of such orders have to be sent to the parties in the case and to the local police station.

    The offender has to pay money to the victim within the specific time period according to the Magistrate’s order. Say the offender does not make the payments, the Magistrate can direct the person who employs the offender or who owes money to the offender to pay the court directly. This will be adjusted against the money that has to be paid by the offender.

    The victim or any person filing the case for her can ask the Magistrate to pass a “compensatory order” that when passed, orders the offender to pay money to compensate for the mental torture and emotional distress caused.

    Criminal Proceedings and Appeal

    Apart from proceedings under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 a victim can initiate criminal proceedings under the Indian Penal Code. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 offers immediate protection to the woman from domestic violence in the form of protection orders, monetary relief, shelter and right to live in her place of residence. However, if a victim wants to see her offender in jail she can file a case under the Indian Penal Code. For information to file a case under the Indian Penal Code please look at our Criminal Law Guide for a Victim. If the victim or the offender is not happy with the order, they can file an appeal against the Magistrate's order within 30 days.

    Protection Officer’s Help

    The Protection Officer (PO) is to perform the following duties:

    • To assist a victim to file a complaint, if she wants to file a complaint
    • To provide her information on her rights as per the Act (Form IV)
    • To help her make an application to the magistrate for relief
    • To prepare a safety plan that will have measures to prevent further domestic violence with her inputs.
    • To provide her with legal aid through the State Legal Aid Services Authority
    • To assist her or any child in getting medical aid at the medical facility
    • To provide any transportation to the medical facility or shelter home

    If the magistrate requests the PO to do the following she must:

    • Conduct a home visit to the shared household premises and make preliminary enquiries
    • File a report on the emoluments, assets, bank accounts or any other documents as may be directed by the court.
    • Restore the possession of personal effects including gifts and jewellery of the victim and the shared household to the victim
    • Assist the aggrieved person to regain custody of children and secure rights to visit them under his supervision as may be directed by the court.

    The Protection Officer can be punished for not performing his duties as per the orders of the Magistrate. She can be:

    • sent to jail for up to one year
    • ordered to pay fine of up to Rs. 20,000
    • sent to jail and ordered to pay fine.

    Medical Facilities and Shelter Homes

    The state designated hospitals have a duty to take in and provide medical help to every victim which approaches it. The victim can approach the hospital either through herself or through the Protection Officer or the Service Provider. The state designated shelter homes have a duty to provide a safe place to stay to every victim which approaches it. The victim can approach the shelter home herself or through the Protection Officer or the Service Provider.

    Counselling

    As a repercussion of domestic violence sometimes the Magistrate can order the victim and the offender to undergo counselling with a Service Provider. Counseling happens under the supervision of the Court. She can send them either individually or together. In such a case, the Magistrate will wait for two months to see if the counselling has worked before calling them back to court.

    Counselors help to arrive at a settlement of the dispute by suggesting measures to solve the problem of domestic violence of the victim. They can try and arrive at a settlement if the victim wishes so. The Counselor will do this by taking into account the remedies suggested by the parties for counseling and reformulating the terms for the settlement, wherever required.

    The Counsellor will take an undertaking from the offender that he will not cause the domestic violence as complained by the victim. When required the counsellor will also take an undertaking that he will not try to meet, or communicate in any manner through letter or telephone, electronic mail or through any medium except in the counselling or in a manner allowed by a judge.

    Punishment for Breach Orders

    If an offender fails to comply with a final or temporary protection order, they can be:

    • sent to jail for up to one year
    • ordered to pay fine of up to Rs. 20,000 or
    • sent to jail and ordered to pay fine.

    If the victim initiated criminal proceedings under S. 498A of the Indian Penal Code and the offender is found guilty, they can face jail for up to three years.

    As far as possible, the Magistrate deciding if the offender goes to jail must be the Magistrate who heard the victim's case of domestic violence. When the Magistrate is deciding if the offender goes to jail, she can also charge the offender with committing crimes of cruelty or taking dowry.

    Further, this crime is cognizable and non-bailable. That is, an offender who violates a protection order can be arrested by the police officer without permission of the Magistrate and will need to approach a court to get bail, which they may or may not grant.

    Questions and Answers
    Click on a question to view the answer

    If your husband is physically beating you, or denying you access to food or money, or is forcing you to engage in sexual activities that you do not want to perform (including sex and something like forcing you to watch pornography) or mentally and emotionally harasses you about not being able to have a male child or any such other behaviour, it is domestic violence. Please look at the definitions section here for further understanding. Further, please look at this Form IV.

    One need not wait until an act of domestic violence has been committed to contact the Protection Officer. If there is a suspicion that an act of domestic violence might be committed, anyone can inform the Protection Officer.

    A Protection Officer is assigned in each district. To find out the contact details of a Protection Officer please contact the State Women and Child Development Department. Each state should have a list on its website. For instance, in Delhi, the list of Protection Officers can be found here. You can find a list of names of all Protection Officers State wise from this website.

    You can file a complaint with the Magistrate in case you have a problem with your Protection Officer.

    No, for the purpose of this Act, a Domestic Incident Report (DIR) will be prepared in a prescribed from when the complaint is received from the aggrieved person. This is then filed before the magistrate. The Domestic Incident Report can be prepared by the Protection Officer, Service Providers or Police Officers.

    In such a situation, you can directly approach Magistrate’s court with a ‘private complaint’ wherein you can request the court to get your FIR registered by the police. You can even file a complaint yourself and attach it along with your application.

    No, you do not have to pay anything to any of them. It is the duty of the Protection Officer and the Service Provider to help you under the protection of Domestic Violence Act.

    A shelter home is supposed to be a safe space for you. Ideally as per the law, if you wish to maintain your anonymity while being at the shelter home the shelter home should allow you to do so.

    Yes, minors are protected under this Act. A minor is any person below the age of eighteen years and includes any adopted, step or foster child.

    “Relationship in the nature of marriage” should be those relationships where there is no official registered marriage between the parties. However, the nature of their relationship is that of a marriage because of the stability, continuity and cohabitation as a couple. Indicators of such a relationship in the nature of marriage are the following: - Proof of such a relationship would be the use of a common name, common ration card, same address, etc.

    A counsellor should not be related to either you or your husband. However, if you still believe the counsellor knowing you and your husband would be impartial in her job or would be able to do her job well impartially because she knows you’ll then you and your husband can write a waiver of objection allowing her to be the counsellor in your case.

    A counsellor is appointed from the list of available counsellors made by the Protection Officer. In the circumstance, that you are not comfortable with the counsellor who is appointed to counsel you and the offender you can apply to the Magistrate for a change in the counsellor.

    You can report the incidence of domestic abuse to the counsellor. The purpose of the counselling process is to get an assurance that the incidence of domestic violence will not get repeated. The counsellor will take adequate measures including approaching the magistrate to prevent further violence.

    Given the nature of domestic violence cases, the law allows the Magistrate to pass temporary orders or orders in the absence of the offender if there is an immediate threat of violence. Thus, you have a right to apply to the Magistrate for any relief required by you.

    If your husband who has been abusing you does not follow the Protection Order then he can be punished. He can be imprisoned for up to a year and/or be fined up to Rs.20,000.

    Yes, you will be able to see your children again. You can ask the Protection Officer to help you file an application for temporary custody for your children. However, the magistrate can only give you a right to keep your children with you temporarily. For you to obtain the right to keep your children with you permanently a case will have to be filed by way of other laws.

    Yes, you will be to access your property even if you leave your house because of domestic abuse.

    Yes, you can file a case against your mother-in-law or your brother. As per the law, you protected from any family members who are living together as a joint family or have lived together as a joint family at any point.

    Yes, if you do not wish to disclose your identity then the shelter home will not disclose the same and will not communicate it to the offender.

    Yes, you can file a complaint if you have been in a live-in-relationship and have not been formally married.

    You can either file a case under section 498A of the Indian Penal Code with the police. You also have the option of approaching the Magistrate directly to file a Domestic Incident Report. Further, you can also request the police to file the Domestic Incident Report on your behalf. In the scenario that the police refuses, you have the option of approaching a magistrate to ask the magistrate to direct the police to file a Domestic Incident Report on your behalf.

    The court will rely primarily on the testimony of the victim of domestic violence. If there are eyewitness accounts then the court will rely on those testimonies as well. However, since domestic abuse happens primarily at home and it is unlikely that there will be many eyewitness accounts in support of the woman, the court will rely primarily on the victim’s account. The case of domestic abuse need not be proved beyond reasonable doubt. That is, the court only needs to believe that the women were subject to abuse after considering all the facts and circumstances.

    Yes, the Act allows a victim to be granted a residence order in the shared accommodation where she is currently residing or has resided with the accused in the past. Even if you are not the owner of that house and are a tenant or if it is the joint family property, you can apply for a residence order.

    Yes, women of all religious faiths can claim reliefs under this Act.

    Glossary
    Shared Household
    A shared household is the home (their own or rented) where the victim is living in or has lived in, while being abused. Whether they are living alone or sharing it with someone or the offender (be it partner, husband, their own family or in-laws) is of no special significance. Importance is placed on the victim having lived here during the abuse.
    Custody
    The protective care or guardianship of someone or something.
    Minor
    A person under the age of full legal responsibility. In India this is 18 years of age.
    Major/Adult
    A person who is at the age of full legal responsibility. The age at which one becomes a major in India is 18 years.
    Counseling
    Professional Help or Advice to resolve a problem.
    Interim Order
    An order passed by a Court before deciding the matter finally. An interim order is usually made by the Court for granting urgent relief to a party if they apply for such a relief.
    Settlement
    An official agreement to resolve a dispute is known as settlement.
    Domestic Violence
    Any violent or aggressive behaviour within the home, typically involving the violent abuse of a spouse or partner.
    Testimony
    A formal written or spoken statement, especially one given in a court of law.
    Beyond Reasonable Doubt Standard
    It is a standard to which evidence should be provided to the court by the party claiming an offence has been committed against them. The evidence should be provided so that it convinces a judge who is reasonable that it is beyond doubt that the offence was committed by the offender.
    Private Proceedings (In camera proceedings)
    Court proceedings are usually public. Any member of the public can attend court proceedings in any court.
    Protection Officer
    A special post created to serve as a liaison between victims of domestic violence and the system. Their role is to help women who are victims, connect with the courts, the police and various support services and they have many duties and responsibilities to the victim. The State Government appoints Protection Officers in each district (as many as is required). These Protection Officers work within certain areas where they can exercise their powers. Mostly, the Protection Officers are supposed to be women.
    Service Provider
    There are many organizations which help women in trouble by providing legal, medical or financial assistance. Such organizations are required to register themselves under the Act. When they are registered under this Act, they are called 'service providers'. No one can pull up a Service Provider in court for something they have done under this Act in good faith.
    Counsellors
    A counsellor is appointed by the court for the purpose of resolving the problem of domestic abuse in the house. The law does not specify the credentials/qualifications of the counsellors who will be appointed by the Court. The counselor is picked from a list of counselors prepared by the Protection Officer. However, the law does not explain how the Protection Officer will pick counselors.
    Economic Abuse
    Economic abuse is a form of abuse over economic or monetary resources. It could be in the form of denying access to finances or preventing you from supporting yourself financially. Some examples are: not giving you money to run your household or for your children, not giving you or letting you use your stridhan (wedding gifts), selling or giving away your household goods or any other asset in which you have an interest, trying to control your money and not letting you live in your shared home.
    Physical Abuse
    Any action which involves hurting you, saying they will hurt you and doing anything which is dangerous to your life, body and health would be considered physical abuse.
    Sexual Abuse
    Sexual abuse is any action that forces you to engage in any humiliating and degrading sexual act. This includes forcing sex on you when you do not want to have sex or performing any sexual activity that you do not want to engage in. It can include your husband forcing you to watch pronography or to perform oral sex or anal sex.
    Verbal and Emotional Abuse
    Insults, name calling, taunting and threatening (but not acting) are all forms of verbally abusing someone. When this is psychological affecting you, your sense of self or self-esteem, it is emotional abuse.
    Domestic Incident Report
    The Domestic Incident Report is a document prepared by the Protection Officer or Service Provider that records a complaint under the Domestic Violence Act of 2005. This report is similar to an FIR prepared by the police when it receives a complaint about a crime.