Women have right to stay at in-laws’ house: SC revises judgement on Domestic Violence Act
New Delhi, Oct 15: Terming the 2005 law on protection of women from domestic violence as a “milestone”, the Supreme Court Thursday said such offences against them is “rampant” in this country and face “violence in some form or the other on almost every day”.
The top court said a woman resigns her fate to the never ending cycle of enduring violence and discrimination as a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a partner or a single woman in her lifetime.
“The enactment of Act, 2005 is a milestone for protection of women in this country,” the apex court said and added “the domestic violence in this country is rampant and several women encounter violence in some form or the other on almost every day, however, it is the least reported form of cruel behavior.” It said the non-retaliation by women against violence, coupled with the absence of laws addressing women's issues, ignorance of the existing laws enacted for them and societal attitude makes them vulnerable.
“The reason why most cases of domestic violence are never reported is due to the social stigma of the society and the attitude of the women themselves, where women are expected to be subservient, not just to their male counterparts but also to the male's relatives,” a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan observed.
Till the year 2005, the remedies available to a victim of domestic violence were limited, it said, adding that the women either had to go to the civil court for a decree of divorce or initiate prosecution in the criminal court for the harassment suffered at matrimonial homes. “In both the proceedings, no emergency relief/reliefs is/are available to the victim.
Also, the relationships outside the marriage were not recognized. This set of circumstances ensured that a majority of women preferred to suffer in silence, not out of choice but of compulsion,” the bench, which also comprised R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah, said.
It said “the progress of any society depends on its ability to protect and promote the rights of its women. Guaranteeing equal rights and privileges to women by the Constitution of India had marked the step towards the transformation of the status of the women in this Country.”
The observations came in a judgement in which the apex court held that the relief granting right to residence to a married woman under the domestic violence law by a criminal court is “relevant” and can be considered even in civil proceedings seeking her eviction from the matrimonial home. The judgement dealt with the statutory scheme of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act and said that prior to its enactment in 2005, the victims had very limited scope of getting interim reliefs in such cases under other laws.