Friday, January 27, 2023

Supreme Court to hear PIL for assistance to women abused in domestic relationships

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The Supreme Court will on Friday hear a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by NGO We the Women of India seeking enforcement of “network assistance” to women abused in domestic relationships. The plea demands strict compliance with the provisions under the 2006 Domestic Violence Act to assist complaining women. 

The bench of Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat had previously issued notice to the Union of India, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting though the petitioner NGO has made all the concerned states parties. The bench had stated: “We cannot issue notice to all the state governments because otherwise, it will become chaos as half of the time people will not appear, half the time they are not served so, therefore, the matter will be postponed for no good reason. We are issuing notice to Respondents 1, 2, 3 and make it returnable in 6 weeks. So, let the response come and we will put the entire plea in the basket of the Union of India to monitor everything.”

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Advocate Shobha Gupta submitted that the petition is seeking implementation of various provisions of the 2005 Act and she also handed over a paper book in the court for reference which shows the status of many states.

The petitioner NGO, an unregistered citizen’s network group having members from all walks of life, including lawyers, academicians, doctors, students, social activists, educationalists etc. submitted that a direction should be passed for proper implementation of mandatory provisions of Section 11 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 for effective establishment/ appointment and functioning of Protection Officers, Service Providers and Shelter Homes for the protection of victims of domestic violence under the act and for sensitization of the authorities dealing with the crime against women and for appropriate measures which are to be taken for spreading of awareness and knowledge among the masses with regard to the remedies available. 

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The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was enacted and made applicable with effect from October 26, 2006 to provide effective protection to rights of women, guaranteed under the Constitution and who are the victims of violence of any kind. 

The petitioner NGO highlights that the rules framed under the Act clearly show that the success of the scheme of the Act to provide a network of assistance to the victim of domestic violence, primarily depends on the informed establishment of the said network but unfortunately that is still the area of concern and domestic violence victims are yet to benefit from the scheme. The victims are clueless as to which authorities they should approach in case of help due to lack of proper enforcement and dissemination of information. 

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The petition also states the statistic points that as per the National Crime Records Bureau report, domestic violence is the most common crime faced by Indian women. The National Commission for Women reported more than twice the increase in Domestic Violence. According to National Family Health Survey, about 86% of the women victims of domestic violence never sought help from any authority. National Family health survey released by Union Health Ministry reported that every third woman in India, since the age of 15 faces domestic violence of some of the other forms despite having the act. The petitioner NGO complains that Domestic violence is a societal issue and it requires dedicated awareness campaigns through various modes as was done through campaigns like ‘Swacch Bharat’, ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ etc. Most state websites do not list the protection officers, service providers and shelter homes for such alarming issue. Thus, making it difficult for the distressed women to take protection under the Domestic Violence Act. 

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