Friday, December 8, 2023

Domestic Violence Act: Supreme Court grants 2 weeks to Centre to file report on assistance to victims

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The Supreme Court has further granted two weeks’ time to the Centre to file its report with regards to the Central programmers/plans outlining assistance to support the efforts under the Domestic Violence Act by various states, including the extent of funding, conditions of governing financial support and the control mechanisms in place. 

At the last hearing, the Court asked the Centre to file an affidavit, explaining broadly what are the desirable qualifications and eligible terms for creation of regular cadre of Protection Officers as well as the nature of their training and other standards. 

The Court was hearing the 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 Domestic Violence Act to assist complaining women.  

On Wednesday, a three-judge Bench of Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice P.S. Narasimha directed ASG Aishwarya Bhati to add more aspects while submitting the status report.

“Firstly, you have to take out the data of how much reporting is taking. You have to make a statistical analysis on basis of that what is the requirement in which state. Then, you must have some principles to be drawn to lay down some principles as to how the cadre are required. Which is the small state and which is large state? Then you create a model, give to the states and you realistically see what kind of funding is required to sustain that cadre and progression plus another allied enactments like senior citizen, juvenile justice etc. You can actually enhance the manpower infrastructure all across. Also, take an account of shelter homes. How many should be there and how many are there? See what kind of protection is required in each state. Because the law is not that for every domestic violence case, a protection officer is required. It is only in some cases, where such officer is required.”

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Advocate Shobha Gupta submitted that the petition is seeking implementation of various provisions of the Act and handed over an improved paper book for reference which shows the status of many states.

On the previous hearing, the Court also requested the presence of the concerned Additional Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, on the next date of hearing, with the relevant records.

Today, ASG Aishwarya Bhati submitted that Joint Secretary Dheeraj Kumar Tiwari, who is the statistical adviser, is present in court. The Joint Secretary, who has been really dealing with this matter, Dr Rakesh Gupta unfortunately had some medical issue. The draft was ready, it would have filed it but there are somethings they do not want to say on affidavit, to which the bench stated, see what you can do is, file some kind of status report with a note. You can file an affidavit stating what the position is.”

ASG Bhati assured substantial work has been done with the consultation of all states. “There was one held collectively with all states and one to one is going on with all states. We have to take the States on loop.”

The Bench expressed concerned, We do not want any multiplicity of grievances. You are a nodal agency; you shall act nodal officer.”

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The bench also observed that the Social Welfare Department will have cadre for the type of protection officers for dealing in such issues. Then it becomes feasible as it is special kind of job which require different kind of expertise and training.

We want to advice you, take it as unsolicited advice, that whenever you come up with these kind of schemes and ideas always have a financial impact in mind and keep provisions of Act, otherwise you create rights and it becomes difficult for court to manage it. The classic example is Right to Education. We created a right, where are the schools? There are various authorities, municipal, shiksha mitra, karmi etc where do they get teachers from? These people are given Rs 5,000 as a regular payment. Therefore, another set of litigation comes before the court and when we ask the states, why can’t you do it? They say this is the budget where do we get the money? One has to see all the aspects. Work in that direction” 

-the Bench told the ASG.

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On 25.02.2022, the Apex Court had directed the Union to file an affidavit containing following aspects:

➢ The nature of Central Programmes/ Plans outlining assistance to support the efforts under the DV Act by various States, including the extent of funding, conditions of governing financial support and the control mechanisms in place

➢ To collect State-wise relevant data of litigation under the DV Act with respect to the complaints made, number of Courts, and, the relative number of Protection Officers.

➢ To indicate broadly what are the desirable qualifications and eligible terms for creation of regular cadre of Protection Officers as well as the nature of their Training and other standards.

➢ The desirable cadre structure and career progression for the Protection Officers.

➢ The Union shall also indicate the model terms and conditions for such Protection Officers.

The petitioner NGO, an unregistered citizen’s network group having members from all walks of life, 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.

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 increase in Domestic Violence. 

The matter is listed for consideration on April 26, 2022.

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