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For almost 3 lakh domestic violence cases, only 3,637 protection officers: Centre in Supreme Court

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By Sanjay Raman Sinha

The Central Government informed the Supreme Court on Wednesday that a total 2,95,601 complaints have been registered under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (PWDV) Act, and that there are 3,637 protection officers in the country.

During the hearing today, the bench of Justices U.U. Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and P.S. Narasimha said, “This court is of the opinion that these particulars are essential because the protection officers – like the magistrates who are tasked to the implementation of the enactment, have been conceived as the backbone to effectuate the law, enacted with laudable objectives, by Parliament.”

The Apex Court was hearing the petition of NGO We the Women of India seeking the proper implementation of mandatory provisions of Chapter III, Section 4-11 of the PWDVA, 2005, which includes (i) appointment of adequate number of Protection Officers in each district with independent charge as a separate cadre in the respective State/UT services; (ii) registration of adequate number of Service Providers in each district; (iii) Establishment of shelter homes in each district by the state govt; (iv) Adequate number of medical facilities in the close vicinity.
Domestic violence is a grave concern since it impacts a large number of women and children. Despite the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 being in place for 17 years, there has been little respite for the victims. The statistics paint a grim picture of the situation: Every third married woman in India faces spousal violence but only one in 10 seeks any help, and only 1% reports it to the police.
The 2005 Act was enacted to provide help to the aggrieved women, but even after the passing of more than 15 years of enactment and notification of the Act, it is far from being implemented in letter and spirit. The role of protection officers or the police for that matter is also under the cloud; all pointing to a systemic collapse impacting the victims.
In the course of the filing of the petition, case studies from Mumbai were triggering. Aggrieved women said that it takes an enormously long time for complaints under DVA to be taken to its conclusion. Even the application for interim maintenance do not come for hearing for years and if orders are passed on the application for interim maintenance, even then the procedure is quite convoluted. The police don’t follow up the court orders.
“All dates are important in DV matters and many a times we get dates after every two months and when we have the date at times, the magistrate is on leave and the in-charge court doesn’t want to take the matter as they are overloaded ,” says Urvashi, a domestic violence victim from Mumbai.
Meanwhile, the victim is burdened financially and harassed mentally. In a scenario where the Domestic Violence Act is failing the victims it is often thought that invoking Section 125(1) in The Code Of Criminal Procedure may help in speedy remedy.
However, it should be noted that a rigorous implementation of the Domestic Violence Act and a strengthening of ground level apparatus can go a long way in removing the pains of the aggrieved. A stern command, effective guidelines and a monitoring mechanism instituted by the Apex Court to rectify the systemic deficiencies can go a long way in proving course correction and succour to hapless victims.

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