Thursday, February 6, 2014

Domestic violence Act is basically civil law -HC

In an important decision, Gujarat high court has ruled that it cannot quash a complaint filed under the Protection of Women From Domestic Violence Act, 2005 under the law by which it cancels ordinary FIRs filed by police.

Rejecting a petition that demanded quashing of one such complaint filed under DV Act, the high court has made some important observations on whether word 'domestic violence' means criminal act or not. This Act is essentially a civil law, but the legislation has prescribed that courts have to proceed in such cases as per the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) for the purpose of effective actions. It added that this law is meant to protect women's civil rights also.

The court has said that DV Act is not meant to punish those against whom women file complaint. The only exception in this is the violation of court orders under section 31 of the law - about protection of complainant and sharing of accommodation or other directions. The court said, "It cannot be said that word 'domestic violence' as defined in Section 3 of DV Act constitute an offence under DV Act so as to attract section 4(2) of CrPC."

The court order further said, "Therefore, though the expression 'violence' connotes criminality referable to criminal mindset, the object of act being to assist the aggrieved person suffering from domestic violence by providing to her various reliefs as above and the act of domestic violence not being punishable under DV Act, it cannot be said that mere use of expression 'violence' would render the applications under Sections 12, 17 to 4 of the DV Act as criminal proceedings. The fact that the civil remedies are provided to aggrieved person is also made eloquent by objects and reasons of this law as well."

The high court has also observed that the legislation has left it to the concerned criminal court and to the judicial officers to decide whether the complaint made by women reveals criminal action by her family members. It is left to the judicial magistrate to decide whether to invoke Indian Penal Code and charge the respondents on basis of the complaint filed under the DV Act.

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