Domestic Violence Act scope widens, woman can be prosecuted

A woman can be prosecuted under the Domestic Violence Act, the Delhi High Court has ruled.

New Delhi: A woman can be prosecuted
under the Domestic Violence Act as failure to bring charges
against women involved could encourage the men to instigate
the female members of a family to commit violence, the Delhi
High Court has ruled.

"It is common knowledge that in case a wife is
harassed by the husband, other family members may also join
him in treating the wife cruelly and such family members would
invariably include female relatives as well.

"If restricted interpretation is given...the very
purpose for which this Act is enacted would be defeated. It
would be very easy for the husband or other male members to
frustrate the remedy by ensuring that the violence on the wife
is perpetrated by female members," a Bench comprising justices
A K Sikri and Ajit Bharioke said.
Interpreting the provisions the Act, the court said
that `relatives` included not only male but also female
members of a family.

"Various provisions in the DV Act, provide for
clinching circumstances indicating that female relative was
clearly in the mind of the legislature when it comes to filing
of the complaint/application by a wife or a female living in a
relationship in the nature of marriage," the Bench said.

The judgement was passed on the plea of a woman
challenging order of a trial court initiating proceedings
against her in a case of alleged domestic violence.

Turning down the plea of accused that female members
of a family cannot be charged under the Act, the bench said
though the provisions are not clearly drafted it did not stop
the court from arriving at interpretation.

"No doubt, the provision is not very satisfactorily
worded and there appears to be some ambiguity in the
definition of `respondent` as contained in the Act.

"But then, courts are not supposed to throw their
hands up in the air expressing their helplessness. We, thus,
hold that the expression `a relative` in the Act includes
female relative as well," the Bench said.

It said "merely because amplitude of `respondent` in a
case where a wife or female living in a relationship akin to
marriage initiates the proceedings is widened, would not be a
ground to hold that such a provision is ultra vires."
The court gave the logic of interpretating the law
relating to the fairer sex which has progressed over the

"The journey from enacting Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
to Amendment in IPC by incorporating Section 498A (cruelty
against married woman) and 304B (dowry death) to the passing
of DV Act is aimed at bringing desirable and much needed
social change in this particular sphere.

"Therefore, courts are required to give an
interpretation which subserves the aforesaid purpose with
which the law is enacted," the Bench said.

It also referred about the live-in relationship which
has been recognised under the Act.

"On the one hand, aggrieved persons other than wife or
a female living in a relationship in the nature of marriage as
aggrieved person can file application against adult male
person only.

But on the other hand, wife or female living in a
relationship in the nature of marriage is given right to file
complaint not only against husband or male partner, but also
against his relatives," the court said.


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