Surpreet Kaur is currently a Legal Researcher for the Supreme Court of India. She has a Bachelors in Law from Delhi University. She is also a theater artist and a passionate social worker.
Law is never good or bad. Its fate depends on the hands of the person using it. While laws are mostly passed with the objective of doing good for society and its people, sometimes they end up extracting a lot of good instead.
The most unfortunate part of the law is that it is overused by those who know how to use it but unused by those who really need it.
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was enacted to provide a more effective protection of the rights of women, guaranteed under our Constitution, who were victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family.
Indian society being a patriarchal one, this law was to act as a shield to all those numerous women who were facing all kinds of injustices at the hands of abusive men. But if we process today’s reality, we’ll realize that today the DV Act has become more of a weapon for women who use it to simply harass their innocent partners and their families.
In a recent case, a Metropolitan Magistrate not only dismissed the domestic violence complaint of a woman but also held that the case was a false and concocted to torment the husband. It imposed an exemplary fine of Rs 1 lakh on the woman for misusing the law. In the case of Sushil Kumar Sharma vs. Union of India, JT 2005 (6) SC 266, the Supreme Court of India for the first time used the term “Legal Terrorism” for denoting the terror that women laws had unleashed on Indian males and their families.
It was observed that many of the complaints were not bonafide and were filed with malicious motive by unscrupulous women to pursue a personal vendetta. According to the National Crime Records Bureau data of 2013, the national average of conviction rate under the Domestic Violence Act was just 16%. In such cases women don’t even leave out children and aged members of the partner’s family. They drag them to court even when they have nothing to do with the case.
These cases have almost an 80% acquittal rate, with the partner accused not found guilty. But as was rightly contended in Sushil Kumar's judgment, the acquittal of the accused does not wipe out the agony suffered during and after the trial and ends up compromising all kinds of future prospects. The basic rule of Criminal law says that “it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer” and today because of the Domestic Violence Act hundreds and thousands of innocent husbands and their families are suffering at the hands of one complaint.
If one actually goes through the Domestic Violence Act, one realizes that it is the gaps in the basic provisions of the act itself that give ample of room for its misuse. The act provides relief only to married women in a domestic setup (one can sense that from the title of the act itself). It defines domestic violence as anything that the wife feels as cruelty towards her, leaving a comparatively huge scope of interpretation of the law in the hands of women. Further the law gives freedom to the wife to accuse anyone in her domestic relation from a baby to a 90 year old grandmother even if they could possibly never have anything to do with the case. There is no fixed amount of compensation, which leaves a lot of scope for exploitation of the good husbands by “gold-digger” wives.
Further, the wife can ask for the right to reside in any house that she might have lived in with her husband and can actually throw out the owners saying that she feels threatened by them. No time limit has been put on the complainant’s right to complaint. So she can walk to a police station anytime and disrupt her partner or ex-partner’s (even after a divorce she can file a complaint!) settled life just like that. And there is no provision of any kind of penalty for lodging of a false complaint. More so, the Supreme Court of India has clearly ruled that this act is a ‘clumsily drafted law’ and should be scrapped off.
A law that was supposed to help in the protection of women in a patriarchal society that is slowly devouring the Indian family system. With the ongoing misuse of the act it will soon lose the social purpose behind it. The misuse needs to be curtailed and the act should be replaced by some more benign, sensible, gender-neutral legislation that ensures women their rights and at the same time not forgetting the rights of men and the women members in their families.