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Any Person can now be Tried under Domestic Violence Act
Oct 13, 2016

In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court has widened the scope of the Domestic Violence Act by ordering deletion of the words ‘adult male’ from it, paving the way for prosecution of women and even non-adults for subjecting a woman relative to violence and harassment.

  • A bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and R.F. Nariman ordered that these two words violated right to equality under the Constitution.
  • The apex court has ordered striking down of the two words from Section 2(q) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, which deals with respondents who can be sued and prosecuted under the Act for harassing a married woman in her matrimonial home.

Referring to earlier verdicts, the apex court said “The microscopic difference between male and female, adult and non adult, regard being had to the object sought to be achieved by the 2005 Act, is neither real or substantial, nor does it have any rational relation to the object of the legislation.”

  • Section 2(q) of the Act reads: ‘respondent’ means any adult male person who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved person and against whom the aggrieved person has sought any relief under Domestic Violence Act.
  • The bench said that the words ‘adult male person’ were contrary to the object of affording protection to women who have suffered from domestic violence of any kind. We, therefore, strike down the words ‘adult male’ before the word ‘person’ in Section 2(q), as these words discriminate between persons similarly situated, and far from being in tune with, are contrary to the object sought to be achieved by the 2005 Act.

The major verdict came on an appeal against the Bombay High Court judgement, which had resorted to the literal construction of the term ‘adult male’ and discharged four persons, including two girls, a woman and a minor boy, of a family from a domestic violence case on the ground that they were not ‘adult male’ and hence cannot be prosecuted under the DV Act.

  • The bench in its 56-page judgement, said the remaining part of the legislation has been kept untouched and would be operative.
  • The bench said that the term “adult male” contained in the Act was discriminatory.

The Protection from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 is available for those women who are or have been in a relationship with the abuser where both parties have lived together in a shared household. The cohabitation may be consanguinity, marriage or a relationship in the nature of marriage, or adoption. Widening the scope, the legislators also included the women living together as a joint family like sisters, widows, mothers, single women, etc.


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