Abuse of Domestic Violence Act
It is an accepted fact in the present world that domestic violence in any household, relationship, living-in partners, and marriage should be construed as violation of human rights. As a result, over the last few years, there is a consensus among various nations including members of the United Nations that violence perpetrated against women has risen beyond expectations and that there is an alarming increase in the violence committed against women. As such, most of the countries have enacted various laws to prevent such violence being unleashed against women in particular. In India, one such piece of legislation came to be enacted with effect from 26/10/2006 under the heading "The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005". No doubt, there are various offences covered under the provisions of IPC; to name one of them is the most common 498-A of the IPC, which provides for punishment of the accused who has practised sustained violence against women, whether the same has resulted in death of the victim or not. Notwithstanding such laws, the act referred to above came into existence with an intention to protect women victims at large from persons who have subjected them to violence which is termed as domestic violence as the same does not encompass violence in general terms.
In this act, domestic violence includes actual abuse or threat that is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic. In other words violence need not be purely physical alone as trying to deprive the woman of a decent life by not providing a decent maintenance also amounts to domestic violence. In fact, Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the constitution guarantees rights of equality, etc. This act draws strength from provisions of the said articles so as to provide equality to women too. In the present act, any woman aggrieved in her domestic relationship can complain to the concerned judicial magistrate whether or not she is living with her spouse, that the said person is treating her with such cruelty which according to section 3 of the act defines the term domestic violence.
Domestic violence in general includes harms or injuries, which may injure health, safety, life of the aggrieved person with an intention to force her to meet any unlawful demand by the accused including dowry, etc. However, domestic violence is not limited to mere abuse by a man, physical or mental, even failing to look after any woman in a relationship with him by not providing clothe, food or shelter deliberately will also be termed as domestic violence under the act. Under this act, the magistrate orders protection of such women by ordering for maintenance, etc. The magistrate is also empowered to pass ‘protection orders’ in favour of the complainant so as to protect him/her from being further abused by the accused. Non-governmental organizations help in aiding the aggrieved with medical help, legal aid, safe shelter, etc.
Whatever are the honest intentions of the legislature, it is seen that the provisions of the act is misused and abused by the so-called victims. In other words, the provisions of the act does not afford the accused to explain his stand for the simple reason that even if the woman is living separately from him, she can still accuse her husband or anyone claiming under him of continuing to threaten her and so on. Since the provisions of the act have a presumptive value, most of the time, the accused is left defenseless.
As such, most of the time, the accused is at the receiving end and as the provisions are in addition to whatever is in existence, this will amount to subjecting the accused to multiple jeopardy. As a result, the accused has to not only pay for maintenance but also is liable to pay the said compensation under the "Hindu Marriage Act".
The present act most of the time is used to harass the husband or any other member claiming under him and to see that he yields to the illegitimate demands of the so called victim instead of vice versa. Many a time, aged parents and other relatives are falsely accused of physically and mentally torturing the so-called victim, thereby causing unwanted tension, which may result in ill health of the aged parents and physical and mental distress to the family members of the ‘accused’. Although this act is devised to protect the interests of the ‘victim’, instead it causes untold pain and misery to the ‘accused’ and his elderly family members. According to many legal experts, this act although has some honest intentions of protecting the victim, it has caused more harm than good due to its misuse, misapplication and misinterpretation of the act. When a person is accused under the provisions of the act, no matter what may be the outcome of the prosecution, the social stigma remains, thus affecting the future prospects of the ’accused’.
Thus again, the accused is tormented by the society even if the accusation is proven wrong. Poor and uneducated women may have borne the torture of the husband’s family, but today many well-educated women are using this act for unlawful purposes. They falsely accuse their husbands and in-laws so as to gain substantial wealth by means of compensations. With such wrong intentions, these selfish women are ready to jump at the smallest opportunity and file a case. Such misapplication and misuse of the law is one of the main causes for the destruction of many families. The act may need revision in order to prevent such misuse and misapplication of the act. The true intention of this act was to protect domestic violence victims from further pain and to thus relieve them from their misery and not to cater to the selfish needs of people who would not mind accusing their own family of committing atrocities for the sake of gaining financial benefits. Thus, only genuine victims of domestic violence must be identified and given assistance; and such greedy complainants must be stopped from ruining families.