WHO ARE PROTECTION OFFICERS?
Under the Domestic Violence Act, protection officers are appointed. They act as a facilitator between the aggrieved woman and the court. Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 came into force on 26 October 2006. It is very comprehensive and promising legislation that combines civil remedies with criminal procedures to ensure effective protection and immediate relief to victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family, The definition of ‘domestic violence is in consonance with the UN Model Legislation on Domestic Violence.
Under Section 8 of the DV Act, the Protection Officer is appointed by the State Government as per the provisions of the law. The Protection Officer acts as a facilitator between the aggrieved woman and the court. The Protection Officer aids the aggrieved woman in filing complaints and applying before the Magistrate to obtain the necessary relief and also assists to obtain medical aid, legal aid, counseling, safe shelter, and other required assistance.
The Protection Officer aids the aggrieved woman in filing complaints, and application before the Magistrate to obtain the necessary relief and also assists to obtain medical aid, legal aid, counseling, safe shelter, and other required assistance.
Section 9 of the DV Act lays down the duties of the Protection Officer as follows:
“(a) to assist the Magistrate in the discharge of his functions under this Act;
(b) to make a domestic incident report to the Magistrate, in such form, and in such manner, as may be prescribed, upon receipt of a complaint of domestic violence and forward copies thereof to the police officer in charge of the police station within the local limits of whose jurisdiction domestic violence is alleged to have been committed and to the service providers in that area;
(c) to make an application in such form and in such manner as may be prescribed to the Magistrate, if the aggrieved person so desires, claiming relief for issuance of a protection order;
(d) to ensure that the aggrieved person is provided legal aid under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 and make available free of cost the prescribed form in which a complaint is to be made;
(e) to maintain a list of all service providers providing legal aid or counseling, shelter homes, and medical facilities in a local area within the jurisdiction of the Magistrate;
(f) to make available a safe shelter home, if the aggrieved person so requires and forward a copy of his report of having lodged the aggrieved person in a shelter home to the police station and the Magistrate having jurisdiction in the area where the shelter home is situated;
(g) to get the aggrieved person medically examined, if she has sustained bodily injuries, and forward a copy of the medical report to the police station and the Magistrate having jurisdiction in the area where the domestic violence is alleged to have been taken place;
(h) to ensure that the order for monetary relief under Section 20 is complied with and executed, in accordance with the procedure prescribed under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974);
(i) to perform such other duties as may be prescribed.”
According to the rules prescribed under the Act, state governments must appoint at least one protection officer in the jurisdiction of every judicial magistrate.
Protection officers can be members of either government or non-governmental organizations, with at least three years of experience in the social sector, but they must preferably be women.
A victim of domestic violence may require various services such as shelter home or safe accommodation, medical aid, child care, legal aid services, and other community services.
According to Section 10(1) of the DV Act, the Service Providers are the NGOs, Companies, or voluntary organizations working in the field of domestic violence and are registered under the laws of the State. Service Providers are duty-bound to provide assistance and support to women facing domestic violence.
A woman can go to a registered Service Provider to make a complaint under the DV Act. The duty of the service provider, as provided under Section 6 of the DV Act, upon receipt of the request should be to provide shelter to the aggrieved person in the shelter home.
RELIEFS AVAILABLE UNDER THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT
The remedies available under the DV Act as provided from Section 18 to 23 for the aggrieved person are as follows:
PROTECTION ORDERS (SECTION 18)
The Magistrate after giving the aggrieved person and the respondent an opportunity of being heard and if satisfied that domestic violence has taken place or is likely to take place may pass a protection order and prohibit the respondent from
(a) committing any act of domestic violence;
(b) aiding or abetting in the commission of acts of domestic violence;
(c) entering the place of employment of the aggrieved person or, if the person aggrieved is a child, its school or any other place frequented by the aggrieved person;
(d) attempting to communicate in any form, whatsoever, with the aggrieved person, including personal, oral or written or electronic, or telephonic contact;
(e) alienating any assets, operating bank lockers or bank accounts used or held or enjoyed by both the parties, jointly by the aggrieved person and the respondent or singly by the respondent, including her stridhan or any other property held either jointly by the parties or separately by them without the leave of the Magistrate;
(f) causing violence to the dependants, other relatives, or any person who gives the aggrieved person assistance from domestic violence;
(g) committing any other act as specified in the protection order.
RESIDENCE ORDER (SECTION 19)
The Magistrate may pass a residence order
- a) restraining the respondent from dispossessing or in any other manner disturbing the possession of the aggrieved person from the shared household, whether or not the respondent has a legal or equitable interest in the shared household;
(b) directing the respondent to remove himself from the shared household;
(c) restraining the respondent or any of his relatives from entering any portion of the shared household in which the aggrieved person resides;
(d) restraining the respondent from alienating or disposing off the shared household or encumbering the same;
(e) restraining the respondent from renouncing his rights in the shared household except with the leave of the Magistrate; or
(f) directing the respondent to secure the same level of alternate accommodation for the aggrieved person as enjoyed by her in the shared household or to pay rent for the same, if the circumstances so require.
The proviso clause for the section states that no order shall be passed under clause (b) against any person who is a woman.
The High Court of Madras opined that the Act contemplates two types of reliefs i.e.. (a) right to reside in a shared household; and
(b) right to seek residence orders under Section 19 of the Act—Section 19(1) of the Act empowers the Magistrate to pass a variety of residence orders.
A shared household would come into the picture only when relief is sought in terms of Sections 19(1)(a) to (e) of the Act. An aggrieved woman can seek orders to enable her to continue to reside in a shared household or protection order to enable her to reside in a shared household, then property, which is a subject matter, should be shared household.
Aggrieved women can seek relief of alternate accommodation in terms of Section 19(1)(f) of the Act and in such case concept of a shared household would not be attracted. Expression “shared household” occurring in Section 19(1)(f) of the Act is just for purpose of enabling an aggrieved woman to seek alternative accommodation, which would be on par with a shared household that she enjoyed at some point in time, M. Muruganandam v. M. Megala.
MONETARY RELIEF (SECTION 20)
Under Section 20 of the DV Act, an order for monetary relief can be passed by the court in case a woman has incurred expenditure as a result of violence. This may include expenses incurred by a woman on obtaining medical treatment, any loss of earnings, damage to property, etc. The aggrieved person can also claim maintenance from her male partner.
The Magistrate may direct the respondent to pay monetary relief to meet the expenses incurred and losses suffered by the aggrieved person and any child of the aggrieved person as a result of the domestic violence and such relief may include, but is not limited to,—
(a) the loss of earnings;
(b) the medical expenses;
(c) the loss caused due to the destruction, damage, or removal of any property from the control of the aggrieved person; and
(d) the maintenance for the aggrieved person as well as her children, if any, including an order under or in addition to an order of maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, or any other law for the time being in force.
It has also been provided in the section that the monetary relief provided should be adequate, fair and reasonable, and consistent with the standard of living to which the aggrieved person is accustomed. In case there is a failure on the part of the respondent to make payment in terms of the monetary order, the Magistrate may direct the employer or a debtor of the respondent, to directly pay to the aggrieved person or to deposit with the court a portion of the wages or salaries or debt due to or accrued to the credit of the respondent, which amount may be adjusted towards the monetary relief payable by the respondent.
CUSTODY ORDERS (SECTION 21)
The Magistrate may grant temporary custody of the children to the aggrieved woman or any person making an application on her behalf. This is to prevent a woman from being separated from her children, which itself is an abusive situation.
Section 21 also states that the Magistrate may, at any stage of hearing of the application for a protection order or for any other relief under this Act grant temporary custody of any child or children to the aggrieved person or the person making an application on her behalf and specify, if necessary, the arrangements for the visit of such child or children by the respondent.
However, the Magistrate may refuse such visit to such child or children, if it feels that any visit to the child or children by the respondent may be harmful.
COMPENSATION ORDERS (SECTION 22)
The Magistrate may on an application being made by the aggrieved person, pass an order directing the respondent to pay compensation and damages for the injuries, including mental torture and emotional distress, caused by the acts of domestic violence committed by that respondent.
MAGISTRATE’S POWER TO GRANT INTERIM AND EX PARTE ORDERS (SECTION 23)
Section 23 gives power to the Magistrate to pass such interim order as he deems just and proper and also if the Magistrate is satisfied that an application prima facie discloses that the respondent is committing, or has committed an act of domestic violence or that there is a likelihood that the respondent may commit an act of domestic violence, he may grant an ex parte order on the basis of the affidavit in such form, as may be prescribed, of the aggrieved person under Section 18, Section 19, Section 20, Section 21 or, as the case may be, Section 22 against the respondent.
India’s entrenched and pervasive sexism against women, rooted in the patriarchal social system, makes it impossible that any strictly legal remedy would reduce rates of violence against women because violence against women is widely enforced by Indian cultural norms. Second, many fail to identify domestic violence as an unacceptable form of women’s power. Indian culture, though refusing to acknowledge the true cause of domestic abuse, expects and tolerates a certain degree of violence against women. Though Western literature regards domestic violence as a means of exercising power over the woman, in India this view does not prevail.
The major objective of this law, is to protect women against domestic violence has been secured, but certain portions of the law still remain to be developed. This law provides civil remedies to the victims of domestic violence. Before the enactment of this law, in order to seek any civil remedies such as divorce, custody of children, injunctions in any form, or maintenance, a woman only had the option of taking recourse to the civil courts. Therefore, the DV Act has certainly brought about the required and necessary change in the system.
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