Protection of women from domestic violence, commonly known as the Domestic Violence (DV) Act, will now be Protection of Men also from domestic violence.
This follows a Supreme Court of India judgment with far-reaching consequences which set aside a portion of the law which has been loaded in favour of only women in the name of gender justice.
What the Supreme Court has done is that it struck down the words “adult male” from section 2 (q) of the law. This would now enable prosecution of women and even non-adults for subjecting a woman relative to violence and harassment, as well as a male member of the family.
Section 2(q) of the Act stipulates that “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 DV Act.”
The court reasoned out that there is a “microscopic difference between male and female, adult and non-adult, with regard to the object being 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.”
In an earlier related judgement, the court had already held that a wife forcing his husband to live separately from his family amounts to cruelty and the husband is entitled to divorce. (Narendra Vs. Meena). However, this DV law or Act has only enabled women, so far, to file DV cases against their husbands as well as mothers and sisters in law on grounds of domestic violence. There was a huge procession in the Indian Capital of NCT Delhi, years back, by the mothers and sisters in law demanding that they too were women and why not gender justice be rendered to them also.
What a bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and R F Nariman settled in the prevailing law is that anyone who is an adult male or female or non-adult female or male, if found to be harassing any member of the family, is liable for prosecution, irrespective of gender or age. “Adult male person” may harass a female in a family, but juveniles too, as sociology will prove. There may be ‘aunties’ initiating nephews or cousins or anyone. That is a different story. That’s sociology.
But what the Apex Bench of India has decided is that “We, therefore, strike down the words ‘adult male’ before the word ‘person’ in Section 2(q), (Of the DV Act) as these words discriminate between persons similarly situated both men and women. The court said that this is contrary to the object sought to be achieved by the 2005 Act.
The SC verdict came on an appeal against the Bombay High Court judgment, construing the literal meaning 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 Domestic Violence Act.
Parliament enacts law and the Supreme Court settles that law. We have to wait how many such laws have to be settled.
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