The Pandemic of Domestic Violence amidst Covid-19 Lockdown: A Double Whammy
Two people who live together or have, at some point of time have lived together in a matrimonial household when they are related by consanguinity, marriage, or through a relationship in a marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family is considered to be in a domestic relationship and any violence against women in a domestic relationship is protected under The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. The Act provides protection to women and children by providing them with adequate relief and providing them with secured sharing household, safety at work, and other safety measures to the aggrieved person.
Procedure to File a Complaint:
The victim or any other person no complaint has to be made against any person against for giving information made in good faith, who has reason to believe that an act of domestic violence has been, or is being, or is likely to be committed, may give information about it to the concerned Protection Officer. The informant filing the complaint must ensure that the subject matter of the complaint filed must fall under the definition of domestic violence provided under Section 3 of The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. The protection officer, police officer or the magistrate himself, shall apprise the aggrieved person about her right to make an application for obtaining any relief by way of a protection order, any order for monetary relief, a residence order, a compensation order or more than one such order under this Act, about the service provider, protection officer, free legal aid and right to file a complaint under Section 498A of IPC.
Role of Protection Officer, police and Magistrate after lockdown:
The Act has provided an effective platform and relief to a few victims of domestic violence but failed to incorporate a uniform functional approach as intended by the officials that the victims have to through. Complaint by the aggrieved parties to protection officer or police or magistrate is of utmost importance. In the case of SwarupMandal v. State of Jharkhand, the Hon’ble court observed& stated that no duties were being followed by the officers in accordance with Section 9 of the Act and no domestic abuse incident report was filed by the protection officer. Taking into account the current scenario of the ongoing pandemic the existing emergency helpline services, state-run shelter homes providing safeguards, and other concerned organizations are unable to provide prerequisite services to the victim as being disrupted. The abused women can’t reach out to the police, and nor they can inform and call out the concerned authorities to the house; moreover, the police are already overburdened with the current Covid-19 duties which makes it virtually impossible for police to conduct a proper investigation of the matter. As the complaints of the aggrieved party are not duly taken note of, they are not provided with the protection officer, immediate police help, shelter homes, and other reliefs as would have been given otherwise during the ordinary situation.
Role of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 in the cases of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005:
If the complaint of domestic violence is filed by the aggrieved party to the protection officer or the police officer, the FIR must be registered and same should be sent to the magistrate after which an application for initiating a legal proceeding must be filed with the consent of the aggrieved party, with a ground to directly approach the court. A notice is served by the court which is delivered by the protection officer as per Section 13 of the Act to the accused. Rule 12 (d) of the Act laid downs the consequences of failure to accept the notice, consequence as per order V and Chapter VI of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and CrPC respectively are to be followed. As per chapter VI of C.R.P.C if the respondent fails to appear before the court a Non-bailable warrant is issued at the then a bailable warrant shall be issued by the court. An ex-parte order may be issued against the respondent under Section 23, if the circumstances so warrants. If both the parties are present then the trial is initiated and order is issued by the court which is binding on both the parties. Breaching of the order shall be punishable with one year with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to twenty thousand rupees, or with both.
Challenges Faced by the Victims:
It has been highly reported that there has been a hike in reported domestic violence cases by women throughout the country. A shelter home named Shakti Shalini was reached out by 25 domestically abused women at the starting of the lockdown itself. Most of the cases amid this lockdown were requested to linger until the situation of COVID-19 settles without paying any heed to the possible physical and mental harm that can be inflicted upon the victim. In West Bengal, 26 years old married women namely SonaMondol was strangled by the husband for almost five years, in a similar accident it was reported that the husband killed the wife because she protested against his extramarital affair. During the first phase of lockdown itself between 200-300 cases were reported by the National Commission for Women, Women are facing domestic violence across every part of the country while lawyers, NGOs, and other concerned associations are helpless due to the only available resort is to inform the police, who are already largely overburdened by the ongoing pandemic duties. It is also reported that sexual abuse, physical abuse, and women are being thrown out of houses and the authorities failed to provide the required legal and shelter facilities. Women are requested to cohabitate with their husband due to the lack of special procedural laws and facilitates for the aggrieved parties during this ongoing epidemic. Suggestions:
An individual is considered to be in the most supreme safety when around the family, but cases of domestic violence against women are of such heinous nature that it raises the question of safety and protection. During these hard times when the mankind is threatened like never before it is very imperative for all of us to understand that patience is the key to this pandemic albeit there are certain suggestions that can be processed to attenuate the cases of domestic violence namely; The vacuum that exists between the procedural law and the penal law need to be mend for expeditious relief to the victim. Further, during the present time, a lady constable should be appointed within 24 hours of filing the complaint to the police and the aggrieved woman should be transported to a government shelter. Thereafter during the time of the investigation, the accused should be directed by the court to pay maintenance to the aggrieved wife. These are some suggestions too that can be incorporated to curb the current rate of domestic violence. The government can also provide for therapy sessions through the medium of the internet which will help a lot of people in maintaining their mental health.