Sunday, July 29, 2007

Domestic Violence Law faces some fine tuning in a judgment

After the Domestic Violence Law was faced, there was immense controversy about whether the law would help save the fate of innumerable women who face dowry claims, who face abuse in their households over whether they they give birth to male children vs. female children, and about their overall status in the household. Sadly, a lot of this abuse is also directed at them from other females in the household; or whether the law would end up being misused. No clear answers, but 2 separate stories. As an example, read this article:

It is a horror story of sorts. Two Vadodara women, who could not bear the macabre torture meted out to them by their husband for not bearing a son, have escaped to Ahmedabad to get their gut-wrenching tale heard and dealt with.
"I was being forced to abort this child that I am carrying. I refused and was being put through hell," mumbles Sunita, who is weak from years of beating and torture. She says that she went to the Padra police station a couple of times to register her complaint but fearing her husband, who is a goon, the police did not take it. All hell broke loose for Kajal, who was tricked into marriage by Rajesh, when she too delivered a girl child.
He told her he was a bachelor. Rajesh hung the baby, Khushi, when she was just over a month old, upside down in an attempt to kill her! Narrating some of Rajesh's torture methods, Sunita and Kajal say nails were hammered into their ears and chilly powder mixed with hot spices forced into Sunita’s private parts - all because she had borne a girl. And the worse - Rajesh reportedly made them drink his urine!

Now, I am not putting the whole article here, so please read it from the link above. Assuming that all the facts of the case are true, this is a true case where the husbands and family members complicit in this act should be severely prosecuted under the act and when found guilty, sentenced for their misdeeds.

At the same time when this news came out, here is another news that seeks to define some fine-tuning that a court in New Delhi has done under the Domestic Violence Act. Read this story for more details:

A court here has dismissed a woman's complaint against her in-laws under the domestic violence law, saying she could claim right of residence and maintenance only from her husband. Metropolitan Magistrate Nirja Bhatia rejected the application on the ground that the woman's husband was maintaining a separate residence and a perusal of records showed that he was capable of providing a life of dignity and peace to her.
Neetu, a mother of three, however, did not implead her husband, who had been reportedly living separately from her for some time. She claimed he earned very little, a plea that did not go down well with the court. Citing an apex court judgement, the court held that the complainant had the right to claim residence and maintenance from her husband and not from her in-laws.

The court has taken a fair amount of care in the case, clearly taking the facts of the case into account and putting the relationship as one that exists only between the husband and the wife, and legally not being able to bring the rest of the husband's family into the dispute if they are not clearly involved.
This is a fairly complex case where the women prima facie seems to have used the strong rights vested in her to try and bring his family also under control. But, the good point in this case, (incidentally the judgment being delivered by a female judge), was to go into the merits of the case and not blindly go by the testimony of the complainant.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 3:16 AM