Divorced Woman, Too, Can Seek Protection Under Domestic Violence Act: Kerala HC [Read Judgment]
The Kerala High Court in Bipin vs. Meera, has dealt with the question whether subsistence of the matrimonial relationship is the sine-qua-non for seeking reliefs under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (DV Act).
The petitioner husband, Bipin, married Meera in 2011 and a child was born to them. The matrimonial relationship got strained, thereafter, and, hence, the spouses moved for divorce invoking Section 13B of the Hindu Marriage Act.
After compliance of statutory formalities, divorce was granted by the family court in May 2015. Thereafter, in August 2015, Meera and her son filed the present application before the magistrate court seeking reliefs under Sections 18, and 20 of the DV Act.
The reliefs sought were a protection order against domestic violence, return of 75 sovereigns of gold ornaments owned by Meera that were misappropriated by Bipin, or its value, order restraining him from operating the bank locker in which the gold ornaments were kept and return of Meera’s passport, that was retained by Bipin.
Bipin sought to quash the proceedings on the ground that the application filed by Meera resulted in an abuse of the process of law. Three specific grounds were urged by him and the subsequent decision taken by the bench comprising Justice Sunil Thomas in that regard was:
- Divorce on mutual consent was sought by parties on a specific, categoric agreement that wife will not claim money, ornaments or maintenance against husband in future.
Court held: “The joint application for divorce contains a unilateral undertaking by the wife that she will not claim money, ornaments or future maintenance. There is nothing to show that this was in consideration for a mutually satisfactory settlement of all the existing claims. In such circumstances, it can only be treated as consent obtained from the wife either by coercion or obtained by compulsion of circumstances or as a condition imposed on a desperate wife by the husband for consenting to a divorce.”
- The reliefs sought can be granted only to a woman who is or has a subsisting matrimonial relationship or a relationship in the nature of a matrimonial relationship and not to a divorced wife.
Court held: Relying on a previous case Priya v. Shibu (2008(3) KLT 1), the judgment that was reasserted by the court was: “The words “has lived” and “have lived” [Under section 2 of the DV Act, 2005] are employed for the purpose of showing the past relationship and they cannot be so construed as to mean that unless the “domestic relationship” continues on the date of application, the applicant will have no locus standi to move the magistrate. This view is perfectly in consonance with the object of the Statute and is the most logical and rational interpretation of the Statute.” Thus, the court held that the relief sought Meera under Section 20 of the Act was perfectly maintainable.
- At any rate, even if all other reliefs can be granted, a relief in the nature of protection order cannot be granted to a divorced wife and child born in such relationship, since the matrimonial relationship was brought to an end factually and legally.
Court held: It is not unusual that even after divorce, certain obligations arising from past matrimonial relationship continue… It cannot be confined within the barriers of time and space. Further, the scope of Section 18, which is wide enough to take in any violence which is likely to take place in the place of employment of aggrieved person, or if the aggrieved person is a minor, its school or any place frequented by child or attempting to communicate with the aggrieved person by any means, including electronic media, indicates that domestic violence may spread outside, even beyond the four walls of the matrimonial home. Hence, any act of violence which satisfies the definition of Section 3 of the Act and has a rational nexus to the past matrimonial relationship, or which arises therefrom or as a sequel to that relationship should conceptually fall within the provisions of Domestic Violence Act… Hence, even a divorced wife is entitled to initiate proceedings under Sections 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 of D.V Act to seek appropriate reliefs.
Read the Judgment here.
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