Madras HC Notice To TN Govt On PIL Seeking Effective Implementation Of DV Act For Timely Justice

Madras HC Notice To TN Govt On PIL Seeking Effective Implementation Of DV Act For Timely Justice

TN records maximum number of DV complaints

The Madras High Court has issued notice on a PIL seeking effective implementation of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (DV Act).

The PIL has been filed by Sudha Ramalingam, an advocate, who is also a former national vice-president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties.

In the PIL, the petitioner, who has 40 years of standing, has shared her own professional experiences wherein she saw how the Act was not being implemented in letter and spirit leading to victims in need of immediate assistance suffering due to delays in the legal procedure and shortage of manpower like protection officers as envisaged under the Act.

Highlighting various loopholes in the implementation of the Act, the petitioner said Section 12 of the DV Act calls for presenting of the application before a magistrate either by the aggrieved person or by the protection officer and preparation of a Domestic Intent Report (DIR). The intent behind it is that the aggrieved person files the application to the magistrate through the Protection Officer who prepares the DIR on her behalf in case the aggrieved person is incapacitated to prefer an application directly to the magistrate by herself.

“…contrary to the process, the magistrates, in a routine and mechanical manner forward most of the applications presented directly to them to the Protection Officer having jurisdiction for the preparation of the DIR. It is seen that in many cases, the magistrate does so without even conducting a preliminary enquiry on the merits of the case or hearing the aggrieved person and adjourns the matter for the receipt of the DIR. From this point, it becomes the responsibility of the aggrieved person to follow up with the Protection Officer and ensure that the DIR is completed and filed before the court,” said Ramalingam.

She stated that the mechanical forwarding of every application to the Protection Officer for the preparation of the DIR is against the language and purpose of Section 12 and there is an imminent need for guidelines in this regard and training to the Magistrates and the Protection Officers regarding the same and if suitable directions and guidelines are issued to all the Judicial Magistrates in this regard, victims who need immediate relief need not wait for the Protection Officers to give a report and the burden of the Protection Officers can also be reduced and they can expend their time effectively to only those cases where victims really need their assistance.

She also stated how despite the Act providing for the first date of hearing within three days of filing the application, it takes as long as three months in practice and even the applications are not being disposed of within 60 days as provided.

“...it is imperative that the Magistrate Courts are provided with sufficient infrastructure and the different functionaries under this legislation are also given due training about their roles and responsibilities and facilities to enable them to achieve this statutory goal which is access to speedy justice. In the absence of the same, the provision is dead letter and obsolete,” said the petition.

The petition also called for empowering aggrieved persons to seek urgent remedies including that of protection orders, monetary orders, custody orders, etc which have to be decided on a preliminary basis.

“The mandatory conduct of a preliminary enquiry and the actions of the Protection officer in issuing notice to the Respondents prior to submission of Domestic Incident Reports is violative of the role envisaged for the Protection Officer under the DV Act. The ability of a litigant to obtaining interim relief, which may be urgent and imperative cannot be watered down by way of a procedure that defeats the very object of the DV Act,” said the petition.

It sought directions to the Chief Secretary, Tamil Nadu government and to the Social Welfare Department to expeditiously appoint Protection Officers under Section 8 of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 in every taluk.

The petitioner also demanded that all judicial magistrates be directed to file and number all the applications filed under Section 12 of the Act expeditiously, without routinely forwarding the same to the Protection Officers besides framing of a Court Practice Manual for judicial officers and legal practitioners in a time-bound manner to implement the DV Act in its letter and spirit.

The petitioner said the mandatory forwarding of applications to Protection Officers is further time-consuming as there are just 33 Protection Officers in 32 districts of Tamil Nadu which comes to an average of .97 Protection Officer per district.

Stressing on the long-standing pressing need for putting in place a robust infrastructure and manpower to effectively implement the DV Act, the petitioner stated, “The Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women reported that out of the total number of complaints received in the first half of 2018, crimes relating to domestic violence topped the list. Out of 813 petitions received by them, 125 concerned domestic violence. According to data from the National Crimes Record Bureau in 2012, out of 4,567 cases of domestic violence recorded in India, 3,838 cases of domestic violence was recorded in Tamil Nadu alone.”

The petitioner also relied on the recent development of Maneka Gandhi, Union Minister for Women and Child Development, writing to the Chief Ministers of all states to ensure that the provisions of the DV Act are effectively implemented by, inter alia, appointing more Protection Officers, allocating separate budget for the Protection Officers and capacity building for staff.

Read the Affidavit Here