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SC Strikes Down Words ‘Adult Male’ From The Definition Of “Respondent” Under Section 2(Q) Of DV Act; Relief Possible Against Minors, Women [Read Judgment]

The classification of “adult male person” clearly subverts the doctrine of equality, by restricting the reach of a social beneficial statute meant to protect women against all forms of domestic violence, the Bench said.

Now a complaint of domestic violence can be made against any person who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved person as the Supreme Court in an important pronouncement in Hiral P Harsora and ors Vs. Kusum Narottamdas Harsora & Ors, has struck down the words “adult male” before the word “person” in Section 2(q) of Domestic Violence Act holding that these words discriminate between persons similarly situated, and is contrary to the object sought to be achieved by the Domestic Violence Act.

The court also said that the proviso to Section 2(q) of the Act, being rendered otiose, also stands deleted.

The Bench comprising Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice RF Nariman set aside the judgment of the Bombay High Court, which had read down the provisions of section 2(q) of the DV Act and held that the provisions of “respondent” in section 2(q) of the DV Act is not to be read in isolation but has to be read as a part of the scheme of the DV Act, and particularly along with the definitions of “aggrieved person”, “domestic relationship” and “shared household” in clauses (a), (f) and (s) of section 2 of the DV Act.

Holding that the word “adult male” is liable to be struck down, the Bench said that if the “respondent” is to be read as only an adult male person, it is clear that women who evict or exclude the aggrieved person are not within its coverage, and if that is so, the object of the Act can very easily be defeated by an adult male person not standing in the forefront, but putting forward female persons who can, therefore, evict or exclude the aggrieved person from the shared household.

The court further observed: “It is not difficult to conceive of a non-adult 16 or 17 year old member of a household, who can aid or abet the commission of acts of domestic violence, or who can evict or help in evicting or excluding from a shared household an aggrieved person. Also, a residence order, which may be passed under Section 19(1)(c) can get stultified if a 16 or 17-year-old relative enters the portion of the shared household in which the aggrieved person resides after a restraint order is passed against the respondent and any of his adult relatives.”

Read the Judgment here.

This article has been made possible because of financial support from Independent and Public-Spirited Media Foundation.

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  • ANNU CHOPRA says:

    SIDE EFFECTS OF DELETION OF WORDS ” ADULT MALE” FROM DV
    ACT(without prejudice)

    Note : I am not a lawyer. No offence to anyone is intended or meant . This is an attempt by a Victim of Unjust Laws to logically analyse the recent judgment deleting the words “ adult male from DeVilish Act. Having suffered enough at the hands of biased laws and false cases, my sincere apologies and I seek forgiveness. Objective is to provoke thinking in the interest of society as a whole.
    ====================================================

    1. A DIL ( an ultra-special category of female species) is erroneously still deemed to be incapable of unleashing domestic violence on husband or any other male member. Whole judgment tries to be ultra generous to every female who is a DIL in a family EVEN if same DIL might have been previously ( before or after her marriage) convicted of DV against her own bhabhi ( sacred wife of brother). Defies logic and common sense. Isn’t it?

    Interestingly , Para 18 states “— A reading of these definitions makes it clear that domestic relationships involve persons belonging to “both sexes” and includes persons related by blood or marriage” Having admitted that “both sexes” are integral part of DV issue , why judges did not logically conclude that a wife can also be responsible for DV to males in the family? It proves that the judgment conveniently takes a one-sided view of domestic violence and is discriminatory and against the Constitution.
    Interestingly again, many Paras of the judgment seem to suggest that judiciary is vehemently against “discrimination” of any kind and this has been used to justify deletion of the two words . Citations from non-family related cases have been thrown in to buttress the end-goal.
    Why the fact that DV Act itself is discriminatory has been conveniently ignored?

    2 .Para 24 claims that “It is not difficult to conceive of a non-adult 16 or 17year old member of a household who can aid or abet the commission of acts of domestic violence, or who can evict or help in evicting or excluding from a shared household an aggrieved person” . So, Hon’ble judges logic is that even a girl < 18 years old can aid or abett acts of domestic violence so long she is not a DIL. BUT, in their considered view , same girls after marriage undergoes an unspecified magical transformation into a woman who CANNOT conceivably do anything wrong. She suddenly becomes a pious, helpless ablaa naree who NOW needs unconditional, absolute protection of law against the born-criminal family of in-laws. Does that make any sense?. Is that not legal violence against common sense?
    Why is it difficult to conceive that a DIL CAN commit DV? Feminists are stupid. Our judiciary is certainly not. So, why this flagrant discrimination against men?

    3.In Para 31 judges flag up the “ doctrine of equality” to justify deletion of the two words. Does DV Act itself not subvert the doctrine of equality? Is it not a glaring example of unconstitutional discrimination against men?

    4. Para 42 states “ We were given to understand that the aforesaid Bill lapsed, after which the present Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 22.8.2005, and was then passed by both Houses. It is interesting to note that the earlier 2002 Bill defined “respondent” as meaning “any person who is…..”without the addition of the words “adult male”, being inconsonance with the object sought to be achieved by the Bill,which was pari materia with the object sought to be achieved by the present Act.”

    It is very interesting to note the cherry picking of words from old 2002 Bill to carry on with the pre-determined amendment to DV Act .Instead of arguing that there must have been strong reasons for those ( who were equally learned persons as the two judges themselves) who decided to change the wording to “adult male”, the judges arrive at wrong conclusion to justify their amendment. It is not inconceivable that if definition was changed subsequently, that shows it was done after due deliberation and on purpose. If lapsed Bill is the right way to go, then, why not simply adopt that in its entirety?

    5.. No thought has been given and it has not been clarified who is excluded from being responsible/liable for Monetary Relief and Residence Orders ( Sec 19 and 20 of DV Act),thereby leaving it open to mischief and further chaos and misery for husbands and their family members.

    6. Since another Pandora’s Box has been opened , DV Act needs to be reviewed URGENTLY considering
    a) various possible combinations of accuser and respondents
    b) how each Section of the DV Act is to be applied to each Respondent
    c) why a “wife” must not be deemed as a possible and logical perpetrator of DV against any male in flagrant violation of Constitution and contrary to the para 18/24/31 etc. of judgment itself

    7. In the amended form, DV Act has become MORE illogical and senseless.

    Non clarity of written laws leading to opinionated , conflicting, contradictory judgments has been responsible for abnormally high pendency of cases. Let us fix the DV Act first on priority basis. Public has suffered enough . Have some mercy, please.

  • annu chopra says:

    when law commission is puportly embarking upon comprehensive family law reforms, in what capacity these judges have amended the DV Act?

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