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.