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Domestic Violence Act : Supreme Court Seeks Information From NALSA About DV Cases

Sohini Chowdhury
28 April 2022 12:46 PM GMT
Domestic Violence Act : Supreme Court Seeks Information From NALSA About DV Cases
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While hearing a plea seeking appointment of Protection Officers (POs) and Service Providers and establishment of Shelter Homes and Medical facilities in terms of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (DV Act), the Supreme Court, on Thursday, directed the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) to inform the Court about the number of DV Act cases initiated and pending...

While hearing a plea seeking appointment of Protection Officers (POs) and Service Providers and establishment of Shelter Homes and Medical facilities in terms of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (DV Act), the Supreme Court, on Thursday, directed the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) to inform the Court about the number of DV Act cases initiated and pending and also the number of cases in which the services of Service Provider or Shelter Homes are needed, before it can take any further call.

"In order to enable the Court to come to certain concrete ideas we call upon NALSA to inform this Court about the number of DV Act cases initiated and pending and in how many cases services of Service Provider or Shelter Homes were required to be extended. In order to elicit this information, if not readily available, NALSA may send appropriate questionnaires to the State Legal Services Authority and obtain requisite information. The communication may also advert to the fact that the State Legal Services Authority may get assistance from DALSA if so required."

As Additional Solicitor General, Ms. Aishwarya Bhati apprised a Bench comprising Justices UU Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat and PS Narasimha about the Government of India initiative namely, Mission Shakti, which would consist of policies and schemes for protection and empowerment of women, it asked her to provide information pertaining to the same before the next date of hearing.

"Ms. Aishwarya Bhati, AAG, submits that certain project named Project Shakti contemplated by Minister of Women and Child Development as well as other projects under the auspices of Ministry of Law and Justice are in serious contemplation and as a matter of fact Mission Shakti has also received Cabinet approval and the formalized version can be expected shortly."

Advocate Ms. Sobha Gupta, appearing for 'We the Women of India' organisation on the last occasion, had referred to the condition of the Protection Officers in Delhi who are overburdened and understaffed to highlight the need for appointment of more POs and providing them with the adequate paraphernalia. On Thursday, she reiterated the need for 'informed establishment of assistance networks' as provided under the DV Act. She submitted that these assistance networks are primarily for four stakeholders - Protection Officers, Service Providers, Shelter homes and Medical facilities.

The Bench asked the Counsel about the role of a Service Provider and that of a Protection Office.

Ms. Gupta stated that the Service Provider assists in the legal process. She would take the aggrieved women to shelter homes, medical facilities, counselling centres and would provide whatever assistance the aggrieved women require. The Protection Officer, in essence, does all that a Service Provider is to do. Additionally, they assist the concerned Magistrates. Under the DV Act they are also required to effect service.

Justice Lalit noted that the sheet anchor of the submission put forth by Ms. Gupta was that facilities provided in the statute are not reflected in ground reality.

"All your submissions are based on what are the statutory contours. At the grass root levels the facilities are missing. Therefore there appears to be a complete failure at the practical part of it."

He acknowledged the importance of a strong assistance network in turning the vision of a legislation into reality -

"I'll tell you that it is something beyond the brief. As NALSA chairperson I had talks with Women and Child Development Ministry and am in contact with the Law Ministry - what happens is all these legislatures are right, but at grass root level there is no credible network. Only credible network in NALSA network - Why is it flourishing is because there is no Centre and State intervention. This is one programme run completely by the judiciary. The programs of others have political colour"

He stated that most of the concerns that are raised in the petition can be addressed by the initiative proposed to be adopted by the Law Ministry, NALSA and the Ministry of Women and Child Development, which intends to launch a Mobile Application which would act as a one-stop solution.

"Now, Law Ministry is desirous of having an App…one front office person there will be a one-stop solution for everything. He/she would be there for 4 hours a day. Then there is another thing - legal assistance. There would be another kind of network - taluka level network - one person in charge of contact point where information is given and one for legal advice. This will be on mobile. We are going to start very soon".

Another Application involving POs and Protection Assistants (PAs) is also under consideration -

"Parallely one more round is going on - there will be a PO and a para-legal volunteer who would act as a PA…Atleast there would be a paraphernalia, where one lady, who will be Anganwadi worker be always be available to assist…My suggestion to both the Ministries is to have one female. Rather than Nyaya Bandu have Nyaya Bhagini. Our efforts are to have a synthesised and combined version...This would take care of most of the problems."

Justice Lalit asked Ms. Bhati to urge both the Ministries to expedite the process. He was of the opinion that once the project was in place, most of the issues raised by Ms. Gupta would be taken care of.

"Impress upon both ministries to expedite that. We at NALSA are doing it, the projects are more or less at the completion stage. If this matter is deferred and called after summer vacation all wrinkles will be ironed out."

[Case Title : We The Women Of India versus Union of India, WP(c) No.1156/2021]

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