DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT: NOW A MEANS TO SETTLE SCORES?


Due to the tremendous increase in offences against women and as a result of empowering women, several laws were introduced for the protection of women which can be said to be anti-men laws under current situations. The Protection of Women from Domestic violence Act, 2005 has been criticized as one of them due to the misuse of the said act by women and a huge increase in false allegations against men. As women are always considered to be in a vulnerable position, it is their version of the story which tends to be believed by the society and the legal system. It is accepted that there is an inevitable need to protect the women from all such violence and abuse but giving them all the possible chances to seek revenge by making false accusations and entertaining the same without any proper investigation should not be the way in which such protection be provided. The principal objective of preserving the family can never be achieved if such measures are resorted to. Even petty and silly disputes are labeled as domestic violence cases by women today. It is a true but unaccepted fact that men are also victims of domestic violence but it is not very transparent as in the case of women and men are ashamed to come forward in most of the cases. The primary objective of the act is to provide more effective protection to women from domestic violence. However, there are three fundamental problems with this law–a) it is overwhelmingly gender-biased in favor of women, b) the potential for misuse is astounding and c) the definition of domestic violence is too expansive. [1]
It is true that the number of cases involving domestic violence has substantially increased. But the rate of true and genuine cases amongst them cannot be determined very easily. Keeping aside the criticisms like calling it a gender-biased law and the wide scope of the definition of domestic violence, the rate of misuse of the act by women is alarmingly high. It is also considered as a good way of threatening men in order to satisfy their illegitimate demands. It is now conveniently used as a law to seek revenge and harass the husband and his relatives.
Recently men’s rights activists scored a significant victory in India when the Supreme Court essentially identified them as the victims in domestic violence cases. The judges weren’t making the law gender-neutral, however. They stated that Indian women were filing inaccurate claims of domestic violence. Most of such complaints are filed in the heat of the moment over trivial issues. It went on to state that women were not visualizing the “implications and consequences” of registering a criminal complaint against their abusive husbands. “Uncalled for arrest may ruin the chances of settlement” and because of this sometimes the victims are turned up to be a culprit in this country. [2]
It is an accepted fact in the present world that there is no relationship that is perfect. If small and petty disputes which are unavoidable in a relationship are labeled as domestic violence, the fundamental concern of the justice system in reducing the number of disputes and increasing the rate of amicable settlements will be at high risk. The wide scope of the definition of domestic violence is one of the main reasons for the misuse of the provisions under the act. According to Section 3 of the Act, any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent shall constitute domestic violence in case it (a) harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well-being, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person or tends to do so and includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse, and economic abuse; or (b) harasses, harms, injures or endangers the aggrieved person with a view to coerce her or any other person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any dowry or other property or valuable security; or (c) has the effect of threatening the aggrieved person or any person related to her by any conduct mentioned in clause(a)or clause(b); or (d) otherwise injures or causes harm, whether physical or mental, to the aggrieved person. [3]
The explanation I to the section defines physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse, and economic abuse in very wide terms that anything can be treated as domestic violence if the woman claims so. The definition of domestic violence is very vast under the act, even a small verbal argument can be brought to the court as domestic violence. If that is the criteria they are talking about it is unknown as to how many men are being abused regularly. If a woman is a so-called victim in a said case, her words are always assumed to be true. The case of the accused is always treated as an unbelievable defence no matter how weak or cooked up her story is. The trend of victimizing women has intensified after the introduction of the act. It is now regarded as a hard and fast rule that women is always the victim and men is always the culprit.
Nowadays, filing cases under the Domestic Violence Act by female members has become a common one and a neutral and unprejudiced law is needed to protect the genuine victims of domestic violence, irrespective of gender. The notable flaw in this law is that it lends itself to such easy misuse that women will find it hard to resist the temptation to teach a lesson to their male relatives and will file frivolous and false cases. [4] A similar trend is already being observed in the case of anti-dowry law (498-A), which is being misused to such an extent that the Supreme Court has termed it Legal Terrorism. [5]
According to the former President of India, Pratibha Patil, instances exist whereby protective legal provisions for the benefit of women have been subjected to distortion and misuse to wreak petty vengeance and to settle scores. Some surveys have concluded that 6 to 10 percent of dowry complaints are false and were registered primarily to settle scores. It is unfortunate if laws meant to protect women get abused as instruments of oppression. The bottom-line, therefore, is the fair invocation of legal provisions and their objective and honest implementation. [6]
The practice of making the definitions very broad in such a manner that anything can be brought under the purview of the act should be avoided as far as it is possible. Anyhow, it is not practically possible for the legislature to cover all probable situations under an act that might arise in the future due to the changing circumstances. So the custom of making the definitions very wide to satisfy the future situations or for giving bulletproof protection to the victims should be carried out cautiously, as it can cause serious prejudice to the innocent. 

References
[1] Domestic Violence Act of India is Against Men !!, available here
[2] Riya Mishra, The gender advantage: Women who misuse it & men who bear it, Times Of India, available here
[3] The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, Act No.43 of 2005.
[4] Loha v. The District Educational Officer, W.P (MD).No.8646 of 2015.
[5] Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India & Others., A.I.R. 2005. S.C. 3100.
[6] Speech of the Hon'ble President of India, at the National Conference of Lady Lawyers and Lady Teachers, at Yavatmal, available here

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