//Domestic Violence Act in no man's land

Domestic Violence Act in no man's land


NEW DELHI: When the much-awaited Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, finally came into effect on October 26, a wave of cheer spread among women activists, and hope rekindled for women facing abuse in their homes.

But a week on, authorities are floundering with the nitty-gritty and still reading the law book to figure out how to get the show on the road. While some states have already booked people under the new Act, there are others turning away complainants. In fact, all the states are yet to recruit manpower to fulfil the Act's requirements.

After registering two early cases, the crime investigation department (CID) in Andhra Pradesh issued a circular to all SPs asking them not to register cases under the Act.

The reason: "All complaints under the Act can only be registered with the protection officer (PO) and the service provider. The Sections 4 and 5 of the Act say this. Who is to be the protection officer would be decided by the state government," said ADGP M Ratan.

POs and counsellors will help the victim draft a complaint or counsel the couple in cases where a patch-up is possible. Till POs are appointed, the Act is in no-man's land. "Police can take action in major domestic violence offences like harassment under Section 498 (a) of IPC. There are provisions in IPC which empower the police," an officer in Hyderabad said.

NGOs and women's rights groups have begun awareness programmes to educate women about this new empowerment tool. "Awareness isn't much, but it will happen over a period of time as more cases are filed," said Ila Pathak of Ahmedabad Women's Action Group. She, however, expressed indignation at the speed at which cops are registering cases under the Act in Gujarat. At least five battered women in Gujarat have registered complaints so far.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/312480.cms"The Act was envisaged to avoid police mediation. What the government needs to do is carry out a campaign on the lines of anti-polio drive to popularise the provisions of the Act," said V Sandhya, president, Progressive Organisation of Women (POW), Hyderabad. In Patna, where domestic violence is a grim reality in each level of society, women helplines are already in place. But cops have their reservations about the new Act.

"We have received hundreds of cases of domestic violence and subsequent desertion by husbands. While we feel there is need for a civil redressal system, the police cannot sit and counsel a couple. The new law is welcomed, but implementing it in the true spirit would remain a challenge," said a senior police officer.

Uttar Pradesh women and child development secretary Balwinder Singh gave six months before the Act's actual implementation. "Making a policy for the appointment of staff and creating infrastructure takes time. As yet modalities of the Act have not been transferred down the line. Thus the level of awareness at thana levels is virtually nil," said Singh. In Chandigarh, Vinish Singla, an advocate who has filed the first complaint under the new Act on behalf of a complainant, termed it as a "loosely drafted Act but with good intentions".

Maharashtra's first case under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was registered by the Pune rural police. Though no cases have come under its purview in Mumbai so far Veena Gowda, a lawyer with women's rights group Majlis, who often deals with victims of domestic violence, said,"The effectiveness of the Act will be in emergency situations. The onus will be on the courts then to ensure they pass immediate orders."

Orissa, where 50% of the 65,000 cognisable offences per annum, relate to violence against women, a senior official in the state women and child development department said, "We are now studying the Act, which will be followed by designating protection officers etc and other follow-up action. It will take time."