Addressing Domestic Violence : Maharashtra Proposed Bill and Recent Legal Developments

Domestic violence is a distressing form of power and control that affects millions of people worldwide, regardless of age, gender, or socio-economic status. It involves abusive behavior used by one partner to control the other in an intimate relationship and can take various forms, such as physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, and financial abuse. The causes of domestic violence are complex and influenced by societal norms, cultural beliefs, and systemic inequalities. Its impact is significant, leaving survivors traumatized, isolated, and often unable to seek help.

As we address the issues surrounding domestic violence and its harmful effects, it is crucial to recognize the pressing need for everyone to work together and bring about positive change in society. By increasing awareness, promoting education, and supporting policies that prioritize the safety and well-being of survivors, we can move closer to a future where domestic violence no longer exists. In this future, all individuals will have the ability to live with dignity, respect, and equality.

Understanding Domestic violence

The term ‘domestic violence’ (DV) is used in many countries to refer to intimate partner violence (IPV), but it also encompasses child or elder abuse, or abuse by any member of a household.

Domestic violence is alsoknow as  a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, psychological, or technological actions or threats of actions or other patterns of coercive behavior that influence another person within an intimate partner relationship. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, sex, or gender identity. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. Domestic violence occurs in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships and can happen to intimate partners who are married, living together, dating, or share a child.

Domestic violence not only affects those who are abused, but also has a substantial effect on family members, friends, co-workers, other witnesses, and the community at large. Children, who grow up witnessing domestic violence, are among those seriously affected by this crime. Frequent exposure to violence in the home not only predisposes children to numerous social and physical problems, but also teaches them that violence is a normal way of life – therefore, increasing their risk of becoming society’s next generation of victims and abusers.

– Domestic Violence may include acts of :

  • Physical violence, such as slapping, hitting, kicking and beating.
  • Sexual violence, including forced sexual intercourse and other forms of sexual coercion;
  • Emotional (psychological) abuse, such as insults, belittling, constant humiliation, intimidation (e.g. destroying things), threats of harm, threats to take away children.
  • Controlling behaviors, including isolating a person from family and friends; monitoring their movements; and restricting access to financial resources, employment, education or medical care.

Recent Developments: Maharashtra Domestic Violence bill 

The Bombay High Court has directed the Under Secretary of Women and Child Development, Government of Maharashtra, to file an affidavit outlining the steps planned for proposing a bill to render Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) compoundable.

 Section 498-A IPC?

Section 498A of the IPC addresses cases of matrimonial cruelty, prescribing imprisonment and fines for those subjecting a woman to cruelty, whether as her husband or a relative of her husband.

Compoundable Offences? 

Compoundable offences permit the withdrawal of charges by the complainant through a settlement or compromise with the accused.

Bombay High Court’s Initiative:

Concerned by the Extreme number of non-compoundable domestic violence cases overloading the courts, the Bombay High Court proposed to make Section 498A a compoundable offence. The initiative aimed to alleviate the hardships faced by parties involved and save court time.

Central Government’s Response:

In October 2023, the Central Government opposed the Bombay High Court’s proposal, citing concerns about its impact on women’s interests. However, legal constraints prevented the court from directing the government to legislate.

Maharashtra’ Government efforts: 

Despite the Maharashtra government’s submission of a proposed bill, procedural issues hindered its progress. Additional Solicitor General Devang Vyas emphasized the need for supplementary data from the state government to reconsider the bill’s submission.

Next Steps :

In response to the court’s directives, the Maharashtra government is tasked with revising the bill, addressing discrepancies highlighted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, and providing additional data.

Andhra Pradesh’s Precedent:

In 2003, Andhra Pradesh set a precedent by making Section 498A compoundable, potentially serving as a model for future legislative endeavors. Vgu

Landmark Cases

Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India & Ors. (2005)

– In this case, the Supreme Court of India addressed the misuse of Section 498A, which deals with cruelty towards a married woman by her husband or his relatives. 

-The court observed that the provision, which allowed for immediate arrest without investigation, was being misused as a weapon for harassment.The court emphasized that while protecting women from domestic violence was essential, it should not lead to the harassment of innocent individuals. It noted that many cases filed under Section 498A were false , causing undue hardship to the accused.

-The judgment highlighted the need to balance the protection of women with the prevention of misuse of legal provisions. The court recommended that the offence under Section 498A be made compoundable, allowing parties to settle disputes Harmoniously and avoid unnecessary legal proceedings

Brij Lal v. Prem Chand (2009)

-In this case, heard by the Allahabad High Court, the issue of compounding the offence under Section 498A was deliberated upon. The court recognized that matrimonial disputes often involve emotions and family ties, and allowing parties to compromise and settle their differences would be in the interest of justice.

-The court held that the offence under Section 498A could be compounded if the parties involved reached a settlement and agreed to withdraw the case. This decision provided a legal mechanism for resolving matrimonial disputes without extended  legal proceedings and allowed parties to move forward with their lives.

-By making Section 498A compoundable, the court aimed to promote reconciliation and harmony within families while discouraging the misuse of legal provisions for personal  harassment.

In Conclusion ,The proposed Maharashtra Domestic Violence bill represents a significant step towards addressing the domestic violence in the state. By rendering Section 498-A compoundable, the bill aims to simplify legal processes, promote reconciliation, and enhance access to justice for survivors.However, challenges remain in ensuring effective implementation, addressing systemic barriers, and promoting a culture of accountability and prevention. 

Moving forward,  efforts from policymakers, civil society organizations, and the public are essential to realize the vision of a society free from domestic violence, where all individuals can live with dignity, respect, and equality.

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