Domestic violence is the kind of violence or abuse which occurs in a domestic setting which normally includes marriage or cohabitation. Domestic violence can also involve violence against children, parents, or the elderly. It can take a number of forms, that are, physical, mental, verbal, emotional, religious, reproductive, economic and sexual which could range from being subtle to coercive in nature and could involve beating, choking, marital rape, physical abuse, acid throwing, female genital mutilation, often resulting in death. Death is usually in the form of dowry deaths, honour killing, bride burning etc., all of which are very common in India.
Throughout the world, it is normally women who are victims of domestic violence and experience severe forms of it. Sadly, in most of the countries such an abuse has been normalised and accepted. In light of the need to tackle the issue of domestic violence, the Government of India enacted Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act, 2005. This legislation lays down the acts which amount to domestic violence as well as the legal procedure to deal with it. While it recognises Domestic Violence in India in its widest sense, it is intended to cover only a particular type of violence, that is, in a domestic setting.
This was reiterated in the criminal revision petition of N.S Leelavathi and ors v. Dr. R Shilpa Brunda. Section 2(f) of the said Act states that “domestic relationship” means a relationship between two persons who live or have, at any point of time, lived together in a shared household, when they are related by consanguinity, marriage, or through a relationship in the nature of marriage, adoption or are family members living together as a joint family.
In this case, the respondent got married in 2002 and then later on got divorced and married for the second time. The petitioners claim that the respondent then demanded for property under this Act and started quarrels when the petitioners refused the same. Both the parties filed domestic complaints against each other. While the petitioners contented that the complaint is not maintainable as the petitioners and respondent are not in a domestic relationship and such a relationship was terminated as soon as the respondent got divorced from one of the petitioners, the original complainant/respondent stressed on the point that limited interpretation cannot be made irrespective of the title of the respondent, a protection order can be made under Section 19(1)(a) of the DV Act, which is a ground for residence order. The Court in this case held that,
“Domestic relationship arises in respect of an aggrieved person, if the aggrieved person has lived together with the petitioners in a shared household, but this living together can be either soon before filing of petition or at any point of time. The problem arises with the meaning of the phrase ‘at any point of time’. That does not mean that living together at any stage in the past would give right to a person to become aggrieved person to claim domestic relationship. At any point of time, indicates that the aggrieved person has been continuously living in the shared household as a matter of right, but if for some reason if the aggrieved person has to leave the house temporarily and when she returns she is nit allowed to enjoy her right to live in the property. Where a family member leaves the shared household to establish his or her own household, he or she cannot claim to have a right to move an application under Section 12 of the DV Act on the basis of domestic relationship.”
Hence, we can see that the application of this Act is restrictive as far as type of abuse, where it is committed and the existing relationship between the parties is concerned. Accordingly, the Karnataka High Court has passed an order in the present case.
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Link to judgment: Smt. N.S. Leelavathi and Anr. v. Smt. Dr. R. Shilpa Brunda