CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Monday observed that a criminal colour is being unwittingly given to cases booked under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, because the petitions are dealt with by criminal courts, even though the nature of rights protected under the Act are purely civil in nature. The court observed that applications for interim relief under the Domestic Violence Act are not criminal complaints, and directed respective Magistrates to dispose of such applications within 60 days.
The issue pertains to a batch of pleas pending at the Madras High Court for several years, seeking an interim stay to the criminal proceedings initiated against them for cases filed under the said Act. The court found out that around 1,000 such cases were pending, in which a majority of them have come to a grinding halt, without any progress for over three years.
Justice Anand Venkatesh, in his order, observed: “... faulty understanding of the nature of the proceedings has given rise to a tendency to misuse these proceedings as a ‘weapon of harassment’ against parties who are unrelated to the proceedings, by making them stand before a Magistrate like accused persons. It is on account of this abuse that a deluge of petitions came to be filed for quashing the proceedings under Section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act.”
The court also cited various High Court and Supreme Court judgments, and said, “A Magistrate cannot, therefore, treat an application under the Act, though it is a complaint case under the CrPC.” The court stressed on the point that it was not mandatory for the Magistrate to issue notices to all parties arrayed as respondents, in an application under Section 12 of the Act. In cases involving relatives and other third parties to the matrimonial relationship, the court said that the Magistrate must set out reasons that have impelled them to issue notice to such parties.
Batting for the victims
This comes almost a year after the HC had ordered that magistrates need not insist on Domestic Incidence Report, and delay taking cognisance of victims’ applications