Observing that a criminal colour is being unwittingly given to cases under Domestic Violence (DV) Act as they are being dealt with by criminal courts, the Madras High Court has offered a set of guidelines to set right the faulty understanding that proceedings under the DV Act is a weapon of harassment against parties who are unrelated to it.
Justice N Anand Venkatesh’s made the observation after finding that between 2017 and 2020, more than 1,000 petitions seeking to quash complaints under Section 12 of the DV Act were pending at the High Court while the Magistrate should have disposed of them within 60 days from the date of the first hearing.
Pointing out that the object of the Act was to provide a remedy under the civil law which was intended to preserve the family and at the same time provide protection to domestic violence victims, the judge said the nature of rights that were protected and enforced under the DV Act was purely civil in nature. However, considering the forum which was dealing with such applications and the procedure adopted, a criminal colour has been unwittingly given to these proceedings.
“Like a chameleon changing its colour depending on the situation, the proceedings under the DV Act were also camouflaged due to the nature of the forum provided under the Act,” he said, noting that such an abuse has led to a deluge of petitions seeking to quash the proceedings under Section 12 of the Act.
Holding the Magistrate Court was invested with a great deal of flexibility under Section 28(2) of the Act to devise its own procedure for disposal of an application under Section 12 of the Act, Justice Venkatesh said: “A corrective mechanism is available in the DV Act itself for aggrieved parties to agitate their grievances and obtain redress.” The guidelines he listed out based on the twin principles of consistency and clarity stressed that an application under Section 12 of the DV Act was not a complaint under Section 2(d) of the CrPC. The Magistrate cannot, therefore, treat an application under the DV Act as though it is a complaint under the CrPC wherein an inquiry by the magistrate himself or an investigation by the police is contemplated.
Also noting that the Magistrate cannot issue a summon under Section 61 of CrPC, the guideline held that the Magistrate didn’t need to issue notices to all parties arrayed as respondents; there should be application of mind in deciding the respondents on whom notices should be issued.
This would curtail the pernicious practice of roping in all and sundry into the proceedings before the Magistrate, the guideline stressed.