Domestic Violence Act: Women can now be prosecuted

A woman can be prosecuted under the Domestic Violence Act as failure to bring charges against women involved could encourage the men to instigate the female members of a family to commit violence, the Delhi High Court has ruled.

"It is common knowledge that in case a wife is harassed by the husband, other family members may also join him in treating the wife cruelly and such family members would invariably include female relatives as well.

"If restricted interpretation is given...the very purpose for which this Act is enacted would be defeated. It would be very easy for the husband or other male members to frustrate the remedy by ensuring that the violence on the wife is perpetrated by female members," a Bench comprising justices A K Sikri and Ajit Bharioke said.

Interpreting the provisions the Act, the court said that 'relatives' included not only male but also female members of a family.

"Various provisions in the DV Act, provide for clinching circumstances indicating that female relative was clearly in the mind of the legislature when it comes to filing of the complaint/application by a wife or a female living in a relationship in the nature of marriage," the Bench said.

The judgement was passed on the plea of a woman challenging order of a trial court initiating proceedings against her in a case of alleged domestic violence.

Turning down the plea of accused that female members of a family cannot be charged under the Act, the bench said though the provisions are not clearly drafted it did not stop the court from arriving at interpretation.

"No doubt, the provision is not very satisfactorily worded and there appears to be some ambiguity in the definition of 'respondent' as contained in the Act.

"But then, courts are not supposed to throw their hands up in the air expressing their helplessness. We, thus, hold that the expression 'a relative' in the Act includes female relative as well," the Bench said.

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