No need to seek report on domestic violence, complaint is enough: HC

Declining to dilute the "wide powers" of the Domestic Violence Act, the Delhi High Court has ruled that a magistrate can act straightaway on a complaint by a victim and does not need to first seek an inquiry report from a protection officer.

After two single-judge benches of the court differed in their views — one said a magistrate could pass orders immediately while the other said that the Act required calling for a report first — a division bench headed by Justice S Ravindra Bhat settled the law on the point, keeping with the objectives of the welfare legislation.

"A magistrate, when petitioned under Section 12 (1) of the Act is not obliged to call for and consider the Domestic Inquiry Report (DIR) before issuing notice to the respondent (husband and in-laws)... This court sees no need to do so since it would result in artificially curtailing what is otherwise a wide power," the bench said.

The court found substance in advocate Prashant Katara's argument that if the magistrates were to be constrained from issuing orders right away after prima facie appreciation of evidence, the remedy would be defeated and the victims would be subjected to further domestic violence, either in the form of deprivation of a home or subjected to physical cruelty or even deprivation of economic benefits.

Katara, who appeared for the victim in the case, also pointed to a provision that authorised a magistrate to pass ex-parte orders. He contended that had the legislative intent been to first call for a report, there could not have been a provision empowering a judge to pass an order in the absence of parties.

These arguments cut ice with the bench. "The Act being a beneficial one, the court should adopt a construction to its provisions which advances the parliamentary intention rather than confining it. If the latter course is adopted, the result would be to defeat the object of the law. As noticed earlier, domestic violence is per se not an offence but its incidence or occurrence enables a woman to approach the court for more than one relief," it noted.

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