Under Section 2(Q) of the Domestic Violence Law 2005, a complaint can be filed only against an adult man. The Supreme Court recently has expanded the list of harassers of women to include anyone at all including women.
This has produced an unwarranted negative reaction, bordering on feminists and their supporters panicking, with some of them going to the bizarre extent of saying that the Supreme Court has damaged the basic feature of the law by transforming it from protection to women to protection of men as well.
The apex court has done no such thing. In the event, the apprehensions are grossly exaggerated and borne of ignorance of the law.
The domestic violence law was conceived and framed to protect women from harassment and persecution including physical, financial and mental torture. But the Parliament or the draftsman, or both, committed a cardinal mistake while making the law.
They believed that the perpetrators of these unpardonable sins on women were always domineering or scheming men. It should have occurred to them, at least from mountains of anecdotal evidence as well as real life stories, that often the patriarch of the family, i.e, the villainous and rapacious father-in-law doesn’t act on his own. The domineering mother-in-law might well have taken the lead or might have joined her husband with gusto in this vile act. After all, the daughter-in-law-mother-in-law animus is not a stuff of fiction or overwrought minds.
The apprehension that the domestic violence law could be hijacked by men in the wake of this judgment is simply unfounded, in fact borders on the hysterical. Has the Supreme Court anywhere said that harassed men could also seek redress under this law? No, even though a significant section of public opinion — mainly comprising men at the receiving end of trumped up charges of harassment of their spouses---strongly feels that domestic violence in no longer a one way street.
It is true that one instinctively links victims of domestic violence with women, but the country is aware of instances of men being browbeaten and hauled over coals by vengeful wives and their parents. Be that as it may because as said earlier the question of men getting redress under the domestic violence law does not arise as the law stands today i.e. even after the Supreme Court verdict.
The Supreme Court verdict must be hailed as refreshingly pragmatic.
Leaving women from the list of potential harassers of women was a serious omission by Parliament. Parliament is guilty of not waking up and owning up its humongous mistake in the eleven years after its enactment. In the event, an indirect censure from the apex court was always on cards.
But the Supreme Court has wisely refrained from reprimanding the Parliament. The critics of the SC verdict instead of pouncing on the gaffe by Parliament have strangely pounced on the highest judicial body entrusted with interpreting law and reading it down or expanding its scope whenever warranted. This is not a case of judicial activism but pragmatism and display of judicial boldness.