The Bombay high court has issued a notice to the attorney general of India seeking the Union government’s reply on why the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, allows cases only to be filed against male members.
A division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice Anoop Mohta on Thursday was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Kusum Harsora, 53, and her mother Pushpa, 78, challenging the constitutional validity of a section of the act on the ground of being discriminatory.
The mother and daughter have taken strong exception to section 2 (q), which defines “respondent” as any adult male person who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved person and against whom the aggrieved person has sought any relief under this Act.
The duo contented that the legislation did not allow women to file complaints against other female members of the family — like daughter-in-law, sister or daughter — who too could be perpetrators of domestic violence.
“The legislation is for protection of women, and if I am a woman, why can’t it protect me?” Kusum said.
The petitioners had lodged a complaint against Kusum’s brother, sister-in-law and two sisters for subjecting the 78-year-old to mental and physical harassment. However, in February 2012, the high court discharged the three women holding that no complaint could be filed against women under the act.
“The provision ignores the fact that even female members of the family can be perpetrators of domestic violence,” the PIL said.
The petition said that the limited definition of “respondent” under the act, apart being from being arbitrary, defeated the entire purpose of the act by excluding substantial category of perpetrators of domestic violence from its ambit.