In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court has widened the scope of the Domestic Violence Act by ordering deletion of the words "adult male" from it, paving the way for prosecution of women and even non-adults for subjecting a woman relative to violence and harassment.
The apex court has ordered striking down of the two words from section 2(q) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, which deals with respondents who can be sued and prosecuted under the Act for harassing a married woman in her matrimonial home.
Referring to earlier verdicts, the apex court said "the microscopic difference between male and female, adult and non adult, regard being had to the object sought to be achieved by the 2005 Act, is neither real or substantial, nor does it have any rational relation to the object of the legislation."
Section 2(q) of the Act reads: "respondent means 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 DV Act."
A bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and R F Nariman paved way for prosecution of any person irrespective of gender or age under the DV Act, ordered deletion of the words "adult male" from the statute book saying it violated right to equality under the Constitution.
The domestic violence act, that came into force in 2005, could earlier only be invoked by a daughter-in-law against her husband and his women relatives as the accused under the law could only be adult males. The law did not extend to a women if a daughter-in-law harassed her.
The bench said that the words "adult male person" were contrary to the object of affording protection to women who have suffered from domestic violence "of any kind".
"We, therefore, strike down the words adult male before the word person in Section 2(q), as these words discriminate between persons similarly situated, and far from being in tune with, are contrary to the object sought to be achieved by the 2005 Act," it said.
The major verdict came on an appeal against the Bombay High Court judgement, which had resorted to the literal construction of the term adult male and discharged four persons, including two girls, a woman and a minor boy, of a family from a domestic violence case on the ground that they were not "adult male" and hence cannot be prosecuted under the DV Act.
(Feature image source: PTI)