The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDVA) provides various remedies for women who are subjected to physical, emotional, sexual or economic violence. The legislation provides for support to victims of domestic violence by providing for shelter homes, medical help, legal assistance and Keerthi, who earned more than husband Sridhar, was a victim of constant abuse, both emotional and physical, by her insecure husband and his mother. Things got worse when Keerthi got a promotion.. Sridhar started landing up at her workplace and harassing her. One day, the physical abuse got so bad that fearing for her safety, Keerthi left the house with her daughter, and went to stay with a friend.. Next day, Sridhar landed up at her workplace, creating a scene. Her employer politely asked her to either resolve the issue or find another job. The child was also traumatised because Sridhar confronted her at school in front of her friends and teachers, blaming her for going away with her mother. Keerthi decided to take action.

The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDVA) provides remedies for women subjected to physical, emotional, sexual or economic violence. It organises shelter homes, as well as medical, legal and police aid. The nodal officer is the Protection Officer, the first point of contact for the victim. There is at least one Protection Officer in every district. Keerthi approached one such Protection Officer for help.

The officer prepared a Domestic Incident Report and forwarded it to the Local Magistrate with an application seeking interim relief. She also kept Keerthi and her daughter temporarily in a shelter home. At the first hearing, the Magistrate found that there was a prima facie case and granted an order that prevented Sridhar from disturbing Keerthi at her workplace and committing further acts of violence. Other relief sought by the Protection Officer included a monetary order towards the child’s education fees, compensation for the torture and distress, and an order restraining the husband from selling the couple’s house in Preethi’s absence.

Proceedings under the PWDVA are not akin to criminal proceedings. Seeking remedy under it is also unlike initiating divorce proceedings. The remedies available are civil in nature and in the form of protection orders, residence orders the right to reside in the matrimonial home), return of articles, monetary or custody orders, and compensation. In case there is a violation of a protection or other interim order, it amounts to an offence leading to imprisonment and fine.

Proceedings can be initiated against any adult male in a domestic relationship with the complainant such as husband, father-in-law, male partners; or female relatives of the husband or male partner such as father, mother, or sister. This law recognises relationships that are in the nature of marriage such as live-in relationships.

At the time of submitting an application before the magistrate, it is important to submit all prescribed forms that detail the instances of abuse and seek comprehensive remedies. The forms can be obtained from the Protection Officer.

If there is an ongoing proceeding before the magistrate or family or other courts, relief under this law can still be claimed without initiating a fresh proceeding. Importantly, the law says that the magistrate’s order should be made available immediately and free of cost to the complainant, and the entire proceeding should be completed within 60 days.