Tedious delay in adjudication as large number of cases are pending in courts
HYDERABAD: Reprieve from domestic violence has remained elusive for hundreds of victims in the city who, emboldened by the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, ventured to seek legal protection from the courts of law.
With tedious delays in adjudication, women find the Act a punishment rather than recourse. Though the magistrates concerned are required to endeavour to dispose of every application within a period of 60 days from the date of its first hearing, many applications lay pending for years on end.
Take the case of Vasantha Philips who is doing rounds of the Hyderabad District Collectorate where the Project Director of the Women Development and Child Welfare, also the designated Protection Officer, is stationed. Her daughter filed a case against her spouse about six months ago. What she has got so far is only an interim order asking the husband to pay a meagre Rs.1,000 per month.
“Though running a profitable business at Ranigunj, he feigned poverty to do away with maintenance. Now I will have to run from pillar to post to provide proof of his income,” laments Ms. Philips.
Since November, 2006, when the Act came into force, 848 victims approached the P.O. Final orders were issued only in 74 cases, while the number of interim orders is a mere 101. Officials informed that in 216 cases, the complainants have stopped responding, probably due to compromise or undue delay.
The unique fact about the Act is that it does maximum to reconcile the couples. “We try to speak to both the parties and sort the matter out. If the victim still wants to file the case, we ask her for a Domestic Incident Report which is then sent to respective police stations and magistrates,” says Vijaya Bhaskar, the legal counsellor at the P.O.’s office.
Delays are due to large number of cases pending in each court, he says. Interim orders are delivered so that certain relief can be given to victims in terms of maintenance, custody of children, sharing of the household, and others.
“The courts are taking very casual view of the cases of domestic violence. Not many interim orders are being served. Even serving of notices to the respondent is taking a lot of time,” says Jane Margaret, an advocate. According to K. Sivakumari from Society for Women Awareness and Rural Development, recognised as a service provider in Medak, there are cases where the notice remained undelivered for six months.
“There should be special courts and separate Protection Officers to expedite the procedure. The existing officers are already burdened with many issues and do not have time to pursue the DV cases,” she says.
Rajyalakshmi, the Protection Officer for Hyderabad concurs. “We get two DV cases per day on an average and have to devote hours to hear them. Follow up is important too. It is heavy work if done with commitment,” she says. Only recently the Collector issued orders including Revenue Divisional Officers as protection officers.