Supreme Court intrigued by the lack of ‘protection officers’ for domestic violence cases

A government document in the top court shows that 4.4 lakh cases of domestic assault are pending across a sample 801 districts.

Updated - February 27, 2023 12:34 am IST

Published - February 26, 2023 09:38 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view of Supreme Court of Inida, in New Delhi. File

A view of Supreme Court of Inida, in New Delhi. File | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Supreme Court has sought more information from the government about Mission Shakti, an umbrella scheme for the safety, security, and empowerment of women, intrigued by a possible chronic shortage in protection officers to deal with domestic violence cases.

A government document in the top court shows that 4.4 lakh cases of domestic assault are pending across a sample 801 districts.

Though most of these districts have ‘one-stop centres’, established under Mission Shakti, to receive victims, there is still a lack of clarity about how many of them actually employ protection officers to effectively help the traumatised survivors.

Appointment of protection officers is mandated under Section 8 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Pivotal role

Protection officers, who should ideally be women, have a pivotal role under the law. They help victims file complaints, give Information to the police, provide immediate protection and support, inform victims about their legal rights and support them through the court proceedings.

“Protection officers — like the Magistrates — who are tasked to the implementation of the enactment, have been conceived as the backbone to effectuate the law, enacted with laudable objectives, by Parliament,” the Supreme Court has said.

Taking on record the government’s figures, a Bench of Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Dipankar Datta recently calculated that with 4.4 lakh cases pending in 801 districts, a protection officer in each of these districts would be saddled with more than 500 cases. There is an urgent necessity to have more protection officers or the anti-domestic violence law would be reduced to a dead letter, the court indicated.

The court has asked the Secretary Women and Child Development Ministry to meet with the principal secretaries of all the States. Representatives from the Finance Ministry, National Commission for Women, National Human Rights Commission, Social Justice Ministry and the National Legal Services Authority should attend. The first meeting should be held in three weeks.

The court has asked the government to place on record the current status of Mission Shakti, specific information regarding the number of one-stop centres established under the programme in each district, their staffing pattern and data on distress calls.

The Bench also directed the Centre to disclose details of any common portal or scheme, if any proposed, to be set up concerning domestic violence cases.

The government has also been asked to provide material to indicate how Mission Shakti would act as an umbrella scheme for implementation of the Domestic Violence Act, especially with respect to the statutory officers and remedies provided in the Act.

The court ordered the government to file its action taken report in six weeks.

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