The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre to respond to a petition seeking information about designating protection officers and shelter homes under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 for victims.
The petition, filed by a non-profit “We the Women of India”, said there were several provisions in the law enacted in 2005 to protect women from violence and abuse at home but hadn’t been completely implemented by many states. For one, the petition filed advocate Shobha Gupta said, “The victims are clueless as to which authority they can approach for counselling or protection due to lack of proper enforcement and dissemination of information to the public at large”.
A bench of justices UU Lalit and S Ravindra Bhat issued notice to three departments under the Union Government, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Information, and sought their response within four weeks.
The bench said it was avoiding issuing notice to states and UTs at this stage to first get a clear picture from the Centre.
We will issue notice to the central government or else it becomes a jamboree and, on each occasion, some state will seek time and the matter will unnecessarily keep getting pushed. Let the Centre file its response. We will get a clear picture of the implementation of the law,” the judges said, posting the matter for hearing on December 6.
According to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau, over 30% of a total 4.05 lakh crimes registered for crimes against women were registered under the domestic violence law. Between March and September 2020 when a lockdown was in place due to the Covid pandemic, the NCW reported a spike in the number of domestic violence complaints, the petition stated.
Shobha said the 2005 Act was enacted to provide succour to women who face domestic violence and the victims could directly approach protection officers with their complaints. The law also provided for shelter homes for the protection of victims of such violence. “For the successful implementation of the Act, contact details of protection officers, shelter homes and service providers should be easily available and should be readily accessible for providing necessary and timely assistance to victims,” she said.
The petition said the NCW website contains a list of protection officers of 14 states but no information is provided about service providers or shelter homes. Only Delhi and Manipur have provided details under the three separate heads.
According to the petition, each district in every state and union territory should maintain a list of protection officers, service providers and shelter homes and share this information centrally on the website Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry, or the official portals of the National Commission for Women (NCW), State Commissions for Women, or at the local police stations.
But this hasn’t been done, the petition said. It also complained that states and union territories were required to publicise various provisions of the law and set up a ‘Network of Assistance’ to assist victims of domestic violence.