NATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH DESK
Rajasthan High Court, Jaipur Bench May 2011
Women have been subjected to violence, domestic or otherwise, throughout the pages of history-whether they be Helen of Troy, or Sita of Ramayana, whether they be Casandra of Troy, or Dropadi of Mahabharata. Women have been easy pray to the male ego, and dominance. Much as the Indian Civilization pays obedience to the feminine divine, but the harsh reality remains that throughout the length and breath of this country, women are assaulted, tortured, and burnt in their daily lives. The phenomenal growth of crime against women, has attracted the attention of the international community. The International organisations took a serious look at the epidemic called “domestic violence”. The Vienna Accord of 1994, and the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action (1995) felt the necessity for a proper law on this burning issue. The United Nations Committee on Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) asked the member nations to enact a proper law for dealing with the mischief of domestic violence.
In India, although the criminal law deals with domestic violence in the form of Section 498-A IPC, but there was no provision in the Civil Law to deal with the said problem. In order to get rid of the mischief of domestic violence, the Parliament, in its wisdom, enacted the Act, which came into force on 26 October, 2006. The Act is a social beneficial piece of legislation, which should be given as wide and as liberal an interpretation as possible.
Thus, Section 20 of the Act is meant to ameliorate the financial condition of the aggrieved person, who may suddenly find herself to be without a hearth and home. Financially, the aggrieved person may exist in a suspended animation, if she is neither supported by the husband, nor by her parents. In order to protect women from such a pergutory, Section 20 bestows a right to seek monetary relief in the form of compensation and maintenance. Section 20, thus, is a powerful tool for ensuring gender equality in economic terms. Section 20, does not contain any exception in favour of the husband. In fact, it recognises the moral and legal duty of the husband to maintain the wife.
In an era of human rights, of gender equality, the dignity of women is unquestionable. Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India recognise the dignity of women. The Constitution empowers the Parliament to enact laws in favour of women. Flowing from the constitutional ranges, Section 125 Code of Criminal Procedure, Section 24 Hindu Marriage Act, Section 20 Domestic Violence Act, ensure that women are paid maintenance by the husband. Section 26 of the Act further lays down that the maintenance paid under the Act, would be in addition to maintenance paid under any other law being in force for the time being. Therefore, the provisions of the Act are supplementary to provisions of other law in force, which guarantee the right of maintenance to the women. Hence, the observations made by Their Lordship of Delhi High Court, in the case of Sanjay Bhardwaj, that “No law provides that a husband has to maintain a wife, living separately from him, irrespective of the fact whether he earns or not”. Such an observation is clearly contrary to the provisions of law. Hence, this Court respectfully disagrees with the opinion of Their Lordship of the Delhi High Court.
The Law has always stood to favour of the women. For the Law recognises their vulnerability for survival in the cruel world. Women, being a keeper of hearth in home, need to be protected as they are the foundation of any society. If women are exposed to physical abuses, to sexual exploitation, the very foundation of the society would begin to weaken. It is only after recognising their importance, sociologically, that the ancient Indian Seers had opined that “Gods dwell only in those houses, where women are respected”. Thus, both the law and society recognise a moral and legal duty of the husband to maintain the wife