Landmark judgement by Supreme Court impacts battered women
The judgement by Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose has reiterated that when it comes to domestic violence cases, a battered woman may approach courts at any place she has taken shelter.
In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court has held that in domestic violence cases under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, a complaint can be filed at a woman’s place of residence, even if the cause of action of the case does not arise there.
Here’s a breakdown of the significance of this judgement:
Ordinarily, for a case to be heard by a court, the cause of action needs to arise within the jurisdiction of that court. For example, if a theft occurs in Chennai, a court in Delhi cannot ordinarily adjudicate upon the issue.
When it comes to domestic violence cases, the jurisdiction where the violence took place is where the cause of action arises.
However, the judgement by Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose has reiterated that when it comes to domestic violence cases, a battered woman may approach courts at any place she has taken shelter.
This is of utmost importance to women who have been driven out of, or chose to escape from, their matrimonial home. Innumerable cases of domestic violence in India go unreported because of the logistical difficulty of a woman to file a suit and pursue a case due to geographical constraints.
The case at hand is an appeal by special leave. The Patna High Court had adjudicated that it could not entertain a complaint from the survivor of domestic violence, as the cause of action had not arisen within its jurisdiction. An appeal against this judgement was filed, and in April, a three judge bench of the Supreme Court ruled that an estranged wife may approach courts at her place of residence, meaning any place she has taken shelter. A further appeal against this position was filed before the two judge bench, resulting in the decision at hand.
The two judge bench relied exclusively on a previous case, Rupali Devi v. State of U.P., which said,
“We, therefore, hold that the courts at the place where the wife takes shelter after leaving or driven away from the matrimonial home on account of acts of cruelty committed by the husband or his relatives, would, dependent on the factual situation, also have jurisdiction to entertain a complaint alleging commission of offences under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.”
The largest point made in Rupali Devi was this - the object behind Section 498A of the IPC was to “combat the increasing cases of cruelty by the husband and the relatives of the husband on the wife, which leads to commission of suicides or grave injury to the wife”. As such, the Court had held that “the judicial endeavour” must be to further this object by reading provisions in a way that fulfils the object of the law.
Thus, as the law stands now, if a battered woman or a survivor of domestic abuse chooses a separate place of residence, then the courts there would have jurisdiction to deal with any case she chooses to bring under Section 498A of the IPC.