Delhi women appear to be increasingly resorting to legal action against domestic violence with over 25 cases being filed in district courts every day.
According to court officials, there has been a steep increase in the number of such cases every year – be it wife-beating or abuse of the girl child – since the introduction in 2006 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act that was hailed as pathbreaking.
On an average, around 840 cases a month have been filed this year in all the district courts, as compared to the figure of 535 cases in 2009, according to court employees.
The five district courts in the city — Tis Hazari, Patiala House, Dwarka, Karkardooma and Rohini — house 12 family courts which handle such cases.
Court statistics show that the highest number of domestic violence cases are filed in the Tis Hazari court complex. The average per month in three of its courts ranges between 100 and 150.
‘There has been an increase of 10-20 percent cases since last year,’ a court official told IANS about cases in Tis Hazari’s family courts.
An average of 120 fresh cases are filed per month in the Patiala House courts while around 100 cases per month were filed last year.
‘The reason for more cases here is that it’s a residential area and as compared to other areas there are more educated people here,’ advocate Pradeep Niwani, who fights cases pertaining to family courts.
The Dwarka court under Metropolitan Magistrate Rekha which has the southwest area has also seen an escalated number of such cases. ‘On an average, 10-15 cases used to be filed per month last year, but now we get at least 60 fresh cases every month,’ as told by a court official.While in most of the courts the numbers are spiralling, a few remain low.
In Metropolitan Magistrate Geetanjali Goel’s court in Patiala House which looks after the New Delhi District area, the cases under the domestic violence act filed per month comes to two or three.
‘Her jurisdiction has areas like Parliament street, Tilak Marg, Connaught Place, Barakhamba and Mandir Marg. We don’t get many such cases from here partly because this area is more commercial,’ said the official who did not wish to be named.
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was aimed at giving protection and compensation for all kinds of abuse at home, including physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and economic. Apart from wives and live-in partners, it extends its protection to sisters, widows or mothers.
Sections 18-23 of the Act provide a large number of avenues for an abused woman to get relief. She can get, through the courts, protection orders, residence orders, monetary relief, order for custody of her children, compensation order and interim orders.
Since its introduction in 2006, a rise in the number of such cases filed shows increased awareness about this law across all sections.
‘The awareness is not just among women. Police and NGOs are also helping in spreading information about this law,’ said Tenzing Choesang, a member of the women’s rights initiative of Lawyers Collective.
‘Not only the educated but also the illiterate are taking recourse to it with the help of NGOs and police,’ he added.
Seema Chandra (name changed), 40, a working professional and a mother of two, has been mentally harassed and beaten up by her husband. She filed a domestic violence case against her husband after her children forced her into it.
‘It was going on for a long time but I told my children recently about it. Things got out of hand when the occasional beatings suddenly became regular,’ said Chandra.
Razia Fatima (name changed), 25, is an educated housewife who got married a year ago. She was not allowed to continue with her job.
‘My husband accused me of having an affair. The verbal anger turned into beatings,’ said Fatima, who filed a case two months ago.
According to Choesang, 3,534 cases were filed in the Delhi district courts from October 2006-August 2008.
‘These are the statistics provided to us from the women and child welfare department. These numbers do not include the cases filed directly at the court. The numbers may even be higher,’ he added.