Alleging that the Domestic Violence Act was not being implemented, a PIL has urged the Bombay High Court to direct the Maharashtra government to immediately appoint full-time officers to protect victims of domestic violence.
Appointment of such full time ‘protection officers’ is mandatory under the Domestic Violence Act which came into being in 2005 but the state had not taken any steps to implement this provision, the PIL argued.
A bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar last week asked the Secretary of Women and Child Welfare Department to personally file an affidavit by March 14 explaining the stand of the government on the issue.
Such ‘protection officers’ are expected to help women subjected to domestic violence, bring about settlement between victims and family members, assist courts to hold trial, help in giving shelter to victims if necessary and also to help in securing custody of children to mothers in such cases.
The PIL, filed by Rajendra Andhule, social worker from Pune, argued that there should be at least one officer in each police station area and at least one in every JMFC court. The state, however, has not yet appointed such officers. Even the High Court, while hearing a petition in 2008-2009, had ordered the state to appoint such officers but no steps had been taken in this regard, the PIL said.
The PIL alleged that instead of appointing full time ‘protection officers’ the state had delegated this task to revenue officers.
This was unfair because the very purpose of the Domestic Violence Act was defeated. Revenue officers are already overburdened with their own work and to impose further responsibility of conducting themselves as ‘protection officers’ was not proper on the part of the state, the PILcontended.
Women who fall prey to domestic violence should get immediate help of ‘protection’ officers, the PIL further argued. It also alleged that the state had not made any budgetary provision for appointment of such officers. Even afterdelegating this task to revenue officers, no training had been given to them on how to conduct in such cases, it said.
The petition further said such ‘protection officers’should not only be available full time to help victims of domestic violence but also should be qualified — either a law degree holder or Masters in Social Service. The next hearing has been fixed for March 14.