Law Against Domestic Violence

The laws against Domestic Violence are quite a few; The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (PWDVA) was brought into force by the Indian government from October 26, 2006. This Domestic Violence Act aims to provide immediate and effective protection of the rights of women guaranteed under the Constitution who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Any woman who is in a domestic relationship and has lived in a shared household (also, a live-in relationship) with the perpetrator of violence is covered under the purview of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. This includes;

  • Mothers

  • Daughters

  • Sisters

  • Wives

  • Widows

  • Daughters-in-law

  • Women who are in bigamous or fraudulent marriages

  • Women in relationships that are in the nature of marriage (live in relationships, irrespective of duration of such relationships) etc.


  • In Rajasthan, a young girl went to court against her father who was forcing her into marriage. The court restrained the marriage as it was against the wishes of the girl. The court went further and directed the father to pay a sum of Rs. 2000/ month towards her college education in accordance with her wishes.

  • In U.P., an elderly mother obtained an order restraining her son from evicting her from the shared household.

  • In Karnataka, a woman filed for a protection order against her husband who was stalking her and her parents who were forcing her back into unwanted marriages.

An aggrieved woman has several options to lodge a complaint under the Domestic Violence Act. She may do so: -

  • Directly with the Police who will forward it to the Magistrate.

  • Directly with the Magistrate as an Application for relief.

  • With the Protection Officer (PO) as a Domestic Information Report (DIR), who will forward it to the Magistrate.

  • With the Service Provider as a DIR, who will forward it to the Magistrate and PO.

Again it is important to remember that all these options are available to a woman facing violence and she can opt for any one of them. A friend or relative of an aggrieved woman can also file the compliant on her behalf. The laws against Domestic Violence in India aim to provide all the ease and support to women who would like to take a step forward against domestic violence.

A Protection Officer under the Domestic Violence Act is one who facilitates the aggrieved woman to get relief from the court, helps the woman make an application to the Magistrate, helps her in obtaining legal aid, provides her with a list of service providers, to assist the Magistrate in discharge of his functions etc.

Service providers are the NGOs registered under the Act to provide medical facility, shelter homes, etc. to the woman facing domestic violence. 

It is important for an aggrieved woman to know that she doesn’t need a Protection Officer to go to the Magistrate’s Court. She can approach the Magistrate directly. It is also important for such a woman to remember that she doesn’t have to go through an NGO to go to the Court. A complaint can be filed directly in the Court.

A Domestic Incident Report (DIR) is the official standard format in which a complaint of domestic violence can be made. The format for a Domestic Incident Report is attached to the Rules of the Act in Form I. Even if a woman does not want to apply for an order it is important that a complaint is lodged as a Domestic Incident Report so that it can be used as evidence of domestic violence when making an application asking for reliefs (for eg. ‘Stop Violence’ Orders) to the Magistrate later. 

A complaint be also be filed by a wife against the husband's female relatives, for example, mother-in-law, sister-in-law. Orders can be passed against the female relatives of the husband. However, relief of dispossession against a female relative cannot be granted according to the proviso to Section 19(1) of the Domestic Violence Act which states that no order under Section 19(1) (b) of the Act directing the respondent to remove himself from the shared household can be passed against any person who is a woman. The aggrieved woman may obtain a protection order against the female relatives of the husband or the male partner, as the case may be. Maintenance (under orders for monetary reliefs) can only be obtained by those persons falling within the ambit of Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code.    

As per the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, the relief sought by a woman from the court against domestic violence includes much needed support and compensation. The orders a court can direct  as per Indian laws against Domestic Violence are as follows:

  • Protection Order [Section 18]-  
    This can also be termed as a ‘stop violence’ order. Through this order the court can direct the other party to immediately stop the acts of violence. The following incidents can also be prevented through the ‘Protection Orders’:
    • Preventing the perpetrator from entering the woman’s place of employment and causing harassment.

    • Preventing any communication with the woman from the perpetrator.

    • Preventing any violence being caused to a person related to the woman.

    • Preventing any financial action from being taken by the perpetrator to the woman’s detriment.
  • Residence Order [Section 19]-         
    A residence order may be passed by the court in cases where the woman apprehends being thrown out of the house (shared household) or in cases where she has been thrown out and wants to return to her house. The aim of this order is to ensure that women have a shelter that is safe. In cases where a woman does not feel safe living with the male perpetrator of violence, she can apply for an order seeking his removal from the shared household. Or else the court can direct the perpetrator to provide alternate accommodation for the woman. No orders for removal from a shared household can be obtained against female relatives under the PWDVA.
  • Monetary relief [Section 20]  
    This order can be sought to meet any expenses the woman may have incurred as a result of the violence faced. This may include payment of medical bills, any loss of belongings, etc. Married women or women living in the nature of marriages can also claim maintenance from the husband/ male partner. The amount claimed under this provision is to take care of actual expenditure incurred by the woman.
  • Compensation order [Section 22]       
    A compensation order can be asked for by the woman for injuries (mental and physical) sustained. This is over and above the actual expenditure that can be obtained by a monetary order explained as above.
  • Custody order [Section 21]      
    A woman can also ask for temporary custody orders for her children. This is to prevent the woman from being separated from her children, which itself is a form of emotional abuse and blackmail. This order is temporary in nature and does not affect rights under existing laws on custody and guardianship.
  • Interim / Ex parte order [Section 23] -     
    An interim order can be given by the court at the time the proceedings are initiated under the PWDV Act, 2005 and before a final order is passed. This is to ensure that women are not detrimentally affected during the course of the legal proceedings. In order to get interim orders, a woman has to show that she has or she is facing violence, or fears violence.       

    An ex parte order means an order that is passed in the absence of the other party to the dispute. Such orders are interim in nature and passed only if there is an immediate danger to the person making the application or when the other party refuses to appear in court despite prior intimation given by the court.          

    E.g. Sunita has filed an application in court for a ‘stop violence’ order against her brother, Sunil who has been beating her regularly. The threat to her life and safety is so severe that she needs an immediate order. The court can then pass an ex parte ‘stop violence’ order against him even without hearing him. The order will be served on him along with the application. He will of course have the right to be then heard and ask for the order to be vacated (i.e. direction by the court to bring the order to an end).

The only provision for arrest under the Domestic Violence Act is where the other party has violated the court order, and the violator is then and only then arrested.

There are various options available to a woman who wants to obtain relief from domestic violence in India, without exercising legal option or after waiting for some more time before she exercises her legal option. There are various voluntary organizations in the country providing support to women against domestic violence in India;

  • Statutory bodies and institutions
    • National Commission for Women (NCW): It is an autonomous body set up by Parliament through law (National Commission for Women Act, 1990). An aggrieved woman can make an application seeking the assistance of the National Commission for Women. The application need not be technical or complicated and there is no specific format for it. If the Commission is of the opinion that the woman has a genuine case, the abuser can be summoned to investigate the matter. The National Commission for Women has the powers of a Civil Court in summoning witnesses and enforcing production of documents. So, if a woman doesn’t want to involve the police but wishes that her case is investigated, she may approach the National Commission for Women.

    • State Women’s Commission: Like the Nation Commission for Women, the State Women’s Commissions perform similar functions. Most State Commissions have constituted ‘complaints cells’ to deal with complaints of the nature of domestic violence or otherwise.

    • National Human Rights Commissions (NHRC): It has been constituted under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. Domestic Violence is a human rights violation and falls under the purview of this Commission, among its other functions.

    • Crime against Women Cells: Certain states, including Delhi have set up separate police stations called Crimes Against Women (CAW) Cells. These cells take up all types of cases relating to crimes against women, including domestic violence. They are operated with assistance of women police officials and professional counsellors. The cells usually try to bring about conciliation or an amicable settlement before proceeding with a criminal case.

    • Special Cells for Women and Children: In cities like Mumbai, Special Cells for Women and Children have been established by the local police and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS)to provide a range of services to the women and their families, emotional support, counselling, and crisis intervention including interaction with the police.

  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs): NGOs help aggrieved women to get shelter, medical assistance, legal aid, conciliation, counselling, financial or entrepreneurial assistance, skill training, retrieving one’s property, after leaving the house occupied by the abuse.
  • Short Stay Homes: are run by the State as well as voluntary organizations. These homes provide shelter and food to a woman and her minor children. Some homes permit women to stay there until they find job for themselves and are able to provide food and shelter for themselves. They provide vocational training if it is desired