The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to convene a meeting of the principal secretaries of all states to look into the issues pertaining to the implementation of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, observing that more than 4.71 lakh cases of domestic violence were pending in the country as on July 2022.
Referring to the appointment of protection officers under the Act, the apex court observed that the overall picture presented before it is “dismal”.
A bench of Justices SR Bhat and Dipankar Datta said having one such officer for one district would be grossly inadequate as each one of them would be handling nearly 500-600 cases.
“In these circumstances, it would be necessary that the Union of India takes an intensive look into this aspect,” the bench observed on Friday while hearing a plea seeking adequate infrastructure across the country for providing effective legal aid to women abused in matrimonial homes and creating shelter homes for them.
The apex court directed the secretary of the Ministry of Women and Child Development to convene a meeting of the principal secretaries of all states and Union territories to deal with the issue.
It said the meeting should also be attended by the secretaries of the ministries of finance, home and social justice and the nominees of the chairpersons of the National Commission for Women and National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).
It said the first meeting should preferably be called within three weeks.
The bench also directed that a status report regarding the implementation of “Mission Shakti”, an integrated women empowerment programme, be also placed on record.
It said specific information on various aspects, including on the number of one-stop centres proposed in each district, be also placed before it.
The top court said the Centre shall provide material indicating how “Mission Shakti” would act as an umbrella scheme for the implementation of the Act.
The bench observed that in pursuance of an earlier apex court order, a study was conducted by the NALSA, which indicated that more than 4.71 lakh cases lodged under the Act were pending in the country as on July 1, 2022.
It has posted the matter for further hearing after eight weeks.
The apex court had, in April last year, directed the NALSA to apprise it of the number of cases initiated and pending under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
It had said in order to elicit details in this regard, the NALSA might send an appropriate questionnaire to the state legal services authorities.
The top court had, in February last year, asked the Centre to file an affidavit giving details such as the nature of the central programmes and plans outlining assistance to support the efforts taken by various states under the law, including the extent of funding, the conditions of governing financial support and the control mechanisms in place.
In its February 2022 order, the apex court had said the Centre should file an affidavit giving details or particulars, including the collection of the relevant state-wise data of litigation under the Act concerning the complaints made, number of courts and the relative number of protection officers.
It had also asked the Centre to give details about the desirable cadre structure and career progression for the protection officers.
The top court is seized of a plea filed by an organisation, “We The Women of India”, seeking adequate infrastructure under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act across the country for providing effective legal aid to women abused in matrimonial homes and creating shelter homes for them after lodging complaints against husbands and in-laws.
The plea has said domestic violence continues to be the most common crime against women in India, despite the law coming into force more than 15 years ago.
“As per the National Crime Records Bureau report for the year 2019, out of 4.05 lakh reported cases categorised under ‘crimes against women’, over 30 per cent were domestic violence cases,” the plea says.
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