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Female members of the family are also “Respondent” under DV Act, 2005

The latest judicial pronouncement of Afzalunnisa Begum & Ors Vs. The State of A.P. & ors Criminal Petition No. 7160 and 8495 of 2008 pronounced on 02/06/2009 laid down that “the 'respondent' as defined under Section 2(q) of the Act includes a female relative of the husband”. The verdict was given amidst controversy arising out of the interpretation of definition clause Section 2(q) of DV Act defining the term “Respondent” against which proceedings under the DV Act can be made. The Section 2(q) of DV Act defines “Respondent” as any adult male person who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved person and against whom the aggrieved person has sought any relief under this Act: Provided that an aggrieved wife or female living in a relationship in the nature of a marriage may also file a complaint against a relative of the husband or the male partner.

The inherent ambiguity in the aforesaid definition clause, is very much apparent from the reading of the main enacting part in which it defines respondent as any adult male person in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved person, at the same time the proviso of the same definition clause says that an aggrieved wife or female living in a relationship in the nature of a marriage may also file a complaint against a relative of the husband (read without any gender bias) or the male partner. A controversy that arose from the aforesaid ambiguity is whether 'respondent' as defined under Section 2(q) includes a female person or not under the scheme of DV Act, 2005. The High Courts have different views, while MP High Court & Madras High Court opined that female members cannot be made as respondents in the proceedings under the DV Act. However, the Rajasthan High Court in the case of Sarita vs. Smt. Umrao, cited as 2008 (1) WLN 359 and in another case of Nand Kishore and Ors. Vs State of Rajasthan and Anr. cited as RLW2008 ( 4 )  Raj 3432 held that female relative is not excluded from the definition of respondent contained in Section 2(q) of the Act.

However, the latest judgment of the Andhra Pradesh High Court stated supra is a detailed speaking judicial pronouncement in which the Hon’ble High Court after making detailed analysis of Section 2 (q) read with various provisions of DV Act, 2005 particularly Section 19, 21 together with Statement of Objects and Reasons under Bill No. 116 of 2005 for passing the DV Act has in clear term laid down that “the 'respondent' as defined under Section 2(q) of the Act includes a female relative of the husband”. The judicial pronouncement of the Hon’ble Andhra High Court makes sense as it has applied the sound principles of interpretation of statutes. However, there is no final word from the Hon’ble Apex Court with respect to the correct interpretation and scope of the definition of Section 2 (k) defining the term “Respondent”, and it would be interesting to view the stand of the Hon’ble Apex Court when this vexed question of law comes before it. Continue reading detailed article ………

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