Protection file

Courts can hear petitions filed under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act even beyond the statute of limitations: Supreme Court

LAW COURTS can receive applications made under section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 [DV Act] even if it exceeds the limitation period provided for in article 468 of the code of criminal procedure [CrPC]ruled the Supreme Court in its judgment in Kamatchi vs. Lakshmi Narayanan April 13.

Section 12 of the Act empowers an aggrieved woman to file an application with the magistrate for various remedies under the DV Act, such as orders ordering protection of the plaintiff, restraint or payment of compensation, against alleged acts of domestic violence committed by her husband or in-laws.

Section 468 of the CrPC provides the statute of limitations for knowledge of various offenses depending on the nature and specifies one year for domestic violence offences.

Reiterating the principle mentioned by a constitutional panel of five judges of the Supreme Court in Sarah Mathew vs. Institute of Cardiovascular and Other Diseases. (2013)a panel of judges UU Lalit and PS Narasimha observed that the courts would be entitled to hear a claim or initiate proceedings even after the expiry of the prescribed statute of limitations.

“It is … clear that although section 468 of the Code requires that ‘knowledge’ must be taken within the specified time from the commission of the offence, invoking the principles of purposive interpretation, this Court ruled that a plaintiff should not be prejudiced, if for reasons beyond the control of the Crown or the plaintiff, the knowledge took place after the statute of limitations. Constitutional law that if the filing of the complaint or the opening of the proceedings took place within the prescribed time limit from the date of commission of an offence, the Court would be entitled to take cognizance of it even after the expiry of the prescribed time limit.

The court mainly dealt with the question whether a claim made under Section 12 of the Act was properly considered by the Madras High Court for the calculation of the statute of limitations.

In the present case, the wife, the appellant, had filed an application under section 12 of the DV Act in 2018, eleven years after her marriage. The petition requested appropriate action against the husband and his in-laws under Sections 17 and 18 of the DV Act. The husband and in-laws subsequently brought proceedings before the High Court under Section 482 of the CrPC seeking the quashing of the claims and related proceedings. The High Court allowed the plea, quashed the charges and dismissed the wife’s claim, holding that the claim should have been filed within a year of the incident. This order was challenged in the Supreme Court.

On behalf of the appellant, it was argued that under section 31 of the Act, any breach of an order made among others under Section 12 of the DV Act is liable to imprisonment for up to one year, or a fine, or both. Thus, the offense under Section 31 of the Act will only be deemed to have been committed following the breach of an order made under Section 12 of the Act. Moreover, there is no limitation under the Code or the provisions of the DV Act for the filing of such claims and therefore the High Court was not correct in observing that the procedure was statute-barred. .

Refuting these claims, the respondent maintains that for almost ten years nothing has been reproached against the respondent or her father-in-law or sister-in-law by the appellant.

The parties had been living apart for several years, and the request was nothing more than a desperate attempt to file something against the respondent in court and was clearly an abuse of legal process, it was argued.

What the court found

After considering the competing arguments, the court went against the High Court’s approach by holding that a claim filed under section 12 of the DV Act cannot be treated as a claim relating to an offense “.

The starting point of statute of limitations for an offense under the DV Act would only arise after a violation of an order made under section 12 of the act, the bench explained.

The provisions of the law provide for the filing of a request under Article 12 to initiate proceedings before the magistrate concerned. After having heard both parties and after taking into account the elements of the case, the magistrate can issue an appropriate order under article 12 of the law. It is only the breach of such an order that constitutes an offence, as section 31 of the Act makes clear. Thus, if there is an offense committed under the provisions of the Act, the prescription provided for in section 468 of the Code will apply from the date of commission of this offence. At the time a claim is privileged under section 12 of the Act, no offense has been committed under the provisions of the Act and, as such, there would never be a starting point for prescription from the date of the application under section 12 of the Act. . Such a starting point for limitation would only arise after a violation of an order made under section 12 of the Act. »

The scope of the notice under section 12 of the act is to call for a response from the respondent in terms of status so that after considering the rival submissions the appropriate order can be made, said the Supreme Court.

Based on these submissions, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal and reversed the High Court’s decision.

“It is therefore clear that the High Court wrongly equated the filing of an application under section 12 of the Act with the filing of a complaint or the commencement of proceedings. In our view, the High Court erred in observing that the application under section 12 of the Act should have been filed within one year of the alleged acts of domestic violence. »

The court ordered the husband to file his response with the magistrate within two weeks and asked the magistrate to review the case in accordance with the provisions of the law.

In concluding the judgment, the court clarified that it had not ruled on the merits of the case before it.

Click here to view the Supreme Court judgment.