KARACHI: The Sindh High Court has directed the chief secretary to notify within a month a commission and protection committees to deal with cases of domestic violence as required under a provincial law passed nearly six years ago.
According to Section 4 of the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2013, the Sindh government shall constitute a commission to review from time to time the existing provisions of the law on domestic violence and suggest amendments therein, if any.
The commission, to be headed by a chairperson, shall also call for specific studies or investigation into specific incidence of domestic violence; look into complaints and take suo motu notice of matters relating to domestic violence and the non-implementation of the law; and participate and advise on the planning process for securing a safe environment free of domestic violence.
The SHC also asked the Sindh advocate general to submit till Feb 26 whether the rules of the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2013 had been framed or not.
It also deplored that provincial authorities had failed to meet the mandatory requirements and procedure regarding the implementation of the law.
The SHC expresses dismay over lack of implementation of domestic violence law enacted six years ago
A single bench of the SHC headed by Justice Salahuddin Panhwar further directed the chief secretary to make efforts for the publicity of the law.
The court asked the chief secretary, inspector general of police, provincial law officer, vice chairman of the Sindh Bar Council and the focal person of the social welfare department to appear in court on the next hearing along with compliance reports.
The directives were issued during the hearing of a set of petitions regarding domestic violence.
In the first petition, the petitioner submitted that her pregnant daughter was subjected to torture by her husband and his relatives.
Impleading her daughter’s husband, his relatives and police as respondents, the petitioner maintained that when they approached the police station concerned, they referred them to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital where they obtained a report after undergoing a medical examination.
However, the police took away her son on Feb 6 and kept him in illegal confinement at the Surjani Town police station for a day, she said, adding that private respondents were still allegedly harassing her and her daughter. She pleaded for protection and security.
The second petitioner, a widow, submitted that her brothers were harassing her and her children and she approached the authorities concerned, but to no avail.
Another 65-year-old widow moved the SHC with a complaint that her son along with his wife illegally occupied her house, forced her out and were now threatening her with dire consequences.
The bench observed that there was no specific law to deal with such issues till the enactment of the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2013.
“Prima facie, it was enacted to provide protection to the weakest class of the society ie women and children, as normally, we are carrying a presumption for living in a ‘male-dominated society’ where aggrieved even does not dare to tell about domestic violence because of threats of being abandoned or dispossessed/removed from household,” the court order said.
The bench further said that some provisions of the law brought the provincial government under a mandatory obligation to divulge the scope and objective of the act so the aggrieved may no more be victims of domestic violence rather could feel protected.
The bench observed that “there must be immediate constitution of commission and protection committees as required under this law, but none has placed any notification in this regard, which proved negligence on the part of provincial authorities while the legislatures did not address the issues regarding shelter homes for such victims”.
The bench also directed the member of the inspection team (MIT) of the SHC to circulate this law to all the magistrates so that they must ensure its compliance.
It also asked the IGP to refer the cases of domestic violence to the magistrates concerned.
It also asked the bar associations to provide necessary knowledge about the objective of this law by arranging seminars.