The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Umbrella hit unfurls law

Chennai, Oct. 28: A schoolteacher suffering for long at the hands of her alcoholic husband has filed a complaint after he hit her with an umbrella, becoming the first Indian to make use of the new law against domestic violence.

Joseph, 47, an employee of the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board, was arrested today on charges of inflicting domestic violence on Benedict Mary, Tirunelveli police commissioner Uma Ganapathy Shastry said.

The FIR was registered this morning in a police station near Tirunelveli, around 500 km from Chennai, under the new law that took effect from Thursday.

“This is the first case in the state, and possibly in the entire country, we are taking cognisance of as an offence under the new act,” a police officer said.

Joseph was remanded in 15 days’ judicial custody. Mary is being treated at a private hospital for injuries.

According to the complaint, the metal frame of the umbrella left Mary with injuries on her nose and neck.

Mary, a government schoolteacher 10 years younger than Joseph, hails from Kanyakumari, which has one of the highest literacy rates in Tamil Nadu.

The couple, married for 15 years, has two daughters — Julia and Katherine.

Mary has been harassed for money since Joseph turned alcoholic, sources said. For some time in 2004, they parted ways and Mary lived with her daughters.

The couple was reunited after an inspector from an all-woman police station mediated. But Joseph soon got hooked to the bottle again, an officer said.

On the night of October 25, Joseph stepped up the volume of the TV, beat up Mary and struck her with the umbrella.

Joseph has been charged under Section 31 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act — penalty for breach of protection — and Section 324 of the Indian Penal Code — voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or other means. Section 31 carries a one-year prison term or a fine of up to Rs 20,000.

Before the new law came into force, similar offences would have been tried only under the IPC. Besides, the police officer who “received” the complaint will act as the protection officer — a key requirement under the new law.

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