New Delhi, May 17: Husbands and in-laws accused of torture before the domestic violence act came into force are not yet off the hook. The Supreme Court will decide if the law applies to cases filed before October 2006, when it was enacted.
The court has issued notices on a petition filed by a man facing proceedings under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, though his case predates the law.
The accused, Abhishek, has urged the top court to clear the air as several high courts have come out with divergent views on whether the act has a retrospective effect.
Delhi High Court had in March this year said the law would apply with retrospective effect, as did Madras High Court in April 2008. But, in another case, Andhra Pradesh High Court had said the act was prospective in operation in other words, regulate future acts and not interfere with what has happened in the past. Madhya Pradesh High Court, too, expressed a similar view.
Abhishek, 30, also claimed that Delhi High Courts decision to clear the decks for his prosecution went against Article 20(1) of the Constitution, which says no one can be punished for an offence under a law unless it was in force at the time the crime was committed.
Last fortnight, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court issued notices to his wife Aastha, seeking her views. Justices Altamas Kabir, T.S. Thakur and C.K. Prasad also stayed all proceedings pending against Abhishek till they decided the issue.
Aastha had filed a complaint on September 27, 2008, before the court of Delhis chief metropolitan magistrate under Section 12 of the domestic violence law against Abhishek and his elder brother and father.
The 29-year-old, who gave birth to twins through IVF on April 6, 2007, said her in-laws tortured her physically and mentally before throwing her out from her matrimonial home in October 2006.
Aastha claimed that her parents, with whom she has been living since being thrown out, spent Rs 17 lakh on her wedding. But within 20 days of marriage, her in-laws demanded Rs 10 lakh, saying they wouldnt be able to bear the expenses of the marriage. The torture, she claimed, was intended to extort more dowry.
She also claimed that all her gold and diamond jewellery were taken away by her in-laws on the ground of safekeeping and that her husband, a drunkard, would beat her black and blue after being coached by his brother and father how to bring her under control.
Abhishek claimed these incidents occurred before the act came into force on October 26, 2006, and urged Delhi High Court to quash the proceedings.
On April 20 this year, the high court dismissed Abhisheks plea but granted an interim stay on proceedings for 15 days so that he could approach the apex court.