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Boy uses Domestic Violence Act to secure educational expenses from father

PUNE: An 11-year-old boy has successfully sued his father for educational and general day-to-day expenses till the time he turns 18, by using the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act of 2005.

Ruling in his favour recently, judicial magistrate first class Umeshchandra More ordered the father, a software professional, to pay both educational and day-today expenses of his son till he completes 18 years. He will have to pay a lumpsum amount of Rs 12,000 every year which needs to be deposited in a bank account in the boy’s name by July 5 to take care of general expenses. With regard to the educational expenses, including school fees, text-books, school bus and uniform, the father has promised to pay the money directly to the school. For the year 2010-11, these expenses added upto Rs 23,800.

Apart from this, the father has agreed to pay tuition fees for his son when he reaches stds X and XII respectively as these are crucial academic years of school life.

Speaking to TOI, advocate Asim Sarode who had petitioned the court on the boy’s behalf said: “The Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act of 2005, contrary to popular perception, is not restricted to women alone but also to minors who suffer any sort of harassment/denial of rights within the institution of the family. Thus, the act is gender neutral in nature. Cases filed under this Act are usually filed by women, but to my knowledge, this is the first time a male has moved court against his father.”

Elaborating further, he said, “The boy’s petition says that the relations between his parents had soured around 2002, and that they had obtained a divorce through mutual consent from the family court of Pune in 2005. Both parents have since remarried, but the boy continues to stay with his mother. It was decided, in the course of the divorce proceedings, that the father would pay a monthly maintenance of Rs 500 towards the boy’s expenses.

However, a dispute broke out again between the parents over meeting the monthly expenses, including education. The father was irregular even in paying the regular maintenance. Hence, we were forced to move court.”

The boy filed the case before a magistrate’s court through his mother on February 4, 2010. While the judgment came out on Dec 18, 2010, Sarode could only obtain a copy of the order last week.

Citing section 2 (B) of the Act, Sarode pointed out that it applied to any child whether biological, adopted or foster. “It further goes on to define a child as a person who is less than 18 years of age. The usage of the term person denotes that the term child is used in a gender neutral way. Since the petitioner child has been in a domestic relationship with the respondent (ie his father) he can seek maintenance under the Act.”

The boy had asked the court to grant him monetary relief under section 20 (2) of the Act, as well as compensation under section 22 for mental torture and emotional distress. Initially the father denied negligence on his part and vehemently fought the case, but eventually agreed to provide the necessary economic support to his son.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT HIGHLIGHTS

• The act, for the first time, presents a holistic definition of domestic violence against the woman. This applies to both matrimonial and non-matrimonial relationships, such as the fatherdaughter equation, father-son equation (if the son is less than 18 years old) and live-in relationships

• The act is civil in nature. Unlike section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), it does not put the police in charge, or result in immediate arrest of the family members. Instead of being registered as the accused, they are called the respondents who can appear before court without being subject to arrest

• Unlike Section 498-A of the Prohibition of Dowry Act 1961 and Section 125 of the IPC, it does away with long-winded procedures to provide immediate relief to victims of violence

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