Bombay High Court: Setting aside a State Government circular that prohibited counselling and mediation in domestic violence cases without a court order, a bench comprising of Mohit Shah, CJ and RS Dalvi, J. laid down guidelines on how pre-litigation counselling may be conducted by any registered service provider, including NGOs, counsellors and police officers.

The Court was hearing a PIL filed on the basis of a letter written by Dr. Jaya Sagade, a service provider under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (DV Act) and a Professor of Law at ILS Law College, Pune. It was contended that the role of the agencies providing counselling and mediation would merely be reduced to “referral” agencies, in case their role was merely restricted to merely informing the aggrieved woman of her rights and that their experience and expertise in the field would be whittled down to clerical work which cannot be termed as “counseling”.

Dismissing the State’s contention that the function of service providers are limited to the services enumerated in Section 10 of the DV Act, the Court observed that such an interpretation would be to read a socially beneficent legislation without regard to the objective it seeks to serve and the strides it seeks to make for domestic peace and harmony in the country, and thereby declared the circular to be discriminatory, arbitrary and unreasonable. The Court further stated that a victim must be informed about her right to choose her course of action and be guided about her legal rights under the Act and there shall be no pressure  upon her to settle her claim or grievance. Dr. Jaya Sagade vs. State of Maharashtra, 2015 SCC OnLine Bom 4777, decided on September 4, 2015

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