This article analyses the role of the criminal law system in dealing with domestic violence. It argues that Section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code can only be effectively implemented if a new model of policing and a victim empowerment criminal law model is developed.
Domestic violence needs a coordinated and systemic response from the justice system. While Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code is one of the most significant criminal law reforms protecting women’s rights, it is not enough. We need to remember that criminal law is indeed a blunt tool for it is difficult to change police culture; though the law may consider domestic violence against women an offence, the police may still not comply and implement it effectively. In order to move towards an effective working of Section 498A, it is crucial that we adopt a new model of policing the victim empowerment model, which will put in place pro-arrest procedures and social service networks at the police station. It is also important to have civil law remedies to provide protection to women victims of domestic violence and the recently passed Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Bill, 2005 is significant in that context.