Taking Action
Against Violence
At Home

To take action against any kind of violence at home, you can exercise
one or both the options below:

Expand All
Option I
File A Police Complaint (for general details, see Police Complaint)

You can file a police complaint for the following purposes:

  1. Cruelty- Against any serious physical or mental harassment by your husband/husband’s family. (Section 498A, Indian Penal Code) For more details, see Cruelty)
  2. Stridhan- To get back your stridhan if you have been asked to leave the matrimonial home without the stridhan. (Section 406C, Indian Penal Code) For more details, see Stridhan)

Remember: You can even file a complaint under both/multiple laws together.

  1. For a complaint against cruelty: After you file the police complaint, the police will conduct a preliminary investigation. They may come to your matrimonial house to ask questions or conduct a search. After this, they will lodge an FIR against the accused persons. After the FIR, the matter will proceed to a criminal case in court. For further details, see Police Complaint and Procedure

    Arrest without warrant: If your case is very serious, the police have the power under Section 498A to arrest the person without warrant. Section 498A is a non-bailable offence Once arrested, the person will only be released if the court(Magistrate Court/High Court) grants him/her bail.

    Remember: S.498A is a very strong legal provision, meant for the protection of women. An FIR registered under Section 498A can only be quashed(cancelled) by the High Court. You cannot take it back.

  2. For a complaint for return of stridhan: The police will call your husband/husband’s family to the police station and ask them to return your stridhan. If they still refuse, then the police will register a criminal complaint against them, under Section 406C, Indian Penal Code. For more details on stridhan, see here stridhan .

You can file in a police station having jurisdiction over any of the three places:

  1. Your matrimonial home
  2. The place where you are staying (if not staying in matrimonial home)
  3. Where the incident of harassment/violence took place

Preferably as soon as possible after the incident. Even if there is a delay, the police have to register your complaint. However, the more the delay, the more difficult it will be for you to prove the incident. They may also raise questions on why you kept quiet for so long. To protect yourself from such questions, always report any incident of harassment to a trusted family member/friend. (For details on how to collect evidence, see below)

If you file a police complaint, you will get immediate relief. Under criminal laws, police can take swift actions. Often, filing a police complaint is itself enough to stop the harasser from harassing you. You may not need to go for a court case at all.

Option II
File A Court Case

Which laws you file the court case under, depends on the situation:

  1. For harassment of any kind in your matrimonial home, you can file a case under the Domestic Violence Act- Section 12. A complaint under the Domestic Violence Act should be through a specific form- called the Domestic Incident Report. For details on what is domestic violence, see here domestic violence The advantages of filing a case under the Domestic Violence Act are explained below.
  2. If your husband/husband’s family also harassed/took dowry, you can file a case under the Dowry Prohibition Act- Section 3 if they took dowry, Section 4 if they only demanded dowry ( to Dowry). Usually, dowry harassment also involves other kinds of harassment, and a case is filed under Dowry Prohibition Act and Domestic Violence Act together.

Yes, you can directly file a court case also, under the applicable law, like Dowry Prohibition Act or the Domestic Violence Act.

You should file the case in the court of the Metropolitan Magistrate or Judicial Magistrate (First Class), which has jurisdiction over any of the following:

  1. Your matrimonial home
  2. The place where you are staying (if not staying in matrimonial home)
  3. Where the incident of harassment/violence took place
  4. Where the accused works (carries out own business/is employed)- this is specifically for the Domestic Violence Act

The relief that the court will give you depends on which law you have filed the case under. For specific reliefs against domestic violence, see- Domestic Violence. For specific reliefs against dowry harassment, see Dowry.

If your police complaint has proceeded towards a criminal case in court, the cases you file under the Domestic Violence Act and/or the Dowry Prohibition Act, will be clubbed with the ongoing criminal case.

Since a case for cruelty (Section 498A, Indian Penal Code), dowry harassment, and domestic violence, is a criminal case, the state will provide you with free legal aid. A public prosecutor will by default be appointed to represent you in the case. You can also engage a private lawyer, if you find it more comfortable. Most complainants prefer to engage a private lawyer.

On an average, a case may take around 2-3 years to be fully closed, but this depends from court to court. However, in the meantime, the court will grant temporary orders (called interim orders) to give you relief while the case is pending. You can ask for interim orders in the first or second court hearing itself.

A case under cruelty, dowry harassment or domestic violence will not, by itself, affect the status of your marriage. Your marriage will continue to exist and be valid. The court will only pass orders to protect you against harassment.

However, if you do not wish to stay in the marriage, you can always choose to file for divorce also.(For more details on divorce, see here divorce)

You should also be aware that your husband/husband’s family may retaliate. Your husband may want to go for a divorce. Or your husband’s family may try to trouble you by filing false cases against you. Do not be afraid, as in harassment cases, courts usually try to protect the woman. Further, the law is in your favour- in a dowry harassment case, more than you having to prove that the other side has demanded/taken dowry, the burden lies on the other side to prove that they are innocent. (Section 8A, Dowry Prohibition Act)

A police complaint can only grant you limited reliefs like temporary protection against harassment, or making your husband’s family return your stridhan (if they want to avoid a court case). The court can grant you multiple long-term remedies like permanent protection, ensuring you have a safe place to stay, monetary compensation, etc. For details on reliefs, see Dowry and Domestic Violence

The Domestic Violence Act is for the benefit of women and comes with the following advantages:

    1. Fast-paced procedure:
      1. The first date of hearing should be within 3 days of filing the complaint in court. (Section 12(4), Domestic Violence Act)
      2. The case should be fully closed within 60 days from the first date of hearing.(Section 12(5), Domestic Violence Act)

    Although the law prescribes quick timelines, in reality, every case takes much longer than 60 days to be fully closed. However, in the meantime, the court will grant temporary orders (called interim orders) to give you relief while the case is pending. You can ask for interim orders in the first or second court hearing itself.

  1. Scope for counselling: The court can also recommend the woman and her harassers to go for counselling, if the court feels that there is scope for solving the matter peacefully. This helps when both parties want to continue the marriage and resolve matters. After counselling, the court will fix another date of hearing, when the court will ask you whether or not the counselling is helping. If counselling is not helping, you can continue the case as it is. (Section 14, Domestic Violence Act)
  2. Relaxed procedure: Since Domestic Violence Act is for the benefit of women, it grants the courts freedom to follow its own procedure. This means the court will not have to follow lengthy and time-taking legal procedure and can take steps to close the case speedily. (Section 28, Domestic Violence Act)
  3. Ex-parte orders (glossary): If the court is satisfied that the accused has committed acts of domestic violence and is likely to do so again, it can even grant you relief through interim orders(glossary) without hearing the accused. (Section 23, Domestic Violence Act) To understand what kind of relief you can ask for, see- Domestic Violence Act
  4. Free order copy: After the court passes any order, you have the right to get a free copy of the order for your records (Section 24, Domestic Violence Act). Otherwise, you have to generally pay a nominal fee for order copies.
  5. Combining this case with other cases: If any other case (whether civil or criminal) is going on between you and the accused, you can club all the reliefs that you want under Domestic Violence Act in that case itself. You don’t need to file a separate case for the reliefs under the Domestic Violence Act. This helps to prevent multiple cases. (Section 26, Domestic Violence Act)
  6. Orders enforceable throughout India: If any court in any district in any state passes an order under the Domestic Violence Act, it will be enforceable all over India. Usually, when a court passes an order, it is enforceable only to the extent of the court’s jurisdiction. For eg- if a court in Hyderabad passes an order, it will only be enforceable in Hyderabad, and not in Delhi. However in the case of domestic violence, the order is applicable all over India(Section 27, Domestic Violence Act)

If an order is passed against anyone under the Domestic Violence Act and they disobey the order, they can be punished with 1 year in jail or fine of Rs.20,000 or both. (Section 31, Domestic Violence Act)


Please note: This information has been made available to you for your benefit on an ‘as is’ basis, and is only for your information. It does not constitute legal advice and cannot substitute professional legal advice. Our disclaimer policy can be viewed here ( disclaimer policy)

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