Srinagar, May 31: The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh laid down several guidelines to be followed by the Protection Officers while discharging their duties under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (DV) Act, 2005.
Disposing of a plea filed by Neelofar Rasool in matrimonial dispute, the court observed that the petitioner had been compelled to seek enforcement and implementation of the orders passed by the trial court through the intervention of this court on account of "casual and lackadaisical approach" of the nominated Protection Officer in carrying out the directions passed by the trial court.
The court of Justice Javed Iqbal Wani noted that the Protection Officer instead of carrying out the directions passed by the trial court on August, 16, 2021 and September 28, 2021 have made an attempt to hold a parallel court in order to decide as to whether the petitioner is to be allowed to reside in the shared household or not.
It pointed out that the respondents have disregarded the order passed by the trial court.
"The respondents, thus, are stated to have deliberately and intentionally undertaken a contemptuous conduct undermining the rule of law and authority of the court making every attempt to frustrate and avoid the implementation of the order of the trial court, thus, compelling the petitioner to approach this court through the medium of the instant petition," the court recorded.
The court underscored that the Protection Officer is an important entity entrusted with specific duties and bound to discharge the same in tune with the aims and objects of the DV Act.
It recorded that the Protection Officers, in essence, have to carry out the orders passed by the Magistrate under the Act.
"Though the Protection Officers ordinarily ought to have no difficulty in carrying out the order passed by the Magistrate under the Act, yet in view of the situation having been noticed in the instant case, a Protection Officer nominated for carrying out the aims and objects of the Act, has failed in discharge of his statutory functions envisaged under the Act despite the clear cut orders having been passed by the Magistrate," Justice Iqbal noted.
The court further noted that the Protection Officer in the instant case has miserably failed to carry out the directions of the Magistrate, compelling the petitioner to approach this court after having failed in her attempts to seek implementation of the orders from the Trial Magistrate.
While issuing the guidelines for Protection Officers, the court held that it shall neither be the duty of the Protection Officer nor his/her domain to undertake any mediation or conciliation once a Magistrate is seized of a domestic violence case.
"The Protection Officer has no mandate to undertake such an exercise," the court said.
Justice Iqbal said that Protection Officer is under a statutory duty to assist the Magistrate in discharge of his functions under the Act and to carry out directions or orders passed by such Magistrate under the Act as it is without making his own interpretation therein.
"In the event, a Protection Officer faces any difficulty in understanding purported spirit of a direction or faces any other difficulty thereto, such Protection Officer shall approach the concerned Magistrate for clarification," the court said.
The court directed that a nominated Protection Officer shall remain easily accessible to an aggrieved person for any immediate action the aggrieved person may require.
It further that nominated Protection Officer need to be guided by imparting necessary training by the government viz-a-viz the provisions of the Act and its application so that the purpose and objects of the Act are effectively fulfilled and achieved.
The court directed the magistrate, as far as practicable, to ensure the presence of the concerned Protection Officer while passing orders interim orders under the provisions of the Act and make the Protection Officer to understand the nature of the order and the manner in which the same is to be executed.
While giving an example, the court said, the Protection Officer can get the order for monetary relief under section 20 complied with and executed in accordance with the procedure prescribed by the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
"The Protection Officer should be made to understand his powers for effective implementation of the provisions of the Act as well as orders passed by the magistrate," Justice Iqbal directed.
The court also directed the Registry to send a copy of this order to the Mission Director, Integrated Child Development Scheme, Director Social Welfare in the Union Territory of J&K and Ladakh and shall also circulate in all subordinate courts in the Union Territory of J&K and Ladakh.