Lawyer raises concern on no drop policy for domestic violence cases

January 22, 2024 4:18 pm

[File Photo]

In a thought-provoking session at the Fiji Law Society Convention, lawyer Devanesh Sharma raised a significant concern regarding the current no-drop policy in domestic violence cases.

Sharma highlights that, despite the courts having the power to terminate such cases, a stringent policy is currently in place.

He states that the Domestic Violence Act explicitly empowers the courts to reconcile cases involving domestic violence offenses.

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However, he emphasizes that four strict criteria must be satisfied for reconciliation, and if the basic tenets are not met, the court is reluctant to proceed.

But Sharma shed light on a crucial distinction in the Criminal Procedure Act, which allows certain assault cases to be reconcilable.

He says this provision does not extend to cover domestic violence offenses.

According to Sharma, this legal gap is repeatedly used by the court to argue against the reconcilability of domestic violence cases.

“But what I would like to invite every lawyer in this country to see is look at section 24, one C of the Domestic Violence Act. That clearly says that the court has the right to terminate a case where there is domestic violence. You don’t need to go to a full hearing. If the circumstances warrant, what if the complaint says, I have reconciled with my husband or my spouse or my partner, I don’t want to take this any further, is it dependent on the prosecutor to make the decision to still continue with the case or should the court be empowered under that provision to say there is no contradiction between the two sections, the domestic violence act does give me the power to actually terminate proceeding straight away.”

Addressing Sharma’s concerns, Acting Chief Justice Salesi Temo welcomes lawyers to consider bringing this matter to the High Court for a comprehensive review of powers.

Temo suggests exploring constitutional provisions in the bill of rights to support the argument for a reevaluation of the current stance on domestic violence cases.