In November 2021, a writ petition was filed by an NGO ‘We the Women of India’, seeking to remove significant infrastructural deficiencies under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005 (hereinafter referred to as “the DV Act”). This petition was aimed at improving the infrastructure and providing effective legal assistance to victims of domestic abuse and establishing shelter homes for the complainants subsequent to the filing of the complaint.[1]

According to the National Family Health Survey, a staggering 86% of female victims never seek help against domestic violence.[2] Out of the 14% who do seek help, a mere 7% actually contact the proper authorities in accordance with the DV Act.[3] The social stigma, fear of damaging the family reputation, and lack of legal awareness, etc. are to blame for this.

The NGO appealed to the Supreme Court to instruct all officials, directed to execute the DV Act in its totality, to appoint Protection Officers, and legal aid Service Providers and make provisions for Shelter Homes.[4]  In their counter affidavit, the Union of India furnished certain information which indicated that the situation in some, if not all, of the States, was far from satisfactory. Revenue Officers or IAS Officers have been designated as Protection Officers in several States. The Court remarked that this was against the intent of the legislature since such officers would fall short in effectively dedicating themselves to the demanding job of Protection Officers and in fulfilling the duties expected of them. In an order dated 24th February, 2023 the Apex Court[5] observed that according to research undertaken by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA), more than 4.7 Lakh cases were pending under the DV Act. Reflecting on the dismal state of affairs, the Court instructed the Secretary of the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development to conduct a meeting with the Principal Secretaries of all States and Union Territories, which shall also include the Union Finance Secretary, the Chairperson National Human Rights Commission, Secretary National Commission for Women, Secretary Social Justice and Empowerment, Secretary Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the Chairperson National Legal Services Authority.[6]

In light of this recent development, let us look into the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, and understand the role and responsibilities of a Protection Officer under this Act.


The powers and duties of Protection Officers (PO) are enumerated under Chapter III of the DV Act[7]. A PO is, in most cases, the first point of contact for anyone deciding to file a complaint for domestic violence. As given under section 4 of the Act, any person may approach a PO to give information about an act of domestic violence.[8]


Section 5 lays down the duties of a Protection Officer. It is the duty of the PO, as soon as a grievance is received, to tell the victim about her right to submit a claim for relief in the following manner[9]

  • By way of a protection order
  • Order for financial assistance
  • Order for custody
  • Order for residence
  • Order for compensation

The PO shall also inform her of the availability of the PO’s services, her right to free legal counsel and to make a complaint under section 498A[10] of the Indian Penal Code. Further, the PO has the power to ask for assistance on behalf of the aggrieved person from the authorities of a shelter home or a medical facility and such person in charge must provide such aid to the victim.[11] The most important section, however, for our consideration with regard to the case discussed above is the provision relating to the appointment of POs as mentioned under Section 8.[12] It states that the appointment of POs shall be done by the State Government by notification and in such numbers as the government may deem necessary. The extent of the area conferred to each PO for the performance of his duties and exercise of his powers is also to be notified by the State Government. The Act also mentions that, as far as possible, the POs shall be women.

The duties of the PO are further elaborated under Section 9 of the DV Act[13]. Such functions include—

  • Assisting the Magistrate in discharging his functions
  • Making a domestic incident report to the Magistrate upon receipt of the complaint
  • Making an application for issuance of a protection order, if the victim requires
  • Ensuring that the victim is provided free legal aid
  • Provide a directory of service providers giving free legal help, shelters, and healthcare facilities in the locality
  • Arrange for a safe shelter home on the condition of the victim’s requirement
  • Arrange for a medical examination of the victim if bodily injuries are sustained
  • Ensure compliance with and execution of the order for monetary relief under section 20
  • Other duties

All such reports and developments regarding the situation and condition of the victim shall be forwarded by the PO to the police officer and the Magistrate under whose control and supervision the PO functions. Furthermore, section 30 of the DV Act[14] states that POs shall be considered to be public servants under section 21[15] of the Indian Penal Code.


We can clearly understand the importance of the role played by Protection Officers in the execution of the provisions of the DV Act and in assisting the aggrieved person and providing relief to them. The PO being the first point of contact for the victim has massive impact on the victim in providing safety and assurance to them. The PO, while providing comfort, safety and protection to the aggrieved person, also has the responsibility of communicating all essential details to the officer in charge of the local police station and the Magistrate. The PO plays a vital role in protecting and assisting the victim women. The NGO, “We the Women of India”, has, therefore, rightly raised this concern regarding the lack of adequate appointments in the role of Protection Officers. This case brings to light the shortcomings of the Union and State Governments in fulfilling the requirements of the DV Act and helping in its effective application. Thus, this calls for immediate action on the part of the Government in making appropriate appointments to engage better provisions to assist the victims of domestic abuse.

Author(s) Name: Aneequa Ahmed (University of Calcutta)


[1] We the Women of India v Union of India Writ Petition (Civil) No.1156/2021

[2] Dhananjay Mahapatra, ‘We the Women’ move Supreme Court seeking infrastructure for abused women’ (Times of India, 8 November 2021) <> accessed 27 March

[3] Ibid

[4] We the Women of India v. Union of India (2021) Writ Petition (Civil) No.1156/2021

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (ch. III)

[8] Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, s 4

[9] Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, s 5

[10] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 498A

[11] Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, s 6 & 7

[12] Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, s 8

[13] Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, s 9

[14]Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, s 30

[15]Indian Penal Code 1860, s 21

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