The Kerala High court Court comprising Single judge bench Justice Devan Ramchandran stated that India can only acquire the status of a premier democracy in the world if the constitutionally protected needs of victims of sexual and child abuse are fulfilled.
The Kerala High Court recently advised initiatives for the State government to take in order to improve the victim protection system for sexual assault survivors and asked feedback on whether these could be implemented effectively.
The Bench Comprising Justice Devan Ramchandran made the following suggestions in his order:
- Make the toll-free number ‘112’ known to all citizens as an Emergency Response Support System, so that a child abuse or sexual violence victim can call it when needed.
- All information received on the toll-free number should be processed into a digital system or record that may be communicated to the jurisdictional police station as quickly as possible.
- Calls to toll-free numbers will be answered by experienced and sensitive persons who will ensure that the victim receives enough support.
- Immediately after information is received by the police control room or station, the victim of child abuse or sexual violence should be reached by phone or in person, without being summoned to the police station in any way.
- A competent officer will then take the victim’s statement, which will result in the filing of a FIR under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
- During the recording of the statement, the necessary provision of the CrPC to record it in the victim’s residence or at a location of the victim’s choice as far as feasible by a police officer in the presence of parents/guardians/near relatives or a social worker must be followed;
- Within 24 hours of receiving the FIR, the Investigating Officer must appoint a Victim Liaison Officer who will immediately contact the victim;
- At the same time, the Investigating Officer will supply the victim with the phone numbers for the ‘One Stop Crisis Centre’ and the ‘Victim’s Rights Centre (VRC),’ both of which can intervene to provide psychological help and prevent additional trauma;
- Ensure that the victim has access to the Victim Liaison Officer and/or the One Stop Crisis Centre/VRC 24 hours a day, 7 days a week;
- The One Stop Crisis Centre/VRC will also provide legal assistance to the victim as needed, and will try to facilitate the victim’s return to regular life through any means necessary, for as long as the victim requires or until the trial is completed.
The Court made it clear that the foregoing ideas were simply suggestions, which the government might consider and fine-tune.
I am offering this opportunity to the Government because, whatever be the orders that this Court may eventually issue, it will be the system which will have to rise up to the occasion and I therefore, recognise that their inputs in this matter is also very relevant,”The Order stated
The Court also thanked Senior Advocate VP Seemanthini, as well as attorneys Parvathy Menon, Sandhya Raju, and Dheeraj Rajan, for their cooperation.
The Court had asked for an overhaul of the victim protection system for sexual assault survivors in November of last year, particularly in view of the fact that numerous survivors are compelled to approach the courts for police protection when the same should be provided to them at the outset.
Justice Ramachandran addressed the issue in a petition brought by a sexual assault survivor who claimed harassment not only from the accused but also from two police officers.
While proposing the recommendations this week, Justice Ramachandran emphasised the importance of establishing rules so that victims of sexual offences and child abuse can have a dignified life free of re-traumatization.
“Civilized societies are built on empowerment of citizens – women and children being the most important. It is only if the constitutionally protected requisites of safety and dignity are ensured to the hapless victims of sexual and child abuse, can one ever hope India to achieve the status of being a premier democracy in the world,” The Order stated
Before issuing the order, the Court urged the media to publicise the toll-free number, which is 112.