Issues notices to H&ME Deptt, JKSLSA
The High Court Wednesday took suo moto cognizance of alleged rape of a minor girl in Bandipora and directed IGP Kashmir to file status report about investigation in the case by Friday (May 17).
The division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Tashi Rabstan while taking suo moto cognizance of rape of 3-year-old girl issued notice to Inspector General of Police, (IGP) Kashmir; J&K government through Secretary, Department of Health and Medical Education (H&ME); and Jammu & Kashmir State Legal Services Authority (JKSLSA) through its Member Secretary.
The bench directed IGP Kashmir to file a report regarding the steps taken for effective investigation into the matter as well as protection given to the victim and her family by next date of hearing.
The Secretary H&ME department was directed to file a report which shall indicate the steps taken regarding medical examination, medical treatment and counselling to the victim.
The court also directed JKSLSA to submit a report with regard to status of effective legal aid granted to the victim as well as status of the release of compensation admissible to the victim.
JKSLSA was also directed to file a separate report regarding all measures including sensitization programs underway in the matters relating to sexual violence.
Senior Additional Advocate General, BA Dar accepted notice on behalf of IGP and Secretary H&ME department and was directed to file reports positively on or before May 17.
While giving the importance to the matter, Advocate Farah Bashir was appointed as Amicus curie to assist the Court in the matter.
Advocate Farah was directed to provide the details of the incident which took place on May 8 which has been published in print and electronic media and which may be in violation of Section 23 of the Jammu& Kashmir Protection of Children from Sexual Violence Ordinance, 2018.
“We shall proceed in respect of such reports upon receiving the list and copies of the reports,” Court said.
While taking cognizance of the matter, the court observed that the incident has received widespread publicity in the State and several critical issues relating to the incident appear to need urgent attention.
Court remarked that there are reports in the media which express grave apprehensions with regard to the effectiveness of the investigation and attempts by accused persons to interfere with the same in order to prevent the guilty being brought to book.
It said there can be no manner of doubt that the investigating agency has to be permitted to discharge its responsibilities independently and freely without any kind of interference and obstruction by any person or authority.
“Additionally the police is vested with the responsibility of ensuring adequate protection to the victim as well as her family,” the bench added.
The bench further remarked that the rights of the victim have also to be ensured.
“In cases of sexual violence, critical requirements of sensitive medical examination, treatment and counselling of the traumatized victim must be ensured and adequate provision of these facilities is the responsibility of the medical authorities of the State,” Court said.
It observed that the incident at hand is not the first incident of sexual violence in the State.
“Sexual violence unfortunately is endemic to human beings and is not confined to any particular culture, class, religion, age or geographical location,” it remarked.
The court also observed that the manner and nature of reporting the alleged offence is being affected in the media in absolute violation of specific statutory prohibitions against disclosure of identity of the victim especially in respect of a minor victim.
“Our attention has been drawn to extensive reporting in the media regarding the incident in question disclosing the identity of the minor victim. Such reporting has done grave injustice to the privacy and dignity of the child victim,” bench remarked.
The bench further remarked that immediate action is required to be taken to identify the reports in the print and electronic media wherein provisions of the Section 23 of the Jammu and Kashmir Protection of Children from Sexual Violence Ordinance, 2018, have been violated and action taken against the persons responsible for the same.
The court recorded that while legislations have attempted to take a strict view of the matter and provide stringent punishments for sexual violence, however, it is increasingly being found that even youngsters are being implicated, some of them unwittingly rendering themselves liable under penal laws being ignorant and unaware of the consequences of their acts or omissions.”
The order stated that for addressing issues related to sexual violence, the J&K High Court and the JKSLSA had conceptualized a robust programme of sensitizing and training school children within the ages of 14 to 17 years, “in that they could be held culpable under stringent penal laws (POCSO Act, Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Act, Ranbir Penal Code, IT Act) for omission/actions which they may have misguidedly or unwittingly committed which is captioned ‘Child Abuse and Sexual Violence Interpersonal and Digital Interface.’”
The Court highlighted the importance of sensitization and training programmes and emphasized vigour with which it needs to be pursued.
“This is an attempt on the part of the justice delivery system in the State to take on board all stakeholders towards awareness of sensitization with regard to issues relating to sexual violence,” the court observed.