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A letter addressed to the Patna High Court requests systemic changes in the treatment of sex crime survivors, after a Magistrate remanded a gangrape survivor to jail for raising her voice in court.
More than 300 lawyers have addressed a letter to the Chief Justice of the Patna High Court calling for the “need for urgent and systemic changes in the treatment of survivors of sexual crimes in the Araria District Court.”
The letter was prompted by an incident at the Araria District Court in Bihar, where a Magistrate reportedly remanded a survivor of a violent gangrape to 14-day judicial custody.
The woman and two of her caregivers from NGO Jan Jagaran Shakti Sangathan (JJSS) have been charged with contempt of court for obstructing proceedings, according to reports.
The charges were slapped on the three after the mentally-exhausted rape survivor allegedly raised her voice against the Magistrate, threatened him, and snatched a copy of her statement in an apparent onset of disorientation.
It is reported that the outburst followed after the rape survivor had spent three hours in the court complex in close proximity to an accomplice of her alleged rapists. The care-givers are also reported to have raised their voices in court.
In response to the incident, District and Sessions Judge Piyush Kamal Dixit, the seniormost judge for the Araria District Court, was quoted as saying,
“The incident has come to my knowledge. I had asked the chief judicial magistrate to look into the matter. I did not know that the victim has also been sent to jail. It’s a judicial order, hence I cannot interfere in it. They will have to move for bail. I will see what can be done at my level.”
In their letter to the Patna High Court, the lawyers have highlighted the need to “infuse the incident with some sensitivity and view it from that perspective.”
Stating that the incident in the court occurred four days after her gangrape, and after four days of fatigue, physical pain, lack of food and sleep, the letter emphasises that the survivor “was completely distraught and also very disoriented”.
Rather than understanding the fragile mental state of the woman and her care-givers, the court instead remanded the three to police custody, without even conducting a COVID-19 test on the survivor, the letter sets out.
A COVID-19 test ought to have been conducted, given the violence committed upon her by “several strangers”, the letter adds.
Moreover, personal details of the survivor and her family, along with “exaggerated accounts of what had transpired during the proceedings” were carried on electronic media, the signatories submit. The letter states,
“Shockingly, one such report also carries a photograph of the reporter sitting in the filing section and inspecting her file, with the court clerk and other staff looking on."
The signatories, while asserting that the charges for contempt and/or other charged offences are not maintainable, submit that the survivor’s incarceration will have an “adverse affect (sic) on her health”
Further, the signatories raise concern that the series of events following the incident in the Araria court have pushed the original gangrape “on the backburner, while all attention is focused on the alleged contempt.”
The scene in court has resulted in the survivor being maligned in public perception as well, the letter emphasizes.
The letter concludes with a plea to the judges of the Patna High Court to intervene in the matter, given the lower court’s “complete lack of sensitivity to a victim of violent sexual crime and to her caregivers”
[Read the letter]