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The Court was hearing a petition seeking immediate and effective measures to help victims of domestic violence and child abuse during the lockdown.
The Delhi High Court has directed the Central Government, Delhi Government, Delhi Commission of Women and other authorities to convene a meeting "at the highest level" to consider the issue of protection of victims of domestic abuse/violence during the period of lockdown. (All India Council of Human Rights, Liberties & Social Justice vs UOI)
A Division Bench of Justices JR Midha and Jyoti Singh also issued notice to the Delhi Government, Central Government, Delhi Commission for Women and other respondents with respect to the measures required for the protection of victims of domestic abuse/violence under the Domestic Violence Act.
The Petition was filed by NGO - All India Council of Human Rights, Liberties & Social Justice, seeking the Court's intervention to ensure adoption and implementation of immediate and effective measures to help victims of domestic violence and child abuse during the lockdown.
Counsel for the Petitioner, Advocates Mithu Jain, Arjun Syal & Vidisha Kumar asserted that there has been a horrific surge in domestic violence cases since the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdowns in various countries.
It was added that the lockdown is also a breeding ground for child abuse as well since children are deprived of the networks that help them cope, such as their friends, teachers, coaches and relatives who usually provide an escape from their abusive environment.
The Petitioner urged for the Court's intervention on the ground that access to ordinary channels such as courts, police, protection officers, friends, and relatives was now remote due to the lockdown.
The Petitioner also sought for "silent helpline numbers" for cases where the assaulter lives in close proximity, along with directions to give wide publicity to helpline numbers.
During the course of the hearing which took place on Saturday, the Central Government submitted that the Ministry of Women and Child Development has already issued an Office Order dated March 25, taking cognizance of the spike in domestic violence cases on account of the lockdown.
As per the Office Order, certain directions have been given to the concerned District Collectors/District Magistrates to make suitable duty roster for the concerned officers so that they are able to provide essential services to the victims of domestic violence, the Court was informed.
It was added that directions have also been issued to undertake appropriate measures to provide transport as well as protective gears and other logistic support to the helpline personnel, enabling them to render help and take requisite measures in case calls are received from the victims.
The other Respondents also submitted that various steps have been taken for protection of the victims of domestic abuse/violence.
After hearing the parties, the Court directed that a meeting of the Respondents at the highest level should be convened to consider the suggestions of the Petitioner and to deliberate on what additional measures could be undertaken in order to curb the incidences of domestic violence as well as towards protection of the victims.
The decision be taken within three days and the fresh steps required for protection of the victims of domestic abuse/violence be implemented immediately thereafter, the Court ordered.
The matter was adjourned till April 24.
Centre was represented by ASG Maninder Acharya.
Additional Standing Counsel Sanjoy Ghose appeared for Delhi Government.
Advocate Rajshekhar Rao appeared for Delhi Commission for Women.
Read the Order: