Victim protection guidelines for sexual assault survivors not implemented effectively: Kerala High Court

Single judge Justice Devan Ramachandran made the observation while hearing a plea by a survivor of sexual attack who approached the court alleging harassment not just from the accused but also from two police officers.
Victim protection guidelines for sexual assault survivors not implemented effectively: Kerala High Court
protection of victims of sexual assaults

The Kerala High Court on Wednesday expressed its disappointment at the fact that a large number of survivors of sexual attacks are forced to approach the High Court seeking police protection mainly due to improper and incompetent implementation of victim protection guidelines.

Single judge Justice Devan Ramachandran raised the issue while hearing a plea filed by a survivor of sexual attack who approached the Court alleging harassment not just from the accused but also from two police officers.

"Without meaning to conclude at this stage that the allegations in the writ petition are correct, it still causes a lot of distress to this Court because, there are specific guidelines, circulars and orders issued by the various competent authorities with respect to protection of victims of sexual attack, including rape, but many times I notice that these are not being effectively implemented," the Court said.

While the Court made it clear that the truth of the allegations are not known yet, it stressed that the competent authorities must provide answers as to why victim protection guidelines have not been implemented effectively.

"Since the State of Kerala is on the party array, I am of the view that the issue must be considered at the highest level as to how the mandate of the protection of sexual attack victims should be effectively implemented because this is a matter that cuts at the root of the societal response to such grievous attacks and offences," the order stated.

The Court therefore, directed the District Police Chief to file a response particularly as to how the victim protection protocols can be effectively put in place and implemented.

"This shall be done with reference to the circular issued by the State Police Chief which clearly prescribes the manner in which a sexual attack survivor is required to be protected. However, it is certainly a matter of concern that they have not been yet implemented properly," the Court ordered.

The Court passed the order on a petition filed by the survivor of a sexual attack who alleged that she is being harassed not only by the accused, but also by police officers.

Advocate Dheeraj, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the station house officer and a civil police officer attached to the Thrikkakkara Police Station is acting in collaboration with the accused in the case of sexual attack against her and that she has therefore been forced to go into hiding.

Justice Ramachandran recalled that just a day ago, he had raised similar concerns while hearing a plea raised by a minor victim and her mother seeking police protection in a POCSO matter citing that they were being threatened by the perpetrator

"It is high time that we implement a victim protection scheme in the State. Right now, it only exists on paper; it has not been implemented yet. If this happened in any other country, the victim would have been protected and hidden away by now," the judge had remarked orally at the time.

The same sentiment however made its way into the order passed today in the present case.

"In the case that I referred to earlier, this court did not pass a specific order though certain observations were made at the Bar. But taking note of this case, I am of the view that the stipulations for protection of women who have faced the agony of sexual harassment, sexual attack will certainly have to be given a very close look," the Court said in its order.

In the instant case, the Court directed the Commissioner of Police to ensure that life of petitioner and minor daughter are effectively protected without involving the policemen against whom allegations have been made.

"Such protection shall be offered to the petitioner discretely preferably by nominating policewomen not in uniform who shall treat the petitioner with the empathy that she deserves," the Court directed.

The matter will be taken up next on November 26, 2021.

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