* “Aapne shor machane ki koshish ki (did you try and raise an alarm?)”
* “Did you scream or scratch the accused with your nails when you were being raped?
These are just some of the questions, lawyers ask rape survivors in Court. A study of rape trials in Delhi documents how instances of hostile questioning, witness intimidation and even open threats continue in court rooms. The study by NGO Partners for Law in Development was conducted in the aftermath of the 2013 criminal law amendments to understand how reforms were being implemented. The study tracked 16 rape cases being heard in four fast-track courts in Delhi.
Speaking on the issue of insensitive questioning, criminal lawyer Rebecca John said such remarks were not unusual at all. “Courts today are more sensitive than before, but there is still room for improvement. In some cases we see judicial officers are unable to stop such questions from the lawyers of the accused,” she said.
John also pointed out how past sexual history of the victim is brought out in open court despite it being prohibited because of police carelessness. “We often see that instead of phone messages related only to the incident, the police clone all the messages in the phone, thus revealing the survivor’s entire sexual history,” she said.
Medical examination of rape victims is also not being conducted in consonance with guidelines set by the health ministry, the study noted, adding that the two-finger test (conducted by inserting a finger into the vagina) continues to be used across hospitals.
The report also stressed on the need for victim-witness protection from the accused and their relatives. While the survivor is shielded from the accused within court by way of in-camera trials, the accused, their relatives and lawyers continue to have access to the victim in waiting areas within the court precincts.
It also observed that delays occur in receipt of Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) reports and increasing case load.
All the cases that were part of the study related to rapes by acquaintances, a category under which most rape cases fall in India and globally, the report said.
Source : timesofindia