Rape survivor jailed in Bihar, Human Rights groups write to Patna HC

A lower court judge in Araria had sent the survivor and two women's rights activists helping her to judicial custody after accusing them of 'contempt of court'

rape survivor

In wake of a shocking incident where a judge failed to take note of the trauma of a rape survivor while she was giving her statement and sent her to judicial custody, several feminist groups have come together to not only condemn the insensitive decision, but also demand justice for the survivor. Two social workers helping the survivor were also charged with contempt of court and sent to judicial custody.

In a letter addressed to the Chief Justice of the Patna High Court, the feminist groups say, “We have come to know of the bizarre and shocking manner in which a judge ordered the arrest of a 22-year old survivor of a gangrape along with the two activists who were accompanying her in Araria district on July 10, 2020, right in the midst of recording her statement U/s 164(1) of CrPC. The two feminist activists – Kalyani Badola and Tanmay Nivedita were her support providers and work with Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, a Registered Trade Union that works with unorganized sector. The three have been sent off to judicial custody in Dalsinghsarai Jail in Samastipur district, 250 kms away from Araria, on July 11, 2020.”

The letter goes on to explain the shockingly heartless turn of events saying, “The rape survivor is seeking justice for the heinous gangrape by five men that she has undergone just four days prior to this incident. During the proceedings, after writing down her statement, she was asked to put her signature on it. Given the anxiety caused by the recent trauma, she wanted the activists supporting her to be present during the proceedings, a request that the survivor is entitled to for moral support and strength even during in-camera trial proceeding.” The letter further says, “In lieu of recognising the survivor’s trauma in recounting the ordeal, and putting her at ease by providing her the requisite support, the court took this valid request as it an assault on the dignity of the court. The survivor’s request was perceived as a demonstration of a lack of faith or trust in the court or its proceedings. When the activists intervened on her behalf, to explain her state of shock and trauma, both at the incident itself and the procedures followed prior to the statement being recorded, they were also implicated as being in ‘contempt of court’.”

The letter lists several well-known guidelines for dealing with survivors stating, “Over years there have been demands that survivors should be provided counselling, they should not be made to repeat their story multiple times, they should not be forced to face their assaulters, and their identity should be kept confidential. Much of this has been recognised in the Justice Verma Commission report, and judgements of various high courts.”

The Justice Verma Commission report also suggested that the State will provide for “support services for shelter, social workers, Counsellors mental health professional, lawyers” and has and clearly recognised the need for presence of members of women’s organisations or others supporting the survivor. The report clearly states, “Whether the entire enquiry and trial is conducted in camera or not… (I)n any event, the victim must have a member of the women’s organisation inside to offer moral support.”

Expressing shock at the blatant violation of the guidelines the feminist groups say, “We are hence appalled to find that the events that have taken place in this case are in complete violation of these guidelines, and have worsened the situation for the survivor in multiple ways. Moreover, in complete disregard of the confidentiality legally assured to a rape survivor, her name, address and details of what transpired got reported in the electronic media. A reporter was seen rummaging through the case file in the presence of the court clerk in a photograph uploaded on a social media platform. Because of the leak, the survivor has been made vulnerable to stories in the media, character assassination, and intimidation by the accused and their families and the societal pressures that followed.”

Among the signatories to the letter are groups such as National Association of People’s Movement (NAPM), Lesbians and Bisexuals in Action (LABIA), Jan Jagaran Shakti Sangathan (JJSS) and others.



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