BANDIPORA RAPE CASE: DB takes suo-moto cognizance, asks IGP to file status report by Friday


Srinagar, May 15: Jammu and Kashmir High Court Wednesday took suomoto cognizance of the Bandipora rape case of a three-year-old girl and directed Inspector General of Police (Kashmir zone) to file a status report by Friday.
A division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice TashiRabstan, taking notice of reports about the rape case, directed the IGP to file a status report about the investigations before 10 am on Friday.
A three-year-old girl was allegedly raped last week by her neighbour, leading to widespread outrage and protests against the incident. The accused has been arrested by police and a special investigation team constituted for a speedy investigation of the incident.
DB further directed IG Kashmir to file a report to this Court regarding the steps for effective investigation into the matter as well as protection given to the victim and her family shall be filed on or before the next date.
DB further directed Secreatry Health & Medical Education to file report the steps taken regarding medical examination, medical treatment and counselling being administered to the victim.
DB further directed Member SLASA to file a report regarding the status of effective legal aid granted to the victim as well as the status of the release of compensation admissible to the victim and also file a separate report regarding all measures including sensitization programs underway in the matters relating to sexual violence.
During the course of hearing, DB Observed that our attention has been drawn to extensive reporting in the media regarding the incident in question disclosing the identity of the minor victim. Such reporting has done grave injustice to the privacy and dignity of the child victim.
DB observed that immediate action is required to be taken to identify the reports in the print and electronic media wherein provisions of the Section 23 of the Jammu and Kashmir Protection of Children from Sexual Violence Ordinance, 2018, have been violated and action taken against the persons responsible for the same.
While taking cognizance, DB Observed that an incident of rape of a minor girl child on the 8th May, 2019, in the District Bandipora, Kashmir, has received widespread publicity in the State. Several critical issues relating to the incident appear to need urgent attention.
DB found that there are reports in the media which express grave apprehensions with regard to the effectiveness of the investigation and attempts by accused persons to interfere with the same in order to prevent the guilty being brought to book. There can be no manner of doubt that the investigating agency has to be permitted to discharge its responsibilities independently and freely without any kind of interference and obstruction by any person or authority. Additionally the police is vested with the responsibility of ensuring adequate protection to the victim as well as her family.
DB further observed that at the same time, the rights of the victim have also to be ensured. Towards this end, the Jammu & Kashmir State Legal Services Authority stands vested with the important functions of ensuring legal aid to the victim and grant of compensation to the victim under the scheme in vogue.
DB also found that in cases of sexual violence, critical requirements of sensitive medical examination, treatment and counselling of the traumatized victim must be ensured. Adequate provision of these facilities is the responsibility of the medical authorities of the State.
The incident at hand is not the first incident of sexual violence in the State. Sexual violence unfortunately is endemic to human beings and is not confined to any particular culture, class, religion, age or geographical location. While legislations have attempted to take a strict view of the matter and provide stringent punishments for sexual violence, however, it is increasingly being found that even youngsters are being implicated, some of them unwittingly rendering themselves liable under penal laws being ignorant and unaware of the consequences of their acts or omissions, DB Observed.
DB further observed that in order to address these concerns, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and the Jammu & Kashmir State Legal Services Authority had conceptualized a robust programme of sensitizing and training school children within the ages of 14 to 17 years, in that they could be held culpable under stringent penal laws (POCSO Act, Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Act, Ranbir Penal Code, IT Act) for omission/actions which they may have misguidedly or unwittingly committed which is captioned "Child Abuse and Sexual Violence Interpersonal and Digital Interface". This programme includes sensitizing children on such usage of the electronic media which could invite stringent penalties under the Cyber laws. This programme was inaugurated on 24th December, 2018 from the Delhi Public School, Jammu. This is an attempt on the part of the justice delivery system in the State to take on board all stakeholders towards awareness of sensitization with regard to issues relating to sexual violence. Two days training programme stands organized on 22nd and 23rd of December, 2018 at J&K State Judicial Academy at Jammu. Additionally all the Secretaries of the District Legal Services Authority have undergone an Orientation Training Programme with the Delhi State Legal Services Authority in the month of January, 2019. The incident which is the subject matter of this order highlights the importance which needs to be attached to this sensitization and training programme and emphasizes vigour with which it needs to be pursued.
DB also found that the manner and nature of reporting the alleged offence is being effected in the media in absolute violation of specific statutory prohibitions against disclosure of identity of the victim especially in respect of a minor victim. In the case in hand, the victim as per newspaper reports is a minor girl child of three years age.
DB further observed that With regard to the disclosure of identity of victim of sexual offence two statutory provisions deserve notice.
Sr AAG, who happens to be present in other cases in this Court has been requested to accept the notice on behalf of respondents 1 and 2. He accepts notice and shall file reports in terms of this order positively on or before the 17th May, 2019.
Given the importance of this matter, DB appoints Ms Farah Bashir, Advocate, as Amicus Curiae to assist this Court. DB is of the conscious of the fact that Ms Bashir is a Government Advocate. However, this appointment cannot come in the way of her assisting this Court in this important matter.
DB directed Ms Bashir shall give details of the reports regarding the incident of 8th of May, 2019 which have been published in print and electronic media which may be in violation of Section 23 of the Jammu & Kashmir Protection of Children From Sexual Violence Ordinance, 2018. We shall proceed in respect of such reports upon receiving the list and copies of the reports. (With inputs from JNF)

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