DB directs SWD & SLSA to mitigate complaints, difficulties of victims of elderly abuse, child violence & Ors


JAMMU, APRIL 29: A Division Bench J&K High Court Comprising Chief Justice and Rajnesh Oswal while hearing a Suo-Moto Public Interest Litigation on domestic Voilence, observed that this Court had earlier overlooked certain other specific groups in the society, who need special protection. These include, senior citizens; children; the disabled and transgenders. Elderly abuse and violence against children as well as violence against transgenders is rampant in society at all point of time. DB further observed that just like violence against women, such violence may have aggravated in the lockdown situation and resultant confinement and ordered that the directions made by us on the 16th April, 2020 would squarely apply to these groups of the community as well.
DB directed the Department of Social Welfare and Member Secretary, J&K State Legal Services Authority examine the requirements and steps necessary to mitigate the complaints and difficulties of victims of elderly abuse; child violence; violence against disabled and transgenders in the UTs of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh.
DB further directed that a report of measures in place; steps under way and those contemplated regarding them be placed before us before the next date of hearing.
When the PIL came-up for hearing, Division Bench observed that report has been filed by Principal Secreatry Social Welfare Dept and as per the report, during January, 2020 to March, 2020, 81 cases of domestic violence stands registered in the UT of J&K and during the lock down period, the Social Welfare Department has reported that 16 cases of rape, 64 cases of molestation and one case of eve teasing have been reported. Rs. 10 lacs for each district of UT of J&K has been sanctioned out of SDRF fund for COVID-19 containment for victims of domestic violence for providing temporary accommodation, food clothing, medical care etc. Additionally, the department of Disaster Management, Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (DMRR) Government of J&K has issued directions to all the Deputy Commissioner for designating 10 beds in each District Quarantine Centre exclusively and accessible for victims of domestic violence in the J&K.
In the report it has been further informed that a total of 1314 calls have been received from the affected persons on the emergency number 181 from 24th March, 2020 to 24th April, 2020, out of which 65 are related to violence against women and legal process stands initiated in these.
The remaining 956 calls were reported by migrant labourers, who were in distress on account of the lock down. Extensive publicity is being given for putting the information regarding measures available for the victims of domestic violence in the public domain.
DB further observed that So far as designation of informal safe spaces for women for reporting domestic violence/abuse without alerting the perpetrators is concerned, the Social Welfare Department has informed that it has notified Anganwadi Workers for the reason that women/complainants would not be comfortable in expressing their personal issues with the male members of the society. We had cited the example of grocery stores and pharmacies in foreign countries being notified as such safe spaces for the reason that every family is accessing grocery stores and pharmacies even in the lock down period.
DB further observed that Women in distress would not have easy access to the Anganwadi Workers. Ease of access has to be a primary concern for notifying an authority, especially in the urban areas. It may not be correct that women as a rule would be uncomfortable in making a complaint against the violence to male members of the society. It is essential for the Social Welfare Department to consider ease of access of the women in distress, as a basis for notifying the authority. Let the Department
of Social Welfare examine this aspect of the matter and consider notifying such appropriate spaces so that women in difficulty have easy access to them.
DB further observed that the report informs us that during the period of COVID-19 lock up, 19 cases in all under Section 498-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure have been registered in 20 districts in UT of Jammu and Kashmir and no case has been registered in UT of Ladakh and ordered that these cases be followed up and relief, of whatever kind required by the complainants, be made available to them.
DB further observed that the reports placed before us would show that every aspect and issue pointed out by us is being addressed to the minutest detail. Several issues which have not been noted by us have also met an extremely sensitive response by the Department of Social Welfare.
Division Bench also recorded deep appreciation for the prompt responses and extensive steps taken by both, the Department of Social Welfare led by Mr. Salender Kumar, Secretary, Department of Social Welfare and the J&K State Legal Services Authority under 5 WP(C) PIL NO. 2/2020 the leadership of Mr. M. K. Sharma, Member Secretary, J&K, State Legal Services Authority. DB further said that the Deputy Commissioners in the UTs as well as the Secretaries of the District Legal Services Authorities also deserve to be complemented for their commitment to the response to the domestic violence issues during COVID-19 lockdown.

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