The Delhi High Court on Tuesday reiterated the guidelines laid down by it in the case of Delhi Commission for Women v. Delhi Police, and directed the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) to ensure that every rape victim in Delhi is offered the services of a DSLSA panel lawyer and counseling services from the earliest stage of the case, till its conclusion.
The Court had, in Delhi Commission for Women case, approved guidelines submitted to it by the Delhi Commission for Women to enable the authorities to effectively tackle sexual offences, including incest and child sexual abuse offences. The guidelines had been prepared in consultation with all departments, police and the Judges of Delhi Higher Judicial Service.
The Bench comprising Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice I.S. Mehta now ordered, "The Court reiterates the above guidelines and further directs that the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) shall ensure that hereafter every rape victim in Delhi, unless she is able to arrange a private lawyer, is offered the services of a panel lawyer of the DSLSA and counseling services from the earliest stage of the case, i.e. even at the stage of recording of her statement under Section 164 Cr PC and thereafter throughout the trial. This may have to continue even thereafter till the conclusion of the appeal, if any."
The Court was hearing Appeals challenging a judgment passed by a lower court convicting the Appellants for kidnapping and raping a 13-year-old girl.
Hearing the Appeal, the High Court opined that the minor girl's testimony did not inspire confidence and that the medical evidence was also not fully supportive of the prosecution case. It further noted that the girl did not have a clear understanding of the term "rape".
It observed, "In the present case, not only have the public witnesses not supported the prosecution case, the evidence of even the police witnesses is riddled with inconsistencies. As already mentioned, neither the medical evidence nor the FSL report connects the accused with the crime."
The Court then opined that the prosecution had failed to establish the allegations against the Appellants beyond a reasonable doubt, and lamented the lapses in investigation, observing, "The obvious lapses in investigation, that have been discussed hereinbefore, have defeated the case of the prosecution. There were unexplained inordinate delays at every stage of the investigation. Despite the prosecution showing that the crime took place, it has failed to bring the criminals responsible for it to book."
It, therefore, allowed the Appeals and ordered refund of the fine and compensation amount, if it had been paid, back to the Appellants. It, however, clarified that if any compensation had been paid to the minor girl by the DLSA Shahdara District pursuant to the Court's order, it shall not be asked to be refunded by her or recovered from the Appellants.