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Delhi HC Asks Govt To See Whether Temporary Protection Officers Can Be Appointed, Till Regular Appointments Are Made, For Protecting Women From Domestic Violence [Read Order]

Karan Tripathi
26 April 2020 2:15 PM GMT
Delhi HC Asks Govt To See Whether Temporary Protection Officers Can Be Appointed, Till Regular Appointments Are Made, For Protecting Women From Domestic Violence [Read Order]
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In a petition seeking protection of women from domestic violence during the lockdown, the Delhi High Court has asked the concerned authorities to consider whether temporary Protection Officers can be appointed, till regular appointments are made, to address the gravity of the situation.

While taking into record the various measures already undertaken by the Central and Delhi Government, the Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Hari Shankar highlighted that persons who are responding on the helpline must be trained about possible remedies of the common difficulties of the complainants and such a mechanism must be brought into force by which prompt action can be taken forthwith. If the person operating the helpline is inefficient, he can be changed.

The court further observed that:

'We expect from the respondents that the provisions contained in the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 shall be effectively implemented by the Respondents. All the helplines and WhatsApp numbers etc. which are mentioned herein above in detail shall be kept functional properly and they shall respond to whatever calls or messages they are receiving. If the affected persons face any difficulties in reaching the Nodal Officers, or in any other respect, it shall always be open to them, to contact the DSLSA, which assures us, that they will take all due steps to come to their aid.'

The order has come in a writ petition seeking protection of women from domestic violence during the lockdown by strict implementation of the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act.

While highlighting the spike in the domestic violence cases during the lockdown, the Petitioner submitted that only 17 Protection Officers are not adequate for such a large population of Delhi. Moreover, no mass campaigning has been done till date and no efforts have been undertaken for mass outreach.

The Petitioner further argued that the remedies regarding the domestic violence available on the website are of no help to the poor, down-trodden and illiterate as they have no access to these online remedies.

While pointing out the steps already taken by the government, the Petitioner gave the following recommendations to the court:

  1. The number of Protection Officers may be increased;
  2. There must be wide publication through various modes of electronic and print media;
  3. Helpline numbers may be widely published in several newspapers and in any other methodology that can be easily adopted;
  4. If any complaint is filed, immediate action should be taken; and emergency passes may be issued to the Protection Officers;
  5. Dedicated teams including women officers may be formed.

Appearing for the Central Government, ASG Maninder Acharya informed the court that the following measures have been taken by the government so far to address the issue of domestic violence during lockdown:

  1. On March 25, an Advisory was issued by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to Chief Secretaries/ Administrators of all States/ UTs and District Collectors/ District Magistrates of all districts regarding One Stop Centres and Women Helplines (WHL-181) to remain operational during the COVID-19 lockdown period.
  2. Emergency Response Support System over the short code 112 is also available for emergency rescue and support to women facing or apprehending violence and that the Protection Officers would continue to provide their services.
  3. Apart from sensitizing the Protection Officers, four hours long webinar was conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development wherein special sessions were held by eminent experts from AIIMS and NALSA on psychological and legal counseling and such other matters to provide guidance to the frontline functionaries for assisting women affected by difficult circumstances including domestic violence.
  4. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in collaboration with "NIMHANS" has started a helpline 080 – 46110007 to provide psychological support to victims of domestic violence.
  5. National Commission for Women (NCW) has introduced a complaints portal for registering complaints of women facing domestic violence and also launched a special WhatsApp number – 7217735372 for the same.
  6. Advisory dated 30.01.2020 has also been issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to all private satellite TV channels and FM Radio channels to give adequate publicity to the ERSS [121] on women safety and persons in distress.

In addition to this, it was also informed to the court that both the DSLSA and Delhi Commission for Women have set up helplines and WhatsApp numbers for providing legal aid and advice to women in distress, upon receiving a call or a text. In addition to this, transit passes are being provided to the Protection Officers.

Moreover, DCW submitted, in serious assault/sexual assault cases, Crisis Intervention Centre (CIC) through rape crisis cell counsellors accompany the aggrieved person to the police station, hospital, etc.

After taking all these submissions into record, the court observed that adequate steps have been initiated by the Respondents and the court doesn't see any reason to further monitor the case.

However, the court did highlight that the Respondents are expected to look into the suggestion of appointing temporary Protection Officers. Moreover, the Respondents are expected to modify the steps already undertaken to reflect the present needs of the society.

The Petitioner in this case was represented by Mr Arjun Syal and Ms Mithu Jain

Click Here To Download Order

[Read Order]

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