The Kerala High Court on Wednesday yet again voiced its concern regarding the increasing number of sexual abuse and rape survivors seeking police protection, given the incompetent implementation of the victim protection guidelines.
Justice Devan Ramachandran was adjudicating upon a plea filed by a survivor of sexual attack alleging harassment not just from the accused but also from two police officers:
"Cases of sexual attack victims and rape survivors being intimidated by the accused persons and their associates have been coming to this Court with some regularity...In the case at hand, unfortunately, allegations are far more grievous because, the petitioner, who is stated to be a rape victim, alleges that she is being harassed, not only by the accused, but by certain Police Officers."
The Court added that there was an abundance of guidelines and circulars specifically revolving around the implementation of a victim protection programme in the State:
"Without meaning to conclude at this stage that the allegations in this writ petition are correct, it still causes a lot of distress to this Court because, there are specific guidelines, circulars and orders issued by the various competent authorities with respect to protection of victims of sexual attacks, including rape; but many times, I notice that these are not being effectively implemented."
Advocate Dheeraj Rajan appeared for the petitioner and submitted that the Station House Officer and a civil police officer attached to the Thrikkakkara Police Station were acting in collaboration with the accused in the case of sexual attack against her and that she has therefore been forced to go into hiding.
Although the Court emphasised that the truth behind the allegations were not yet known, it stressed that the competent authorities must be accountable for their failure to effectively implement the victim protection guidelines:
"Since the State of Kerala is on the party array, I am of the view that the issue must be considered at the highest level as to how the mandate of the protection of sexual attack victims should be effectively implemented because this is a matter that cuts at the root of the societal response to such grievous attacks and offences."
Accordingly, the Court directed the District Police Chief to file a response particularly as to how the victim protection protocols can be effectively put in place and implemented.
"This shall be done with reference to the circular issued by the State Police Chief which clearly prescribes the manner in which a sexual attack survivor is required to be protected. However, it is certainly a matter of concern that they have not been yet implemented properly."
The bench further directed the Commissioner of Police to ensure that the life of petitioner and her minor daughter are effectively protected without involving the policemen against whom allegations have been made.
"Such protection shall be offered to the petitioner discreetly, preferably by nominating women Police Officers not in uniform, who shall treat the petitioner with the empathy that she deserves."
Yesterday, this Bench had orally remarked the importance of implementing the victim protection scheme while hearing a plea raised by a minor victim and her mother seeking police protection in a POCSO matter citing that they were being threatened by the perpetrator
However, the same was not recorded in the order. Today, the Court made it a point to express its dissatisfaction in the matter by mentioning it in the order as such:
"In the case that I referred to earlier, this court did not pass a specific order though certain observations were made at the Bar. But taking note of this case, I am of the view that the stipulations for protection of women who have faced the agony of sexual harassment and attack will certainly have to be given a very close look."
The matter will be taken up next on November 26, 2021.
The petitioner was represented by Adv C. Dheeraj Rajan and Adv Anand Kalyanakrishnan