HC: Are norms for sex­ual as­sault com­plaints in place?

‘Bring In More Women Cops’

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES CITY - Shibu Thomas

Mum­bai: The Bom­bay high court on Wed­nes­day asked the state gov­ern­ment about the steps it had taken to im­ple­ment new rules framed fol­low­ing the Nirb­haya case to record sex­ual as­sault com­plaints by women.

A di­vi­sion bench of Jus­tice Naresh Patil and Jus­tice V L Ach­liya was hear­ing a pe­ti­tion filed by a 34-year-old Dahisar res­i­dent who claimed the po­lice had dis­re­garded her pleas to have her state­ment recorded by afe­male of­fi­cer.

“When the vic­tim is a woman, the new law pro­vides for strin­gent rules on how her state­ment has to be recorded by the po­lice,” re­marked the judges. “In light of the rules, are there a suf­fi­cient num­ber of women po­lice of­fi­cers at­tached to po­lice sta­tions in the state? In the ab­sence of it, what are the steps be­ing taken to re­cruit ad­e­quate women po­lice of­fi­cers?”

The court asked ad­di­tional pub­lic prose­cu­tor Jayesh Yag­nik to take in­struc­tions from ad­di­tional chief sec­re­tary (home) within a week about the mea­sures the state plans to take to en­sure the po­lice fol­low the rules, in­clud­ing have a woman of­fi­cer record a vic­tim’s state­ment and video-record it, among oth­ers.

Ad­vo­cate Mo­han Tekavde, coun­sel for Stella Mukhopad­hyay (name changed), said the en­tire case would be af­fected as the po­lice had vi­o­lated the rules framed in April 2013 for record­ing state­ments in cases of crimes against women. “You have to sen­si­tize the po­lice and is­sue a cir­cu­lar to make the po­lice aware of the change in rules,” said the judges. The prose­cu­tor ad­mit­ted there was a la­cuna on the part of the po­lice, but said the po­lice sta­tion did not have any fe­male of­fi­cer. The court, though, was not im­pressed. “The state will have to think over what to do if there is no fe­male po­lice of­fi­cer at­tached to a po­lice sta­tion. You may have to call for an of­fi­cer from another po­lice sta­tion. The state will also have to con­sider re­cruit­ing more women of­fi­cers,” the judges said.

Ac­cord­ing to Stella, on Au- gust 17, 2013, she was “abused, beaten and mo­lested” by three res­i­dents of her build­ing as she was park­ing her car. Ad­vo­cate Tekavde said the po­lice ini­tially reg­is­tered a case of crim­i­nal in­tim­i­da­tion, a bail­able of­fence. It was only af­ter she moved higher-ups that the po­lice, in Oc­to­ber, ap­plied the newly in­tro­duced Sec­tion 354 B of the In­dian Pe­nal Code that deals with crim­i­nal force or as­sault on a woman with the in­tent to dis­robe her. The pun­ish­ment, if con­victed, is a jail term of not less than three years and up to seven years. The prose­cu­tor said the three ac­cused had been ar­rested and a chargesheet filed.

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