Even the Capital doesn’t seem to be ready enough to ensure “dignity of rape victims” with both the city police and medical centres failing to comply with the Delhi High Court’s directions — issued after the December 16 Delhi gang rape case — to the duo on the best practices to be followed while handling a rape case.
Much guideline framing and paper work later by those working in the field — hospitals staff and police personnel — maintain that it’s the lack of awareness, training and shortage and at times even the unavailability of prescribed equipment to handle rape cases that puts both the victim and investigation at `risk’.
With Delhi Hospitals facing shortage of even the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) kits to be used for examination of rape victims, senior advocate Rebecca John, who has worked on the frontlines of sexual assault prosecutions states says: “Nothing has changed in Delhi, there is a terrible lack of empathy and absence of consistency in the manner in which rape victims are dealt with. Evidence gathering is shockingly poor and a matter of shame.”
Women rights activists also note that many medical centres in the Capital still don’t provide prompt medical care and evidence gathering in a manner that offers complete privacy to the victim.
“Several centres don’t have separate designated rooms, furniture, periodic training sessions, and sensitisation workshops or maintain an update directory of the contact points. This works against the victim,’’ said a senior doctor at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.
Meanwhile, explaining the sequence followed by the law enforcing agencies while dealing with a rape case, former Delhi Standing Counsel K.C. Mittal said: “Investigation in a rape case begins with lodging of an FIR, thereafter the investigating officer collects evidence, which includes medical examination of the victim, recording of her statement by the officer as well as under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code by a judicial magistrate. The statement recorded by the magistrate is admissible as evidence in trial.”
“Of late, the court has come around the view that a rape accused can be convicted solely on the basis of the victim’s statement if the court find it credible,” he added.
“In Tarun Tejpal, editor-in-chief of Tehelka case we have had two glaring mistakes already,” said lawyer Vrinda Grover.
“In this case there has been an `illegal’ leak of the letter written by the woman journalist who was allegedly sexually assaulted. On the part of the Shoma Chaudhury, the managing editor of Tehelka magazine there has been a failure of accepting and discharging her responsibility [as an employer] by not reporting the matter as required by the Supreme Court guidelines in the Vishaka case (1997),” she added.