The first all-women court has been set up in the Mumbai Sessions court for victims of sexual assault

Acknowledging that the cases of sexual assault against women are required to be dealt with greater sensitivity, the first all-women court was set up in Mumbai’s Sessions court on International Women’s Day.

In a circular issued on March 7, the Bombay High Court directed “to assign cases involving sexual assault against women exclusively to the courts presided over by women judicial officers in districts/establishment”.

Taking a swift note of the circular, the first all-women court was set up on the next day on March 8 in Mumbai’s Sessions court. “In these cases, women are victims of crime and for the purpose of enabling victims to give their evidence in a stress-free atmosphere and without any fear of embarrassment, it is desirable that all staff members, i.e. bench clerks, stenographer, interpreter, typist-cum-clerk, havildar/peon are all women,” said the circular.

“We have done this so that the victims can feel easy and tension free while deposing in front of the court. It’s an effort from our side to deliver justice to the victims,” Mohit Shah, Chief Justice of Bombay High Court, had said on March 8 at the special gathering of women organised by the Mumbai Police at Gateway of India.

Activists and lawyers have also welcomed the decision calling it a step towards ‘sensitising’ the judicial system over the issues of sexual assaults against women.

Advocate Manisha Tulpule, who has been handling cases of sexual violence against women, termed the step as today’s ‘necessity.’ “What we have been observing over the years is the lack of victim friendly environment in the courts. Sensitisation of court is an extremely important aspect while delivering justice in these cases,” she said. Ms. Tulpule added that all women courts across all districts in Maharashtra will make victims confident while narrating their ordeal and even while answering questions.

Eminent social activist Pushpa Bhave said that though such initiativeis not the ultimate solution, but surely a positive step. “There is a need to take such efforts in today’s world. The victim herself gets framed as guilty for her ordeals in our courts. Lack of sensitivity of male lawyers and presence of other male members worsens her condition. Hence we need to implement such decisions swiftly.”

“The exclusive court for such cases will surely speed up the judicial process in terms of pending cases. The delay in delivering justice has become the main concern over the years and the special court could be the remedy of it,” said Kiran Moghe, president, Maharashtra unit of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA). She termed it as a positive step from the judiciary but added that whether justice is delivered depend on the strength of the law and also on the gender perspective of judicial officers.