Earlier today, the Chief Judicial Magistrate granted bail to the survivor of the Araria gangrape case. The survivor and her two support persons, who are also social workers with the Jan Jagarn Shakti Sangathan (JJSS) were sent to jail on July 10 by the Sub-Divisional magistrate on charges of contempt of court.
Reportedly, the traumatized victim was giving her statement to the magistrate under S 164 of CrPC on the fourth day after the gang rape. An alleged outburst on her part was taken to be grounds of contempt of court by the magistrate. She, and her support persons, were also charged with obstructing a public servant from conducting his duties.
Women’s rights advocates have criticised the court’s handling of the situation as a reflection of its inadequate understanding of gender sensitivity. It reflects how the court views and expect survivors to behave in a certain way. A woman crying is more admissible to the court than a woman screaming in grief.
While filing the bail application on July 15, the lawyers found out that an order had been passed suspending all functions of Sessions and District courts due to the COVID-19 lockdown, including through video conferencing. The Chief Judicial Magistrate of Araria scheduled a special hearing today, in lieu of the lockdown, to hear the bail petition.
The survivor was released on bail on a PR bond. A press release issued by JJSS notes that the days spent in jail by the survivor have been an added punishment to the traumatized survivor and her support persons. This has taken a toll on their fragile mental health.
Regretfully, the support persons have not been granted bail and reasons for the same are not known yet. In speaking to The Leaflet, Kamayani Swami of JJSS said “the court has with all good intentions tried to help the survivor. However, by not releasing her support persons, on whom the survivor is dependent on, it has ignored the trauma for the survivor to see her support persons in jail”.
JJSS has argued that the detaining of the support persons is legally unsustainable. At a time when the country needs more effective support systems for survivors of sexual assault, their arrest will come as a big blow to the growth of survivor support systems.
While the High Court took cognizance of the matter on July 16 to hold hearing through video conferencing the next day, the same could not materialize. JJSS is still waiting to be heard for the release of their support persons and has approached both the Sessions Court of Araria and Patna High Court for relief. The COVID-19 lockdown related suspension of court activities is going to impact the speed of justice for persons performing the crucial role of support systems for survivors.