Close to 400 lawyers, from across the country, have written to the Chief Justice of Patna High Curt demanding systemic changes in the treatment of survivors of sexual crimes. The letter follows the shocking nature of the court’s treatment of a survivor of rape. A Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate of the district of Araria ordered the arrest of the survivor and her two caregivers while recording her statement under S 164 of CrPC.
The signatories include Senior Advocates Indira Jaising and Rebecca John. Other prominent advocates such as Vrinda Grover, Flavia Agnes, and Susan Abraham are also signatories of the letter. The letter seeks the Chief Justice’s immediate intervention in the matter.
The letter notes that the magistrate perceived her disoriented state of mind as a personal affront and remanded her, along with her caregivers, into custody for contempt of court. The illegalities extend to the court staff itself having revealed her identity to the local press, as has been reported by news reports.
Women’s rights advocates have underscored the importance of efficient support systems for survivors of sexual assault. In a deeply patriarchal society, the legal, judicial, medical, and police systems have to be sensitized to the trauma faced by a survivor of sexual assault.
The survivor in this case was giving her statement on the fourth day since the incident of gang rape. The letter highlights her distraught state of mind, having not eaten or slept properly for days. She was in physical pain and disoriented. In this condition, she was completely dependent on her caregivers who were supporting her through the exhausting process of repeatedly giving her statement to sundry personnel. Moreover, no COVID test was conducted despite the assault by strangers.
The letter argues that instead of treating the survivor and her caregivers with the sensitivity they have been subjected to excessive and harsh move of remanding them into judicial custody. This has only added to the survivor’s trauma. Moreover, she has now been maligned in popular perception and, consequently, her original case has been put on the backburner.