STATE TIMES NEWS SRINAGAR: A Division Bench (DB) of State High Court comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Tashi Rabstan on Wednesday took cognisance in the incident of rape of a minor girl on May 8, 2019, in the District Bandipora, Kashmir and impleaded IGP Kashmir, Secretary Health and Medical Education and Member Secretary Legal Aid and issued notice to the respondents for May 17, 2019. DB also directed IG Kashmir to file a report on the steps for effective investigation into the matter as well as protection given to the victim and her family on or before the next date. DB further directed Secretary Health and Medical Education to file report with regard to the steps taken regarding medical examination, medical treatment and counselling being administered to the victim. DB further directed Member State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) to file a report regarding the status of effective legal aid granted to the victim as well as the status of the release of compensation admissible to the victim and also file a separate report regarding all measures including sensitisation programmes underway in the matters relating to sexual violence. During the course of hearing, DB observed that court’s attention has been drawn towards extensive reporting in the media regarding the incident in question disclosing the identity of the minor victim. Such reporting has done grave injustice to the privacy and dignity of the child victim, court observed and added that immediate action is required to be taken to identify the reports in the print and electronic media wherein provisions of the Section 23 of the Jammu and Kashmir Protection of Children from Sexual Violence Ordinance, 2018, have been violated and action taken against the persons responsible for the same. While taking cognisance, DB observed that several critical issues relating to the incident appear to need urgent attention. It also observed that there are reports in the media which express grave apprehensions with regard to the effectiveness of the investigation and attempts by accused persons to interfere with the same in order to prevent the guilty being brought to book. “There can be no manner of doubt that the investigating agency has to be permitted to discharge its responsibilities independently and freely without any kind of interference and obstruction by any person or authority. Additionally the police is vested with the responsibility of ensuring adequate protection to the victim as well as her family”, the court observed. DB observed that at the same time, the rights of the victim have also to be ensured. Towards this end, the JKSLSA stands vested with the important functions of ensuring legal aid to the victim and grant of compensation to the victim under the scheme in vogue. DB also observed that in cases of sexual violence, critical requirements of sensitive medical examination, treatment and counselling of the traumatised victim must be ensured. Adequate provision of aforesaid facilities is the responsibility of the medical authorities of the State, the court observed. “The incident at hand is not the first incident of sexual violence in the State. Sexual violence unfortunately is endemic to human beings and is not confined to any particular culture, class, religion, age or geographical location. While legislations have attempted to take a strict view of the matter and provide stringent punishments for sexual violence, however, it is increasingly being found that even youngsters are being implicated, some of them unwittingly rendering themselves liable under penal laws being ignorant and unaware of the consequences of their acts or omissions”, DB observed. DB observed that in order to address aforesaid concerns, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and the Jammu and Kashmir State Legal Services Authority had conceptualised a robust programme of sensitising and training school children within the ages of 14 to 17 years. “In this programme captioned as “Child Abuse and Sexual Violence Interpersonal and Digital Interface”, the children shall be informed that they could be held culpable under stringent penal laws (POCSO Act, Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Act, Ranbir Penal Code, IT Act) for omission/actions which they may have misguidedly or unwittingly committed. This programme also includes sensitising children on such usage of the electronic media which could invite stringent penalties under the Cyber laws. Additionally all the Secretaries of the District Legal Services Authority have undergone an Orientation Training Programme with the Delhi State Legal Services Authority in the month of January, 2019″, the court observed. Senior Additional Advocate General, who happens to be present in the court, was requested to accept the notice on behalf of respondents. He accepted the notice and shall file reports in terms of this order positively on or before May 17, 2019. Given the importance of this matter, DB appointed Farah Bashir, Advocate, as Amicus Curiae to assist the court. “DB is conscious of the fact that Bashir is a Government Advocate however, this appointment cannot come in the way of her assisting this Court in this important matter”, the court held and directed Bashir to give details of the reports regarding the incident of May 8, 2019 which have been published in print and electronic media which may be in violation of Section 23 of the Jammu and Kashmir Protection of Children from Sexual Violence Ordinance, 2018. We shall proceed in respect of such reports upon receiving the list and copies of the reports, the court observed.
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