Rosy Sequeira, TNN | Jul 23, 2013, 1

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Monday questioned the state government’s sensitivity when told that the women and child welfare department (WCD) has no funds to rehabilitate victims of sexual assault. The court has directed the concerned secretary to remain present in court at the next hearing.

A division bench of Justice SC Dharmadhikariand Justice SB Shukre heard a public interest litigation by the Forum Against Oppression of Women, seeking direction to the state government to constitute a victim compensation fund as mandated by a 1995 Supreme Court judgment to all the states.

The petition said that while Maharashtra had drafted a scheme for relief and rehabilitation of rape victims, it had failed to constitute a fund.

The judges were miffed after perusing the affidavit filed by the WCD commissionerate, which stated the district injuries relief and rehabilitation board has not been able to perform its function as it has not received any funds. “The women and child development department does not have funds? Why are you not coming up with some mechanism and appropriate provision for helping rape victims? Where has your sensitivity gone?” asked Justice Dharmadhikari.

Assistant government pleader Prajakta Shinde said the scheme has to be implemented in 35 districts for which the state requires Central funds. “Will you only register FIR, investigate but not rehabilitate? There are children, minors (among the victims). Where will they go?” asked Justice Dharmadhikari.

The forum’s advocates Mihir Desai and Vijay Hiremath said 15 states have implemented the order for interim compensation. “The government of Maharashtra has not taken any initiative,” said Desai and added acid attack victims must be paid at least 20% compensation at the initial stage.

Desai said that provisions for compensation were inserted in the Criminal Procedure Code in 2009 to provide interim compensation the moment an FIR is lodged. “The idea is to help the victim sustain during trial. Once the trial is over, the court will take care of the victim’s requirement while passing an appropriate order. Interim compensation is to help the victim keep up the fight and aid the cause of justice, otherwise the victim gives up and the whole case collapses.”

On last occasion, the state had informed it would soon come out with a draft policy for rehabilitation and compensation of rape, sexual assault and acid attack. The policy is expected to provide assistance to the victims, it had submitted before the court.

According to the petition, in 1995, National Commission of Women had framed a scheme and submitted to the central government on this issue.

“However, till date the state government has not taken any steps towards the same. Neither a compensation board nor victim compensation fund has been formed yet. As per statistics, 24,206 rape cases were registered all over the country in 2011,” petitioner’s lawyer Mihir Desai said.

The PIL demanded that besides financial assistance, the scheme should also provide legal and medical help. A lawyer should be present with the victim even when she goes to police station to lodge her complaint.

“A list of lawyers’ names should be prepared and kept in every police station so that when a rape victim goes to the police station to lodge a case, the police should ask her if she wants a lawyer to represent her,” the PIL said.

The judges directed the WCD secretary to remain present on July 25.

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