Mumbai, Thu Dec 26 2013

Shakti millMove aims at sparing victims the trauma of deposing before different courts

Anticipating another round of trauma while deposing before the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB), the victims of the two cases of gangrape inside Mahalaxmi’s Shakti Mills compound have sought an amendment to the Juvenile Justice Act (JJA). The move is aimed at saving victims from having to depose repeatedly before different courts in the same case.

The two women, who had deposed before the sessions court in October, had broken down during the hearing. One of them, a 23-year-old photojournalist, fainted when pornographic clips were shown to her as part of the evidence gathered in the case.

Both victims are aware that the change in law will not benefit them. However, in the letter, compiled and facilitated by Majlis — an NGO that is legally aiding them — they want it to benefit victims of sexual offences in the future.

The letter, marked to the Bombay High Court, state Law and Judiciary department and the Women and Child Development department, seeks an amendment to the existing law, which calls for separate trials to be conducted against adults and juveniles.

As juvenile offenders were allegedly involved in both incidents — of July 31 and August 22 — victims are required to depose afresh before the JJB. “Although the girls would have to depose only against the juvenile offenders, they would have to narrate the entire incident to have the statements recorded. It is a horrifying experience for a victim,” said Majlis’ founder and lawyer Flavia Agnes.

“The trauma caused to women and children victims is inconsistent with the constitutional mandate which has special provisions to safeguard women and children. In light of the above, we request you to kindly consider our suggestion, that Section 18 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, be suitably amended to ensure that victims in such cases do not have to depose before both forums,” the letter reads.

Under Section 18 of the Act, no joint proceeding can be carried out in case of juvenile and adult accused involved in the same case.

Ujjwal Uke, principal secretary of Women and Child Development department said while the state is open to suggestions, it requires examination and deliberation. “The JJA is a central law and amendment cannot be made at the state-level. We are looking into available options.”

The Juvenile Justice Act provides for a protective environment for juveniles in conflict with law. In addition, the trial courts should be victim friendly, where minor as well as adult victims of sexual offences are provided a secure environment and the comforts of deposing peacefully before the court. “If the minor victim can walk to the sessions court and it is the state’s duty to provide security and safety to the victim, juveniles can also be brought to court in cases where video-conferencing cannot be arranged,” Agnes said.

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