For a rape victim, assault itself is often just the beginning of her misery. This trauma gets compounded when she is made to confront the accused, identify him and recount the horrific incident in court.
Proximity with the accused and a formidable environment in which survivors of sexual assault have to recount the violence results in another round of victimisation. In several cases, this has resulted in victims turning hostile, leading to acquittal in rape cases.
In an attempt to ameliorate the situation, the Delhi high court has begun the Vulnerable Witness Project, as part of which it developed a special courtroom to provide a safe and secure environment to the victims during their deposition.
Victims and witnesses of sexual assault cases can give their evidence in this special courtroom without confronting the accused.
Inaugurated by Delhi HC Chief Justice NV Ramana, the courtroom has begun its operation in the Karkardooma court complex. “I feel proud to state that Vulnerable Witness Deposition Complex at Karkardooma Courts in Delhi is the first complex of its kind in India and South Asia,” he said.
This room has an entry that will be inaccessible to the accused. Here, a victim or witness can testify on a video link from a room adjacent to the courtroom where the judge, prosecutor, accused and his counsel will remain present.
In case the victim or witness wishes to testify before the judge, the accused will be moved to an adjacent room with a one-way viewing glass so that he can see and hear the proceedings. An audio link would be provided so that he can give instructions to his lawyer.
Justice Gita Mittal, who heads the high court committee overseeing the project, said: “The complex is the face of the change for which we aspire. It will also make justice accessible.”