It's not just depression that haunts a rape victim. There's also the trauma of being in court — reliving the entire episode in front of unknown people, horrendous questions from the defence lawyer and facing yet again the person(s) who had brutalised her.
That is why the legal fraternity is now pushing for a process that is less traumatic for victims of rape. One way is creating special deposition rooms to protect the victim's privacy.
The Karkardooma court complex, for instance, houses a 'vulnerable witness examination room' where the statements of victims of child abuse are recorded. Now a Delhi High Court committee is deliberating upon setting up similar rooms in the six district courts.
Court sources said a panel headed by Delhi High court judge Geeta Mittal and judge Reva Khetrapal is exploring the possibility of including victims of rape and sexual violence as vulnerable witnesses.
Generally, in-camera proceedings are a part of a rape trial, but these cases are listed with other routine cases. "This room provides complete privacy to the minor rape victims to record their evidence as it is a separate room away from the busy courtrooms" said a senior judge at Karkardooma court.
Senior advocate Meenakshi Lekhi said, "The courts should follow Supreme Court's guidelines in providing facilities to rape victims."
The Code of Criminal Procedures requires that all evidence in the course of trial be taken in the presence of the accused. But the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2012, introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 4, 2012 by Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, seeks to create an exception in cases of sexual assault, in which the victim is a minor. It also allows the court to take appropriate measures to ensure the victim does not face the accused.
A prosecution lawyer at Karkardooma court admitted that the defence lawyers of the accused in rape cases often pose horrendous questions. “Advocates ask the victim to explain bit by bit how she was raped. They say things like were you raped or it was consensual. Such questions only increase their trauma," he added.
Senior advocate Kamini Jaiswal said, "Instead of police, magisterial enquiries should be conducted." Senior advocate Geeta Luthra said "A psychiatrist should be present in the court for the victims."