A 16-year-old girl fainted in a Delhi court on Friday when brought face to face with her stepfather who, she said, had raped her for more than three months.
A medical check found that the questions put to her about the alleged sexual assault to identify the accused and confirm the allegations had left her traumatised.
But the stress was aggravated by the girl’s mother and grandmother, who minutes before the deposition were seen by the court staff pressuring the teenager to withdraw the statement accusing her stepfather of rape.
The staff told additional sessions judge Vinod Yadav, in whose court the girl collapsed, that the two women were insisting that the victim tell the court the man had never assaulted her so that he could walk free.
A shocked judge Yadav of the Rohini district courts directed the Delhi government to post a child psychologist with courts hearing child abuse cases.
“No mechanism has been provided in the special courts in the form of accredited list of child psychologist, whose services can be availed by the court in assessing the mental stress level of the victim children before proceeding to record their evidence,” Yadav said.
A child psychologist, the judge said, should counsel the children to help them relax before entering the courtroom to record their statement. “Only after assessing the mental condition of the child by the said psychologist, the court may proceed to record her evidence,” he said.
In 2014, Delhi reported 1,004 cases of child rape. In 140 of these, the accused were either the father, brother, son or grandfather of the victim. India reported 674 such cases in 2014 -- the last year for which data is available – up from 536 in 2013.
Only three states reported more child rapes -- Madhya Pradesh (2,352), Maharashtra (1,714) and Uttar Pradesh (1,538) -- that year, during which the national count was 13,766.
As a presiding officer of the court hearing cases under the Protection of Child from Sexual Offences – a law that deals with child abuse – Yadav said victims in rape cases where the accused was a close relative often faced family pressure to withdraw the complaint. Police, too, identify family pressure as one of the reasons for a high acquittal rate in rape cases.
Friday’s order is in tune with the Delhi high court’s efforts to provide a conducive atmosphere to children who are either victims of crime or witnesses to it. Special child court witness rooms have been established in trial courts. But only two district courts in Delhi -- Karkardooma and Saket -- have the facility.