Issuing guidelines for the prevention and control of crimes against women, the Punjab and Haryana high court on Tuesday directed Punjab and Haryana to consider a legislation on eve-teasing on the pattern of Tamil Nadu, where it is a non-bailable offence with maximum punishment up to 10 years' imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 50,000.
The directions came from the special division bench comprising chief justice Arjan Kumar Sikri and justice Tejinder Singh Dhindsa on a bunch of petitions seeking remedial measures to curb crimes against women in the form of rape, eve-teasing, sexual harassment, acid attacks etc in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh. The high court had also taken suo motu notice of the case of a 17-year-old gangrape victim from Samana (Patiala), who had committed suicide in December last year after being threatened by rapists and policemen.
The court said it had no hesitation in observing that Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh had "just about woken up to the issue" when incidents of rape, eve-teasing, sexual harassment and acid attacks had "assumed monstrous proportions". The bench also observed that various steps taken by the authorities "apparently seem to be in the nature of damage control and to meet the nationwide hue and cry raised on such a public issue."
The role of women in the country has transformed from a homemaker to a home facilitator and "crimes committed against women can be termed as social crimes as they destroy the entire social fabric of the community," the bench opined.
It said that both state governments and Chandigarh were "obligated in terms of the constitutional mandate to protect the life and personal liberty of every citizen."
The court added that it was issuing directions in addition to the what the Supreme Court had issued in the case of "The Deputy Inspector General of Police and another vs S Samuthiram" on November 30, 2012. "……..directions being issued by this court cannot be construed as exhaustive in nature… it would always be open for the appropriate state governments and union territory, Chandigarh to take any other additional initiative towards prevention and control of such menace …" the bench said.
Court directions to both states, UT
Punjab and Haryana to consider legislation on eve-teasing on the pattern of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Eve-Teasing Act, 1988, wherein eve-teasing is a non-bailable offence with maximum 10 years' rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 50,000.
Public transport must have cops to keep an eye on potential troublemakers and habitual offenders. Names and photographs of habitual offenders be displayed promptly at public places.
Frame comprehensive policy to provide medical and financial assistance to physical/sexual abuse victims
Policy should encompass psychiatric and psychological counselling; and entail a rehabilitation package to assist the victim to overcome trauma
Set up dedicated women helpline manned by trained women cops to provide immediate response to complaints. Helpline number to be boldly displayed at public places. Sexual assault response team to be set up.
Women armed special protection squads to be constituted in each district, equipped with adequate transport and given defined area of operation including near educational institutions and sensitive areas as a deterrent to criminal activities.
Frame comprehensive guidelines for police officials to investigate cases of crimes against women from the registration of FIR till completion of probe within shortest possible time and presentation of challan in trial court.
To set up quick response cell in government hospitals to serve as one-stop window for physically/sexually abused women and children. It would facilitate in getting FIR registered, preparation of medico-legal report and getting forensic science laboratory report, etc.
To consider issuance of mandate to all private hospitals not to turn away any victim of sexual assault/abuse only on account of medico-legal complications. Government agencies to extend all necessary cooperation in this regard to private hospitals
State Women's Commission to take pro-active steps to ensure general sensitisation and also to become watchdog for women interest. Working of commissions to be assessed periodically and commissions be provided adequate funding to make them more effective