Delhi HC allows UN-affiliated NGO to meet gang rape victim

Updated on Jul 27, 2022 01:13 AM IST

The NGO, United Sikhs, had moved the high court seeking permission to meet the victim, alleging that their representatives were not allowed to meet and interact with her; the whole area near her parental home was cordoned off by police, the NGO claimed.

It also alleged that the woman’s rights to hire and engage a lawyer of her choice and to be provided legal aid, assistance and guidance for prosecution of crime were denied. (REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE)
It also alleged that the woman’s rights to hire and engage a lawyer of her choice and to be provided legal aid, assistance and guidance for prosecution of crime were denied. (REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE)

Cautioning them to not give the meeting a political or religious colour, the Delhi high court granted permission to a United Nations (UN)-affiliated NGO to meet a 21-year-old Sikh woman, who was allegedly gang-raped and paraded before a crowd, with a garland of footwear around her neck, in east Delhi’s Shahdara in January this year.

The NGO, United Sikhs, had moved the high court seeking permission to meet the victim, alleging that their representatives were not allowed to meet and interact with her; the whole area near her parental home was cordoned off by police, the NGO claimed.

It also alleged that the woman’s rights to hire and engage a lawyer of her choice and to be provided legal aid, assistance and guidance for prosecution of crime were denied.

Allowing the NGO representatives to meet with the woman, Justice Anoop Kumar Mehndiratta said, “However, it may be observed that any political colour shall not be given to the incident, nor any religious reflection added out of context, to avoid distortion of the criminal justice system.”

In an order of July 21, the judge also said “a meeting generally cannot be denied for providing necessary legal aid and assistance, if required by the victim, but caution remains that such meetings are not used inappropriately for creating any “law and order” situation or arousing the emotions of a particular community in an adverse manner thereby disturbing the public tranquillity or likely to cause breach of peace”.

The court also took note of the Delhi State Legal Services Authority’s (DSLA) report which showed that the victim had expressed satisfaction with the legal aid provided to her. The DSLA asserted that the counsel appointed for the woman was pursuing the matter diligently.

While disposing of the plea, the court noted that the petitioner NGO has raised important issues regarding rights of the victim with regard to legal aid, assistance and representation for proper investigation before the courts of law as per their choice as well as on the need to confer rights on organisations, such as the petitioner, to meaningfully intervene and assist victims of heinous crimes.

It asserted that the state is mandated to provide appropriate legal aid to victims whenever a victim is unable to engage a lawyer, or secure legal services on account of indigence or poverty or any other situation.

“The state as the custodian of power of the rule of law owes a duty to ensure that legal aid, if required by the victim, is duly provided for enforcement of her legal rights, since the state, in pursuing or conducting a criminal case, does not espouse any right of its own but vindicates the cause of society at large,” the judge said.

On January 28, the 21-year-old woman was abducted by at least 11 members of a family in her neighbourhood -- including women and minor boys -- locked in a room where she was gang-raped in front of the women, who later chopped her hair off, blackened her face, put a garland of footwear around her neck, and paraded her through the lanes near their house in east Delhi’s Shahdara.

The motive for the crime, police had said, was personal enmity -- the family held the woman responsible for the death by suicide of one of their kin, a 16-year-old boy whose advances were rebuffed by the woman.

The accused filmed the whole gamut of demeaning and criminal acts on their cellphones. For nearly an hour, barely 50 metres from the local police booth that was unmanned at that time, the woman was subjected to torture in full public view.

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    Reports from the Delhi High Court and stories on legal developments in the city. Avid mountain lover, cooking and playing with birds 🐦 when not at work

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