Court sits in AIIMS, Unnao rape victim’s statement recorded
The in-camera proceedings started at 10am and went on for roughly eight hours. Only lawyers, select doctors and top officials were allowed inside the court, presided over by judge Dharmesh Sharma.Updated: Sep 11, 2019 23:18 IST
A temporary court was convened inside the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) trauma centre in New Delhi on Wednesday to record the testimony of the Unnao rape survivor, with legal experts welcoming the unprecedented step that was taken to facilitate day-to-day proceedings in the sensitive case.
The in-camera proceedings started at 10am and went on for roughly eight hours. Only lawyers, select doctors and top officials were allowed inside the court, presided over by judge Dharmesh Sharma.
Two of the accused, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Kuldeep Singh Sengar and his associate Shashi Singh, were also brought to the Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Centre, AIIMS, where the woman is presently admitted following a car-truck collision on July 28, in which Sengar is one of the prime suspects. The woman has also accused Sengar of raping her in 2017.
An official said on condition of anonymity that the two accused were present behind a curtain in the same room. The Delhi high court last week approved recording the survivor’s statement at AIIMS.
“It is a very sensitive case and no one was allowed to go inside the temporary court. All the arrangements requested for by the court, like switching off the CCTV cameras inside the room, have been followed,” said a doctor from the hospital on condition of anonymity.
The doctors arranged for a stretcher inside the temporary court to allow her to lie down in between proceedings.
“There are several cases in which the statements are recorded by the magistrate in the hospital, but having an entire courthouse being set up in the hospital, this has never happened before. I have never seen anything like this in all the years that I have worked here,” said a second hospital official.
Judge Sharma decided to continue the day-to-day hearing from Wednesday till the time the testimony is concluded. The special court also stated the proceedings would be held in-camera and no other public person would be allowed to enter the court without permission. The woman is likely to be cross-examined on Thursday.
A first doctor quoted above said the survivor was well and on medication. “That is why her statement is being recorded now. All the major procedures for fixing the orthopaedic injuries are already over. But it takes time for the bones to heal and she is under rehabilitation,” the doctor added.
“The patient is mobile. But the proceedings can go on for six or seven hours and it is not possible for her to stay up for so long. It would put a lot of stress on her body,” the doctor said.
Supreme court advocate Gyanant Singh says the move to set up a temporary court at AIIMS was unprecedented.
“By law, in the interest of justice, court can be held or convened anywhere, on road, a railway platform or hospital. It’s a welcome step to have a court at AIIMS as it meet the ends of justice because the victim is hopitalised and there is a time limit to conclude the trial,” he added.
Throughout the day, there was heavy deployment of security guards, some of them armed, outside and at all the entrances to the hospital. The main gate of the trauma centre was kept closed. The ramp to reach the hospital emergency wing directly was also cordoned off, except to ambulances.
The survivor has been undergoing treatment at AIIMS since August 5 when she was airlifted from the King George’s Medical University, Lucknow. She had suffered fractures of the femur and collar bone and injuries to the chest when her car was hit by a truck in Rae Bareli on July 28. Two of her aunts who were also in the car had died. Her lawyer had also suffered multiple fractures and a brain injury.
On August 1, the Supreme Court shifted the five cases connected with the Unnao rape case to Delhi, assigned a special judge to conduct the day-to-day trial and ordered that the trial be completed within 45 days. The court had taken suo motu cognisance of a letter written by the victim’s family alleging threats from Sengar’s aides.
Sengar, an MLA from Bangarmau in Uttar Pradesh, has been charged under several sections, including 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 506 (criminal intimidation), 363 (kidnapping), 366 (kidnapping or compelling a woman for marriage) and 376 (rape), of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and under sections 3 and 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
His associate, Shashi Singh, who is accused of luring the survivor under the pretext of a job to Sengar’s house in 2017, has also been framed under all of the above sections, other than section 506 of IPC. Both of them are currently lodged in New Delhi’s Tihar jail.
Sengar and Singh have denied the allegations saying that they have been falsely implicated in the matter, and asked for a trial.