Six women lawyers seek setting up of one-stop crisis centres for providing assistance to victims
The Madras High Court on Tuesday decided to hear on Friday a public interest litigation petition filed jointly by six women lawyers seeking a direction to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to appoint a high-ranking woman official to probe the Pollachi sexual abuse cases which were transferred to it by the State government.
First Division Bench of Chief Justice Vijaya Kamlesh Tahilramani and Justice M. Duraiswamy agreed to take up the case for admission on Friday, after senior counsel R. Vaigai, representing the petitioners, requested for early hearing of the case since they had also sought for extension of benefits of witness protection scheme to the victims.
Another relief sought by the petitioners was to issue a direction to the State government and Tamil Nadu Legal Services Authority to set up one-stop crisis centres along with victim-centric standard operative procedures and survivor support services for providing medical care, legal aid and other assistance to victims of sexual crimes.
G. Chamki Raj, A. Arulmozhi, B.S. Ajeetha, Adhilakshmi Logamurthy, R. Sudha and Kiruba Munusamy had filed the case.
The petitioners accused the State government of having created a hostile environment for the victims, their families and other victims in the Pollachi sexual abuse issue.
The petitioners said the government had thereby caused “secondary victimisation of victims of sexual violence.”
The petitioners claimed that no survivor support structures or witness protection scheme was in place in the State. “No information has been provided to the public about this. Hence, we have approached this honourable court to voice the concerns of the victims as in the circumstances of the case and the very nature of things, they are unable to speak out,” the petitioners said.
Lack of protection
Accusing the police and the State government of having revealed the identity of the complainant in the case in violation of the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court, the women lawyers said the lack of protection to the complainant as well as other victims had become a significant barrier in their pursuit for justice.
“The most important safeguard to a victim of sexual violence is the protection of identity,” they said.
“This protection has been totally disregarded in the instant case. It is obvious that the rest of the victims of sexual assault and blackmail have not come forward to give any complaint to the police,” the petitioners added.
In order to ensure a free and fair investigation into the issue, they insisted that a gender-sensitive woman officer be appointed by the CBI to investigate the Pollachi issue.