MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Wednesday asked the state government about the steps it had taken to implement new rules framed following the Nirbhaya case to record sexual assault complaints by women.
A division bench of Justice Naresh Patil and Justice V L Achliya was hearing a petition filed by a 34-year-old Dahisar resident who claimed the police had disregarded her pleas to have her statement recorded by a female officer.
“When the victim is a woman, the new law provides for stringent rules on how her statement has to be recorded by the police,” remarked the judges. “In light of the rules, are there a sufficient number of women police officers attached to police stations in the state? In the absence of it, what are the steps being taken to recruit adequate women police officers?”
The court asked additional public prosecutor Jayesh Yagnik to take instructions from additional chief secretary (home) within a week about the measures the state plans to take to ensure the police follow the rules, including have a woman officer record a victim’s statement and video-record it, among others.
Advocate Mohan Tekavde, counsel for Stella Mukhopadhyay (name changed), said the entire case would be affected as the police had violated the rules framed in April 2013 for recording statements in cases of crimes against women. “You have to sensitize the police and issue a circular to make the police aware of the change in rules,” said the judges. The prosecutor admitted there was a lacuna on the part of the police, but said the police station did not have any female officer. The court, though, was not impressed. “The state will have to think over what to do if there is no female police officer attached to a police station. You may have to call for an officer from another police station. The state will also have to consider recruiting more women officers,” the judges said.
According to Stella, on August 17, 2013, she was “abused, beaten and molested” by three residents of her building as she was parking her car. Advocate Tekavde said the police initially registered a case of criminal intimidation, a bailable offence. It was only after she moved higher-ups that the police, in October, applied the newly introduced Section 354 B of the Indian Penal Code that deals with criminal force or assault on a woman with the intent to disrobe her. The punishment, if convicted, is a jail term of not less than three years and up to seven years. The prosecutor said the three accused had been arrested and a chargesheet filed.