New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has directed the Centre and the AAP government to effectively implement provisions of the Domestic Violence Act during the lockdown imposed to combat coronavirus.
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar also directed the authorities to ensure that all the helplines and Whatsapp numbers through which victims can seek help are kept functional and to respond to calls or messages received on them.
It asked the authorities to bring into force such a mechanism by which prompt action could be taken forthwith.
The bench, which heard the matter via video-conferencing on Friday, said enough and adequate steps appeared to have been taken by the authorities and therefore, it saw no reason to further monitor the matter.
With the observation and directions, the court disposed of an NGO's plea seeking measures to safeguard victims of domestic violence and child abuse amidst the COVID-19 lockdown.
NGO All India Council of Human Rights, Liberties and Social Justice (AICHLS), in its petition filed through advocate Mithu Jain, had claimed that there were increasing number of domestic violence incidents since the nation was put under lockdown and had sought an urgent intervention by the court.
During the hearing on Friday, the Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor General Maninder Acharya and central government standing counsel Anurag Ahluwalia, said advisories were issued to all the states and Union territories to ensure one-stop centres and women helplines are kept operational during the lockdown.
They also told the court that the emergency response support system over the short code 112 was also available for emergency rescue and support to women facing or apprehending violence.
They added that protection officers would continue to provide their services.
Delhi government, represented by its additional standing counsel Sanjoy Ghose and advocate Urvi Mohan, told the bench that it has taken various steps, including keeping operational 24-hour helpline 181, setting up three women institutions, advertising the helpline and WhatsApp numbers and appointing protection officers.
The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) and the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) told the court that they too have set up mobile helplines to deal with domestic violence cases and offer advice to callers.
"In serious assault or sexual assault cases, Crisis Intervention Centre (CIC) through rape crisis cell counsellors will accompany the aggrieved person to the police station or hospital," DCW lawyer Rajshekhar Rao told the bench.
While noting the steps taken by the authorities, the bench said persons manning the helplines "must be trained about possible remedies of the common difficulties of complainants".
The NGO, in its plea, had contended that incidents of domestic violence and child abuse have gripped not only India but countries such as Australia, the UK and the USA, and the reports suggest that countries were witnessing a horrific surge in domestic violence cases since the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdowns.
The plea had claimed that the helpline numbers across the country have received around 92,000 calls based on domestic abuse and violence in the first 11 days of the lockdown alone.