Lawyers from across the country wrote to the Patna High Court chief justice and other judges seeking their intervention in the “insensitive” manner in which a gang-rape victim was sent to jail by a court in Bihar's Araria district for yelling, possibly after suffering a nervous breakdown.
In a letter to the chief justice and other judges of the Patna High Court, 376 advocates voiced concern over the manner in which the 22-year-old woman and two social workers accompanying her at a court in Araria district were recently remanded in judicial custody and sent to a jail in Dalsinghsarai, about 240 km away.
The lawyers have urged the high court to bring about systemic changes in dealing with such cases. They said the 14-day judicial custody handed to the victim was “excessive and harsh”, and could further jeopardise her health.
On Wednesday evening, the high court took cognisance of the case and sought information from the Araria district and sessions judge. Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh of the high court will hear the matter on Thursday.
The letter, signatories to which include luminaries like Indira Jaisingh, Prashant Bhushan and Vrinda Grover, expressed unhappiness that when the victim appeared before the magistrate on July 10, the latter took her disoriented state of mind as a personal affront.
According to Ashish Ranjan Jha, the secretary of Jan Jagran Shakti Sansthan, the Araria-based social organisation to which the victims jailed caregivers belonged, the incident took place on July 6.
She had gone out of her home to learn how to ride a motorcycle with an acquaintance. Four of his friends caught hold of her, while the acquaintance ran away, and raped her, as per the FIR she lodged a day later.
She was spotted by workers of the Sansthan who first took her home, but noticing that her family members were unsympathetic, agreed to take her along and look after her while she fought for justice.
According to police sources, in the FIR lodged by a court staff against the trio, the victim had grown agitated upon being asked to sign a transcript of the statement and insisted that Kalyani and Nivedita be called in for a perusal of the document.
Later, the social workers too approached the magistrates' staff and requested that they be shown a copy of her statement which was turned down citing "legal restrictions" which led to an altercation.
Miffed over the din, the magistrate is said to have directed a member of the court staff to lodge an FIR against them for contempt of court and under IPC sections for obstructing a public servant from discharge of duty.
It was the fourth day since the incident of gang-rape.
"The survivor was completely distraught and disoriented and totally dependent, emotionally, on her caregivers who were also exhausted looking after her. We respectfully submit that any perceived disrespect must be viewed from this perspective," the letter read.
Terming the judicial custody awarded to the survivor and her caregivers excessive and harsh, the letter said the formers extremely fragile emotional state and separation from her caregivers and incarceration will have an adverse effect on her health.
It has also resulted in the case pertaining to gang-rape having been put on the backburner, while all attention is focused on the alleged contempt..We pray that your Lordships intervene into the matter as it displays a complete lack of sensitivity to a victim of violent sexual crime and to her caregivers, the lawyers said.
Bihar is under an extended lockdown presently and on July 13, the Patna district and sessions court issued an official order to shut down all courts in the district for a week.
Meanwhile, the Araria police has made very little progress in the actual complaint. The police have so far arrested only one person who has been accused of abetting the crime. The four unidentified men accused of raping her are still absconding.