Legal system not friendly to sexual abuse victms: Madras High Court

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The Madras High Court recently quashed all pending proceedings in a molestation case with a view to saving the victim the embarassment of reliving her experience during a criminal trial.

The victim, who was molested by an unidentified man during her morning walk, had approached the High Court only to get the witness summons issued to her quashed.

Justice N Anand Venkatesh exercised the Court’s “extraordinary jurisdiction” under Article 226 of the Constitution, stating,

“It is not necessary for a criminal trial to go on just to dabble with an incident involving sexual abuse even without identifying an accused. If this is allowed, it is the victim who will actually be embarrassed and vilified and the so-called accused person will go scotfree, since he has not even been identified by any one in this case. No useful purpose will be served in proceeding further with C.C.No.16218 of 2022 and it will make a mockery upon womanhood and unfortunately, it is the petitioner who will be actually punished if the proceedings goes on.”

Justice N Anand Venkatesh
Justice Venkatesh noted that after the incident, the victim had approached the police with a complaint. She had also procured images of the incident captured on the CCTV camera installed by one of the residents in the area.

However, while over five months had passed since the incident, the police was yet to identify the accused person.

On the other hand, the victim was summoned to court and made to wait from 10:30 AM to 4:30 PM for her case to be heard. She was made to recount the incident in detail multiple times in court, but nothing had come out of it, the High Court noted.

Thus, she decided not to pursue the matter any further and urged the High Court to quash the witness summons she had received.

The Court noted that the police had no leads on the accused’s identity, and it was unlikely that much would come out of the information it had gathered so far. The two eye witnesses in the case too had failed to help identify the accused.

This led the Court to remark that it was unfortunate that in cases of sexual assault and abuse, the process ended up being a punishment for victims.

“The instant case brings to light the stark reality that is involved in sexual abuse cases. Not many are willing to come to Court and fight for the abuse that they underwent. Even for those who want to fight and establish their right, the system does not seem to be friendly and on the other hand, such victim will have to undergo embarrassing moments in the Court. For having given the complaint, the victim faces double whammy in terms of suffering a sexual abuse and embarrassment in Court which is tantamount to punishing the victim, and the accused who has not even been identified, will go scot-free. This Court is not inclined to permit such mockery to continue in the present case,” the Court said.

In the interest of the victim, the High Court quashed the witness summons as well as all pending proceedings in the case.

Advocate GR Hari appeared for the victim.

Additional Public Prosecutor A Damodaran appeared for the respondent State government.

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