Following a high court order to frame guidelines to prevent cases of sexual offences, to prevent the abuse of children in schools and educational institutions, and, to train the police to handle such cases sensitively, the state government has finally formulated guidelines.
While the guidelines are yet to be officially notified, they were put up on the state government’s website on Wednesday.
The guidelines carry an order for the appointment of nodal officers and setting up of ‘crises intervention centres’ — agencies recognised by the police and the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) that are responsible for offering counselling and support to victims of rape and sexual assault who register cases at police stations.
It also states that after receiving a complaint of any sexual offence, the concerned investigating officer, or the SHO, will have to immediately inform the rape crisis cell, that in turn will depute a member of the intervention centre. The rape crisis cell, formed by the DCW, and its helpline number — 011-23370557 — remains active throughout the day.
The police have also been directed to ensure that all police stations have a lady police official, not below the rank of a head constable, working round the clock.
Further, the lady official has been directed to accompany the a sexual offence victim during investigations and interrogation and also, to escort her after that to the requisite medical examination.
In addition to that, the Assistant Commissioner of Police has been asked to personally supervise all cases of rape, attempt to rape, sexual assault and abuse.
The guidelines also make it mandatory to not make any victim of a sexual offence stay at the police station during the night, except in the case, where the offence is reported in the night.
A training module will also be prepared in association with the Delhi judicial academy to provide periodical training and sensitise the police while dealing with cases of rape and sexual abuse.
The guidelines also place a special emphasis on dealing with cases of sexual abuse against children.
The police have also been directed to complete investigations in such cases at the earliest, and to ensure that the accused “do not get the undue advantage of bail.”
In cases of incest, the report must be filed before the magistrate within 30 days.
In March 2012, HAQ, Centre for Child Rights had requested the Delhi High Court to give a direction to Centre and state government to frame guidelines to prevent the sexual abuse of children, citing that the Juvenile Justice Rules require the same.
In February 2013, the high court directed the state to frame these guidelines.
“These guidelines are aimed to prevent the sexual abuse of children and are comprehensive in its coverage and scope.
Rajasthan is the only state with similar guidelines in place,” said child rights lawyer Anant Asthana.
“Despite the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, there is no country-wide legislation on the prevention of abuse. These guidelines were needed.”
The Investigating Officer must ensure that the child victim’s statement is video recorded as far as possible
The child must not be separated from his or her parents during questioning and the police and the judge handling the case must ensure that there is a continuity of the people handling all aspects of the case related to the sexual abuse of a child.
It must be ensured that the number of times that a child victim or witness is made to recount the incident is minimised. A multidisciplinary team involving the IO, the police, social services personnel as well as the prosecutor must be involved.