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Shakti Mills gang rape: Survivor shown video clip, faints

Friday, 18 October 2013 - 6:41am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Video-conference was an option; presence of psychiatrist or doctor a must, experts tell dna.

The photojournalist who was gang-raped inside Mahalaxmi’s Shakti Mills Compound on August 22 became a victim of archaic laws and an insensitive legal system on Thursday.

The 22-year-old, who deposed in the court for the first time, in front of the four accused, broke down and fainted when she was shown and asked to identify the video clip which was shown to her inside the defunct mill two months ago just before she was raped.

Unable to bear the trauma of recollecting the horrifying sequence of events, the photojournalist felt nauseous and fainted inside the court. The police immediately took her to GT Hospital. The case was adjourned till Friday.

Less than a week ago, the Justice Chandrashekhar Dharmadhikari committee, in its recommendations given to the state government, had suggested that the police should video-record the statement of sexual assault victims, thereby do away with the need for them to give graphic details during cross-examination before a magistrate or court.

Legal experts said the prosecution was following an established legal procedure of making the victim depose before the accused. But it’s also true that the situation could have been handled sensitively. A psychiatrist or a doctor should have been present inside the courtroom during the deposition.

The in-camera proceedings in the case started at noon in the special court of principal judge Shalini Phansalkar Joshi. According to special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, the victim was strong during the first half of her deposition and was responding to prosecutor’s queries confidently. “She broke down before the court, but she very well supported the prosecution’s case.

However, things changed when the photojournalist was asked to identify the video clip. The moment she was shown the video clip, the woman informed the court that she was feeling nauseous and collapsed,” Nikam told dna after the court was adjourned for the day.

The photojournalist was then taken to a separate room where it was decided to take her to hospital for medical examination. Five girls with similar height were made to wear burkhas and were discreetly escorted out of the court premises by the backdoor.

The incident evoked mixed reactions. Noted psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty said: “What is important is that procedures have to be friendly and sensitive to the person who has undergone the trauma.

Slowly, changes should be brought into our judicial procedures to ensure that the accused should not be visible to the girl or the testimony on the affidavit should be accepted by trial courts.

The environment should be victim-friendly. Recalling the incident is traumatic. If it is mandatory that the victim deposes in court, then it should be in the presence of a psychologist.”

Senior advocate Majid Memon told dna: “Unfortunately, it is very necessary to have the victim’s account to establish a fact. There can’t be a better/reliable witness in a case of crime against women than the victim herself. In cases of women and children who have faced gruesome crimes, they are expected to feel traumatised while deposing or identifying the culprits.”

According to advocate Veena Gowda, the procedure is universally followed in developed and developing nations. “The procedure is formulated over a period of time and is universal. The main considerations are that the fundamental right of the accused and principles of natural justice should be followed. In a criminal case the state government is the prosecutor and it is essential to prove the facts before the court as the statement given by the victim to the police is not admissible as evidence in court of law.”

Spaniard on video
The Spanish national who was allegedly raped by a robber in Bandra in Nov 2012 was allowed to depose via video-conferencing on Oct 10, 2013.

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