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Oct 19, 2013 at 02:03pm IST

Mumbai gangrape survivor shown porn clips; are courts insensitive?

Mumbai: There is no end to the trauma for the 23-year-old Shakti Mills gangrape survivor. The photojournalist fainted in the court as she was shown pornographic video clips and asked to testify if the accused had showed them to her. Senior lawyers said while the procedure is important it can also happen through video conferencing and efforts must be made to avoid the trauma.

Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said, "The victim today narrated the horrific crime in the court."

Human Rights lawyer Vrinda Grover said, "The survivor had asked for a video link and she had wondered if she can depose through link. The Supreme Court in 2003 had held that under the Indian Law even if evidence is recorded through a video conferencing, it is valid."

Former Bombay High Court judge BG Kolse-Patil said, "While it is important for the victim to record her statement before the judge, but this could have been done through video-conferencing."

The Supreme Court had set guidelines for trial courts for dealing with rape cases in a sensitive manner. But experts said the guidelines have been ignored. A case in point is a recent rape trial in the Dwarka court where the additional sessions judge commented on the morality of rape victims.

The judge said, "Girls are morally and socially bound not to indulge in sexual intercourse before a proper marriage, and if they do so, it would be to their peril and they cannot be heard crying later that it was rape."

While hearing other rape cases, the Supreme court has observed, "Rape cases should be handled with utmost sensitivity. The court must ensure that cross-examination is not made a means of harassment or causing humiliation to the victim of crime. Rape cases should be tried in camera as a rule and an open trial in such cases be an exception."

Despite all the criticism, the public prosecutor maintains that it is a routine affair for victim to appear in court in person. Video link is permitted only if victim informs the court that she cannot come because of physical inability or any other reason the court deems fit. It remains the prerogative of the judge who in this case is also a woman. Top police officials stress that the focus is on getting a conviction and competence should be the only criteria while selecting public prosecutors.

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