New Delhi: Eighteen years ago the Supreme Court had laid down guidelines for trial courts for dealing with rape cases in a "sensitive manner" but experts say the norms for holding in-camera proceedings and avoiding unnecessary probing questions are not being followed strictly.
Some Delhi-based prominent women lawyers said while the degree of sensitivity in dealing with rape cases varies in different trial courts in the capital, the scenario is precarious in small cities and towns where a total go-bye is given to the apex court's 1996 judgement in this regard.
The views expressed by senior advocate Geeta Luthra and counsel Meenakshi Lekhi and Rebecca John were reflected in a Delhi High Court judgement this year in a case relating to the rape of a 10-year-old girl in which the trial court had recorded the minor's statement.
Even in Delhi where more awareness is expected regarding the guidelines, there is no consistency in their implementation.
"This court strongly deprecates the approach adopted by the learned judge, who recorded the testimony of the child victim in a most insensitive and offensive manner," the high court said while setting aside the acquittal of the accused and convicting and sentencing him to 10 years in jail.
While John and Lekhi said trial courts do not strictly adhere to these norms not only in the capital but also across the country, Luthra said pendency of cases also compels judges to give a go-bye to these guidelines on sensitivity.
"The apex court's guidelines are rarely followed in smaller districts and in remote corners of the country. Even in Delhi where more awareness is expected regarding the guidelines, there is no consistency in their implementation."
"These guidelines are being flouted and there is a serious gap between their implementation and the spirit behind them," John said. Lekhi said while there was no strict adherence to the guidelines in the rest of the nation, courts in Delhi follow these norms only due to intervention by the Delhi High Court.
"Guidelines were not being strictly followed (in Delhi courts) till a year ago, but now consistency has been imposed by a recent Delhi High Court verdict," Lekhi said.