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Delhi HC lays guidelines for examining child witnesses

October 2014 | Bar And Bench

In a triumph for victims of child abuse, the Delhi High Court on Monday overruled a judgment of the Dwarka District Court acquitting the acused in the rape of a 3 year old girl. The accused, Sujeet Kumar, had committed the offence in October 2012. A Bench cimprising Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Mukta Gupta laid down guidelines on the examination of children who are victims of sexual abuse.

One of the reasons for acquittal was the fact that the testimony of the child victim had been held to be inadmissable as evidence. However, the High Court referred to Section 118 ¬†of the Indian Evidence Act and the case of Dattu Ramrao Sakhare vs State of Maharashtra, which in essence state that the testimony of a child can be considered as the basis of a convtion, provided the child is capable of understanding the questions put to him. The Court critisized the approach of the trial court in questioning the child witness. Irrelevant questions like whether a three year old girl from a poor family went to school and explanations of abstract notions like ‘truth’ did not determine, in the opinion of the Court, the competency of a child victim to testify.

The Court also delved into the subject of child psychology before it frames its guidelines to be followed when questioning a child victim. In a laudable move, the State was directed to bear the medical expenses of the child, taking into consideration that her parents are daily wage labourers. The child and her family had earlier appraoched a child rights organisation, Haq Centre for Child Rights to pursue the appeal. Haq sought assistance from iProbono, a network of pro bono lawyers, whose criminal lawyers Gautam Khazanchi and Utkarsh Saxena represented the girl in Delhi High Court.

iProbono is an online platform which serves as a connection between civil society orgnisations and lawyers who are willing to offer legal assistance to underprivileged sections of society. It is an attempt to tackle the inadequacies of the legal aid system, and also comes as a boon to lawyers who genuinely want to do pro bono work but are hampered by the time constraints of their regular jobs.

This article of from Bar and Bench

 

 

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