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Friday, 21 August 2020

Punjab and Haryana High Court: No lewd queries to rape victims

Saurabh Malik

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 20

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has made it clear to judicial officers in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh that lewd, filthy and indecent questions cannot be put to rape victims and the trial court should not allowed the same.

The High Court was hearing appeals filed by accused in an alleged sex scandal. The observations came in reference to certain questions asked by an advocate during cross-examination. Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan asserted that such queries, in opinion of the High Court, could not have been asked to a rape victim to prove the innocence of the accused.

Justice Sangwan asserted that it had been held a number of times by the Supreme Court that the court should be vigilant that the defence counsel should not adopt the strategy of continuous questioning of the prosecutrix on rape detail, while conducting cross-examination and the court should not sit as a silent spectator, while the victim of the crime was being cross-examined.

Justice Sangwan also asked the High Court Registrar-General to circulate among all presiding officers and designated courts dealing with cases of crime against women in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh the observations regarding lewd, filthy and indecent questions to the prosecutrix, which could not be allowed by the trial court in violation of the directions given by the Supreme Court. Justice Sangwan also referred to the apex court judgment in the case of “Punjab vs Gurmit Singh”.

Justice Sangwan also quoted the judgment as saying that there had lately been a lot of criticism regarding the treatment of victims of sexual assault during cross-examination. The provisions of the Evidence Act regarding relevancy of facts notwithstanding, some defense counsel adopted the strategy of continual questioning of the prosecutrix on details.

“A victim of rape, it must be remembered, has already undergone a traumatic experience and if she is made to repeat again and again, in unfamiliar surroundings, what she had been subjected to, she may be too ashamed and even nervous or confused to speak and her silence or a confused stray sentence may be wrongly interpreted as discrepancies and contradictions in her evidence,” read the SC judgment quoted by Justice Sangwan.

from The Tribune

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