August 26, 2011


Times of India

Board to help rape victims claim damages

MUMBAI: Rape statistics keep rising each year but the conviction rate continues to remain low. Rape victims in India hardly receive any compensation unless courts direct the guilty to pay up. But eight months after the Union ministry for women and child development issued a directive to all states asking them to implement a scheme for compensation of victims of sexual assault, Maharashtra has finally constituted a district board to overlook compensation claims.

On August 24, the Mumbai collector set up a district board to deal with compensation claims and to issue guidelines to police stations regarding the manner in which claims can be made under this scheme. Majlis, a women's activist group, has been invited to be a member of this board. Others on the board are the collector, a deputy police commissioner, a representative of the State Legal Services Board and an official of the District Women and Child Development Authority.

But it may be a case of too little, too late, said activists Flavia Agnes and Nandita Shah. The issue of compensation to women victims has been pending for almost 15 years, they said. Expressing concern at the government's lack of promptness and seriousness towards a sensitive issue, activists have been demanding a law that requires the state to set up a fund for victims. To address some of the concerns, Majlis and the National Commission for Women have organized a National Consultation on 'Compensation to women victims of crime' this Sunday at the YMCA in Mumbai Central.

The consultation aims to iron out the difficulties and to explore the ways in which information about the scheme filters down to the grassroots so that survivors of rape are able to actually receive compensation.

"What is important is that the burden of making the claim is not thrust on individual victims. Information must be provided to police stations or public hospitals where a victim first goes," said Agnes. At least, interim compensation must be paid to the rape survivor.

"The second concern is to see whether the scheme can apply to victims other than rape," Agnes said. She added , "The concern is to gain clarity about the provision of Section 357A of the Criminal Procedure Code (which requires each state to formulate schemes to compensate victims of crime who suffered a loss, injury or need to be rehabilitated) and explore how women's concerns can be specifically articulated through this scheme.

Times of India

Man acquitted in rape case must pay for kid

MUMBAI: Nine years after a Wardha resident was acquitted of rape charges, the Bombay High Court, in a rare order, has asked him to shell out Rs 1,500 as monthly maintenance to the child who was born to the 'victim'.

Justice A P Bhangale upheld a sessions court order that as Sunil Katole (45) "was a man of sufficient means, he was bound to maintain his illegitimate son".
"There is no need to interfere with the quantum (of compensation) granted, particularly, considering the basic needs of the child like food, clothing, shelter and education," said the judge, while refusing to quash the compensation awarded by a sessions court. The high court said that Katole was free to prove that the child was not his or seek cancellation of the maintenance if he had substantial reasons by either moving a civil court or a subordinate court.

Eleven years ago, Katole was arrested for allegedly raping a girl 10 years younger than him. A sessions court in 2002, though, acquitted Katole of rape charges, saying it was consensual - the victim had consented to sexual intercourse on the promise of marriage.
Last year, the victim filed an application seeking maintenance for herself and her child under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The provision says that the court can order maintenance if a man refuses or neglects to maintain his wife, children or parents. The protection of the law is also available to a man's illegitimate children.

While a magistrate dismissed the application, a sessions judge ordered Katole to pay monthly maintenance for the upkeep of the child. The mother's plea for maintenance, though, was rejected.

Katole, in his petition, denied that the child was his or that he had any liability to maintain him. "This contention will have to be substantiated by (Katole) by adopting appropriate remedy to prove the circumstances," said the high court, adding that "no manifest injustice or any miscarriage of justice appears to have occurred", to warrant its intervention. Katole's lawyer's plea to reduce the maintenance amount was also dismissed by the high court.

Times of India

Notice to home secretary in sexual abuse case

MADURAI: Taking exception to the non-filing of a counter affidavit by the state home secretary, as to whether a state-level commission equivalent to the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act 2006, has been constituted, the Madurai bench of the Madras high court has directed him to file the affidavit by September 7.

Justice R Sudhakar gave the direction to the home secretary while hearing a petition to decide the issue of whether the investigation in the alleged sexual assault of a girl by a school headmaster, be handed over to some other agency from the police.

On July 27, the judge, after hearing a matter pertaining to the headmaster, who allegedly committed sexual abuse on girl children, directed the home secretary to file a report by August 12, as to whether the commission has been constituted.

However, when the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday, the judge found that the official had not filed the counter affidavit.

In a petition, the father of the girl submitted that on July 12, his daughter came back from school disturbed and depressed. Upon repeated enquiries by his wife and the neighbouring women, she confided in them that Arockiasamy, the headmaster of the school, had misbehaved with her. On further enquiries with some of her schoolmates, the children shocked everyone saying that Arockiasamy had been subjecting them to physical abuse for the past two years.

He also contended in the petition that a girl who was studying in class 8 shared painfully that when she approached the headmaster for school admission in 2010 along with her grandmother who is visually challenged, he misbehaved with her taking advantage of the situation. When the girl tried to resist, he threatened her that he would not give her admission, he added.

Following protests by the parents, Arockiasamy was suspended, but not arrested. Hence, the petitioner preferred the present petition seeking to transfer of the investigation, as the police has not arrested him.


Relief for sex assault victim

Mumbai: The Bombay high court has said that it is normal if a victim of molestation files her complaint a few days after the crime has occurred and that it can't be considered a defence for the accused, as it is a very difficult decision for the victim to take the case to court. The court stated this while dismissing an appeal filed by an accused against the three months sentence he was handed for outraging the modesty of a child.

Single judge AP Bhangale, while dismissing the appeal of Vikas Motiram Ghodke, 29, observed: "It is a difficult decision to take such a matter to the court. Ordinarily, the victim's family would not like any stigma to be attached to her."

Justice Bhangale also rejected Ghodke's claim that he was being falsely implicated by the victim. The court said: "I find it difficult to digest that a school girl will put her character at stake in order to falsely implicate the accused."
According to the prosecution, the victim registered a complaint on February 16, 2006, stating that two days earlier when she had gone to Ghodke's shop, he outraged her modesty. The victim narrated the incident to her aunt and uncle.

The accused was arrested and charged under section 354 of the Indian Penal Code. During the trial, the court examined five witnesses. Considering the evidence, the magistrate sentenced the accused to imprisonment for three months and a fine of Rs 300. Ghodke challenged the sentence in sessions court which was rejected and he moved the high court.

Justice Bhangale, while rejecting the defence that no independent witnesses were examined, said: "Knowledge and intention cannot be demonstrated like physical objects. The existence of intention or knowledge has to be culled out from various circumstances. A victim of molestation and indignation is in the same position as an injured witness and her testimony should receive the same weight.

August 12, 2011



Disturbing findings in homes for mentally challenged kids

Homes or orphanages for mentally challenged children in Maharashtra are in a pitiable condition and child sexual abuse cannot be ruled out, Dr Asha Bajpayee, TISS faculty, said in her report before the Bombay High Court.

The court appointed an apex committee under Bajpayee, amicus curiae, in August 2010 to study the conditions of welfare homes for mentally challenged children across the state.
About a year ago, there were reports of children being sexually abused and physically exploited at Kavdas orphanage in Shahpur in Thane district, about 90km off Mumbai.

Once the court realised that such a thing was more of a norm than exception, it formed the committee.
The report submitted before the court on July 29, 2011, threw up disturbing findings. There are homes for the mentally challenged in only 20 of the 35 districts.
“The basis on which such homes are opened is suspicious,” says the report. The Directorate of Women and Child Development (DWCD) has not attempted to find out if these children need institutionalisation.

“When a home is sanctioned in any district, a cut has to be paid to the DWCD officer and also to Child Welfare Committee members in the district,” the report alleged. The report questioned “the mushrooming of homes” over the past two year. “This is done for political considerations and it is not in the interest of children.”
Since the study began in August 2010, three homes had to shut down following revelations of child sexual abuse, malnourishment and deaths because of callous officials. Allegations of financial irregularities too had surfaced.

The report says none of the staff at any of the homes is even aware of signs of child sexual abuse. They answer a readymade questionnaire meant for the children, often selecting the “we are not sexually exploited” option. Since the children are mentally challenged, they have no idea of all this, the report alleged.

The government gives Rs1,140 as grant for every child. But most homes, according to the report, fudge the accounts by increasing the number of children. Also, only one home — in Mankhurd — is fully aided. The report pointed out the poor salaries of the administrative staff. “A superintendent gets the highest salary — Rs3,000 a month. This leads to staff shortage, resulting in children being neglected,” Bajpayee told DNA.

Children are transferred from one home to another like cattle without the knowledge of CWC members — a clear contravention of rules, she said. “If a child is seriously ill and there is a probability of his/her death, the child is transferred as no one wants to deal with death. Most of these homes also have adults. Some have even crossed 60,” she said pointing out the lack of coordination between the social justice departments that runs such facilities for adults and children. “A child is condemned as mentally challenged after a questionable IQ test… and the government, which should ideally care for them as state wards, simply leave them to languish in such homes.”

In Amravati division, the committee found that more than 15%of the children were not mentally challenged but they suffered from speech and hearing disabilities. In fact, data compiled by superintendents shows only 41% of the children actually need institutionalised care.

Harish Rathod, joint commissioner of DWCD, said the report was good. “We are studying it and we will ensure action is taken according to its recommendations,” he said.