The Delhi High Court on Tuesday said there should be a protocol or a scheme in place so that the Delhi State Legal Service Authority (DSLSA) is immediately alerted by the police if a crime involving sexual violence takes place anywhere in the capital.
A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar said it was crucial to ensure that “necessary legal aid is provided to the victims at the very inception from the time the offence is revealed and remains available to the victim at every stage”.
DSLSA is a statutory body which is tasked with disbursing compensation to rape victims and it is also the mandate of the legal services authorities under Article 39A of the Constitution and Section 12 of the National Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 to ensure legal aid to needy persons.
The court’s order came after it took cognizance of September 12 of a newspaper report “Cops to find if more kids were assaulted” relating to sexual assault on a five-year-old girl inside her school here in Delhi.
“This report refers to intervention by the police. However, we find that there is no reference to any intervention by the DSLSA in this case.” said the court.
It added: “Given the nature of interventions which are required on emergency basis so far as the victims of sexual offence, both adults and children, are concerned, there can be nothing more important than information or report of such crime, being brought to the immediate attention of the DSLSA to enable it to take immediate steps for providing legal aid to the victim as well as compensation.”
The bench also directed that the media and NGOs to keep away from child victims, who were allegedly sexually assaulted by a 54-year-old British man at a home run by the National Association for the Blind (NAB).
After it was told that NAB was facing huge difficulty on account of aggressive efforts for intervention by NGOs as well as media personnel seeking to interview the children at home, the bench said no person other than authorities shall be permitted to interact with the children.
“No person other than the authorities, authorized by the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015; the authorized representatives of DSLSA as well as the authorized representatives of the Department of Social Welfare shall be permitted to interact with the children,” it added.
It was necessary as it is not only prejudicial to the interest of the victims but may also jeopardize and adversely affect the fate of the investigation and the ultimate trial of the case, the bench said.
On the evening of September 2, a staff member of NAB caught Murray Dennis Ward, a British national, sitting with three students in an objectionable position.
An employee of the children’s home caught him “red-handed” abusing the blind boys in a dormitory and recorded a short video, before alerting the police.
The 54-year-old Briton was a frequent visitor at the NGO for the blind for the past eight years and has donated handsomely for the children’s education and hostel.