A study has claimed that the access of the accused to the rape victim during trial is one of the reasons for complainants turning hostile. It creates pressures on such women which leads to a compromise.
The study was conducted between January, 2014 and March, 2015 of pre-trial and trial stages of rape prosecution in Delhi. A revised report was submitted to the Delhi High Court and the Department of Justice in the Law Ministry in May.
It said all trials which were part of the study were held in camera and the testimony of the victim was taken from behind a screen.
“Both (are) important measures to shield the victim from anxiety and intimidation generated by being in physical proximity of the accused. The Vulnerable Witness Deposition Complex (VWDC) achieves this more fully, by designating different physical spaces for the accused and the victim,” it said.
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But at the same time, the report said the accused and his relatives continue to have access to the victim, even within the court precincts in the waiting areas.
“The access of the accused and his associates to the victim is one of the complex reasons for compromises or the victims turning hostile,” it said.
It said all the cases that were part of the study related to acquaintance rapes. “...the accused and his relatives/associates also had access to the victim outside the court premises, pointing to a need for shielding and protection to the victim/witness beyond deposition during the trial,” the report said.
It said discussions relating to compromises and settlements were observed within the court premises in the traditional style courtrooms as well as the VWDC.
With absence of witness protection measures that prevent such contact between the parties, “prosecutrices continue to be susceptible to pressures to drop the proceedings,” the report observed.
The report was prepared with the support of the Department of Justice and the UN Development Programme by Partners for Law in Development.