GUWAHATI: The Gauhati High Court has stayed an order that a lower court in Arunachal Pradesh passed to hand over a minor rape victim from Nepal to a relative of the alleged rapist.
Chief Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia had taken suo moto cognisance of media reports. The court directed that the victim, aged 14 years, be kept in the custody of the child care institute (CCI) at Roing in Lower Dibang Valley district till the next hearing.
It directed the District Magistrate to conduct a probe as regards the facilities available at the CCI and submit a report. The DM was also directed to ensure the child’s protection at the CCI.
Further, it directed the director of health services in the state to conduct a bone ossification test of the child to ascertain her age. The case will be heard again on July 16.
Not only had the Sessions Court in Lohit district ordered the victim to be handed over to her local guardian, who incidentally is the sister-in-law of the accused, it allegedly also did not allow a member of the local CCI, who had accompanied the child, to be by her side while her statement was recorded.
The girl worked as a domestic help at the house of the accused, Aka Kalung. He was arrested by the police who had also filed a charge-sheet against him on April 20. The accused, who is now out on bail, had allegedly committed rape on the girl multiple times.
Viewing the Sessions Court’s judgment “questionable”, the Arunachal Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (APSCPCR) had earlier taken up the case with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
The girl was reported missing on March 1 and traced the next day. She had told the police how she was subjected to sexual assault by the accused. Subsequently, she was sent to the CCI.
The minor was brought to Arunachal from Nepal when she was very small and ever since then, she had been staying at the house of the accused.
The CCI was critical of the Sessions Court for not allowing its member into the courtroom while the child’s statement was recorded. As per the Juvenile Justice Act and Section 164 of the CrPC, the child had to be accompanied by a confidante, it argued.
For her safety, the child wanted to stay at the CCI but the court had ruled, “The said victim child, who is having a biological father and a local guardian, cannot be treated as a child who needs care and protection. Hence, the child be handed over by the CCI.”