Govt depts at odds over formulating uniform SOPs for helping rape victims

Delhi State Legal Services Authority submits affidavit before high court.

Written by Aneesha Mathur | New Delhi | Published:February 12, 2015 2:37 am

Differences between various departments of the Delhi government seem to be delaying formulation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to help victims of sexual violence in the capital.

In an affidavit submitted to the Delhi High Court on Wednesday, the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) said that a meeting of all stakeholder departments, including the police, Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) and empanelled NGOs was held on February 4, and has given details of the conclusions of the meeting.

According to the affidavit, the Department of Social Welfare and the DCW have raised objections to the appointment of the Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD) as the nodal office to run the “Nirbhaya centres” under the central government scheme. The departments have also raised objections to the SOPs created by the DWCD.

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The affidavit goes on to suggest that “Women and Child Development and support stakeholders per se have no exposure on the subject” of rape victims and “have no legally bounded duties towards victims of rape or sexual assault” and that “their appointment as nodal office to run ‘Nirbhaya centres’ may not work out to be practically feasible for efficient working of such system”.

Further, it has been suggested that the SOPs prepared by the DWCD, which has been submitted to the L-G at present, “may not be paid any heed to at this juncture”.

The DLSA has now said that all stakeholders, including NGOs, police, Health department, DSLSA and other agencies concerned will send their suggestions and currently adopted SOPs and directions to the DSLSA, after which the DSLSA will “prepare a compendium of duties of all stakeholders”, which will then be framed into the “mutually accepted final SOPs” for the one-stop crisis centres.

The stakeholder departments have also suggested that instead of creating a “new entity” of the ‘Nirbhaya centres’, the focus should be on “pouring in of the resources of all stakeholders”.

Further, the DSLSA has said that there was a “need to revisit” the 2010 procedures created by the Delhi Police for the investigation of rape and POCSO cases, and “need to frame and provide separate practice directions as also a checklist for the investigating officer of any rank in the police hierarchy in investigation of such cases”.

Surprisingly, the affidavit also states that the DCW, which at present provides the initial counselling and legal aid to rape victims, has only six advocates working with the rape crisis cell. The DSLSA has now suggested that the panel of legal aid advocates from the DSLS and the DCW should be “united to work together” for which the DCW would be suggesting defined roles for the panel advocates.

The affidavit was filed before the court of Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed and Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva, which is hearing a PIL field by social activist Nandita Dhar regarding high incidence of sexual crimes against women in the city. The hearing in the case was scheduled for Wednesday, but has now been adjourned to March after the DLSA sought time to file the finalised SOPs after deliberations are completed.

In January, the DSLSA, through senior advocate Indira Jaising, had informed the court that one standard operating procedure was required, since each agency had its own way of operating, resulting in lack of coordination.

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