The Delhi High Court has directed the Centre, Delhi government and their departments concerned to convene a meeting “at the highest level” to look into the issue of protection of victims of domestic violence, which has allegedly increased manifold since the lockdown was imposed nationwide due to COVID-19.
A bench of Justice J R Midha and Justice Jyoti Singh also asked the authorities concerned to “deliberate on what additional measures can be taken in order to curb incidents of domestic violence as well as towards protection of victims”.
‘“The decision be taken within three days and the fresh steps required for protection of the victims of domestic abuse/violence be implemented immediately thereafter,” the bench ordered.
The bench said the government and authorities concerned shall file a fresh status report in this regard before the next date of hearing, April 24.
The court’s order came on a petition by an NGO — All India Council of Human Rights Liberties and Social Justice — which sought the High Court’s intervention to ensure adoption and implementation of immediate and effective measures to help victims of domestic abuse/violence.
During the hearing, the counsel for the NGO submitted that he restricts this petition to the enforcement of the provisions of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.
To which, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) submitted in court that “upon analysis of the calls received by the 181 Women’s Helpline, it has been observed that there has been no rising trend in domestic violence cases being reported on the helpline.”
“Notably, on an average, the helpline receives between 1,500-1,800 calls per day. During the lockdown, the helpline received a higher call volume between March 26 and March 31. It received 4,341 calls on 27th March, 5,522 calls on 28th March and more than 3,000 calls on 29th and 30th March. However, post 1st April, the number of calls is averaging about 1,300 to 1,500 calls per day,” it said.
“On the contrary, the number of cases reported to the helpline has decreased. While no definite conclusion can be drawn, this is probably due to circumspection on the part of victims in reporting such incidents due to the presence of the perpetrators in the house and the fear of further violence if such attempt to report were made known to the perpetrator,” the DCW said in its written submission to court.
Delhi government’s Additional Standing Counsel Sanjoy Ghose also said various steps have been taken for protection of victims of domestic violence.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Acharya submitted that the Ministry of Women and Child Development has issued an office order on March 23, taking cognizance of the spike in domestic violence cases on account of the lockdown.
The Ministry has accordingly issued certain directions to the District Collectors/District Magistrates concerned to make suitable duty rosters for the officers concerned, so that they are able to provide essential services to victims of domestic violence.
“They have also been directed to undertake appropriate measures to provide transport as well as protective gear and other logistic support to helpline personnel, enabling them to render help and take requisite measures in case calls are received from the victims,” the ASG said.
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