April 7, 2021 10:46:00 pm
Raising concerns over life threat to survivors and witnesses in cases of sexual assault, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday referred to the situation in Uttar Pradesh, where witnesses were allegedly killed in many such cases, and said it does not want the same to be repeated in Maharashtra.
Observing this, the High Court directed deputy commissioner of police (DCP) of Mira-Bhayander Vasai-Virar Commissionerate to immediately provide free protection to survivors in cases of prostitution and sexual assault along with witnesses, till further orders.
A division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice Manish Pitale on April 6 was hearing a plea by a woman, originally from Rajasthan and now living in the city, who submitted through advocate Trupti Bharadi that in 2011, when she was 17, her parents forced her to work at a dance bar in Mumbai. Thereafter, she was forced into prostitution along with her three sisters and four other minor girls.
Between 2012 and 2014, the petitioner was sent to Dubai, through an agent, for prostitution thrice and forced into related activities. In March 2020, after the petitioner discovered that she was three months’ pregnant, her father allegedly threatened to kill her and the unborn child if she refused to continue with prostitution. In August 2020, she gave birth to a child and left her father’s house in Charkop area due to harassment and started living with a friend on rent.
In December, she lodged a non-cognizable complaint in Bhayander against two persons, who were sent by her father to force her to return to prostitution. Next month, she started receiving threat calls. The woman’s friend also lodged complaints against her father at Mira Road and Kashmira police stations.
Claiming that police did not take cognizance of these complaints and letters, the woman approached the HC seeking an FIR and police protection for her and other witnesses.
On Tuesday, the HC noted that as an FIR under provisions of the IPC and Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act had been registered against the woman’s parents, one of the reliefs sought by her had been served.
Bharadi submitted that while the recently appointed investigation officer is diligently probing the case, the court may monitor further investigation, and that protection to the survivor and other persons was required to be granted.
Additional Public Prosecutor Sangeeta Shinde submitted that the new IO will require some time to cause a probe and, after two weeks, will submit an investigation report before the court.
The court said, “We know what is happening in Uttar Pradesh, witnesses are killed. We do not want that situation in Maharashtra.”
The bench further granted time to the police and said, “However, in the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, we deem it appropriate to direct that necessary police protection be provided to the petitioner and witnesses, including her friend and others, free of charge, till next date.”
Seeking a compliance report, the court posted further hearing to April 26.
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