A SPECIAL court on Wednesday said the bail hearing of the three accused doctors, booked for alleged abetment of suicide of 26-year-old Dr Payal Tadvi, shall proceed without video-recording. The court said that while video-recording was required to be done, it was not possible due to non-availability of infrastructure.
Last week, the court had directed the police to make arrangements for video-recording the proceedings as per the amendment to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
A safeguard for victims, witnesses
A chapter on the Rights of Victims and Witnesses, as per the 2015 amendment to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, directs all proceedings related to offences under the Act to be video-recorded. Experts say that this provision forms one of the safeguards for victims and witnesses, It seeks to counter the low conviction rate by bringing accountability to the proceedings and to the role of investigating agencies. In a 2016 case, a bail hearing before the Mumbai city civil and sessions court was conducted after the social welfare office made arrangements for video-recording. However, in the Payal Tadvi’s suicide case, the defence argued that the bail hearings were not covered under the Act.
The three accused — Hema Ahuja, Bhakti Mehare and Ankita Khandelwal — through their lawyer, had opposed the court’s directions stating that there was no provision for bail proceedings to be video-recorded under the Act. The three doctors were booked for allegedly harassing Tadvi, who belonged to a scheduled tribe, while she was pursuing her post-graduation from the gynaecology department of Mumbai’s T N Topiwala National Medical College. Tadvi was found dead in her hostel room on May 22.
“It cannot be disputed that the amendment regarding the video-recording of all the proceedings related to offences under the Act came to be inserted before a couple of years. But the infrastructure is yet to be made available to the court. The provision of such infrastructure is to be made by the government. This has not happened in the state of Maharashtra, but all over the country,” the court said. It added such infrastructure may require one or two years and the bail hearing cannot be kept pending till then.
Earlier this week, special public prosecutor Raja Thakare had informed the court that the DGP had written to the Home Department for necessary arrangements for video-recording the proceedings. The court said while it had directed the police to make the arrangements in its previous order, police have its “own difficulties”. It also said the infrastructure to courts is provided by the state and not police.
Special judge P B Jadhav also said the issue of video-recording of the proceedings raised by Tadvi’s parents through their lawyer, Gunratan Sadarvate, will help concerned authorities to think over the issue seriously.
The bail applications will be heard on Friday.