Supreme Court put in place seven guidelines for lower courts to follow in cases involving sexual assault:
(a) Bail conditions should not mandate, require, or permit contact between the accused and the victim. Such conditions should seek to protect the complainant from any further harassment by the accused;
(b) Where circumstances exist for the court to believe that there might be a potential threat of harassment of the victim, or upon apprehension expressed, after calling for reports from the police, the nature of protection shall be separately considered and appropriate order made, in addition to a direction to the accused not to make any contact with the victim;
(c) In all cases where bail is granted, the complainant should immediately be informed that the accused has been granted bail and copy of the bail order made over to him/her within two days;
(d) Bail conditions and orders should avoid reflecting stereotypical or patriarchal notions about women and their place in society, and must strictly be in accordance with the requirements of the Cr. PC. In other words, discussion about the dress,behavior, or past “conduct” or “morals” of the prosecutrix, should not enter the verdict granting bail;
(e) The courts while adjudicating cases involving gender related crimes, should not suggest or entertain any notions (or encourage any steps) towards compromises between the prosecutrix and the accused to get married, suggest or mandate mediation between the accused and the survivor, or any form of compromise as it is beyond their powers and jurisdiction;
(f) Sensitivity should be displayed at all times by judges, who should ensure that there is no traumatization of the prosecutrix, during the proceedings, or anything said during the arguments, and
(g) Judges especially should not use any words, spoken or written, that would undermine or shake the confidence of the survivor in the fairness or impartiality of the court.
Takeaways for the Internal Committee members from the guidelines.
- Soon after receiving a complaint of sexual harassment, IC should take steps to make sure that the victim and alleged harasser does not make contact to prevent further harassment of the victim.
- The potential threats of retaliation and harassment should be well thought through and identified during the first meeting itself so that IC can proactively plan and recommend preventive measures to the Management for implementation.
- Do not trivialise any complaint and create an environment of safety, trust and hope for the victim to share her details. First meeting with the victim is key to securing that trust.
- Victim should be kept apprised of the IC proceedings at all times. Keep in constant communication with the victim, inquiring about her and providing her information on matters related to the case.
- While handling a case, IC members must be gender sensitive and make a conscious decision to stop reflecting stereotypical or patriarchal notions about women and their place in society.
- A discussion about the dress, behavior, or past “conduct” or “morals” of the female victim, should not influence the decisions of the IC. They need to deal with the case purely on its merits (resolved accurately, based on law and the facts ).
- The IC should not suggest compromises between the victim and the alleged harasser. However, on request of the aggrieved party, a conciliation between the parties is allowed, strictly without monetary settlement.