The Pinnacle court said Cross-examine survivors of assault in 1 sitting

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Calling for “sensitive” handling of proceedings in harassment cases so as to not make the method onerous for the survivor, the Supreme Court Thursday said they ought to be held in private. The cross-examination, it added, should rather be tired one sitting and in a very respectful manner without asking embarrassing questions, particularly regarding her sexual history.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and J B Pardiwala said courts should be alive to the very fact that a survivor of sexual violence suffers from trauma and societal shame because of the unwarranted stigma attached to her and indicated that the proceedings shouldn't make her life tougher. 

“It is that the duty and responsibility of trial courts to house the aggrieved persons before them in an appropriate manner, by allowing proceedings to be conducted in private, where appropriate, either under Section 327 CrPC or when the case otherwise involves the aggrieved person (or other witness) testifying on their experience of sexual harassment/violence,” the bench said.

It said the court should allow installation of a screen to confirm that the girl doesn't need to see the accused while testifying or, alternatively, direct the accused to go away the area while her testimony is being recorded. It should also make sure that counsel for the accused conducts her cross-examination during a respectful fashion and without asking embarrassing or inappropriate questions, especially regarding her sexual history, the bench added. 

The court passed the order while ordering an exploration into a sexual molestation complaint filed by a yoga instructor against the vice-chancellor of a Gwalior-based institute. the lady had approached SC after police allegedly refused to file an FIR and also the judicial magistrate also didn't order a groundwork into her claim.

The court held that it's the duty of police to register an FIR whenever a cognisable offence is created call at a complaint and said that police’s inaction during this case was “unfortunate”. It said the magistrate also failed in his duty because the matter should be sent to the police for investigation.

“Especially in cases alleging harassment, regulatory offence or any similar criminal allegation wherein the victim has possibly already been traumatised, the courts shouldn't further burden the complainant and may press upon police to analyze. Due regard must lean to the actual fact that it's impractical for the complainant to retrieve important evidence regarding her complaint. it's going to not be possible to gain the reality of the matter within the absence of such evidence. The complainant would then be required to prove her case without having the ability to bring relevant evidence (which is potentially of great probative value) on record, which might be unjust,” the bench said. 

“We wish to yet again reiterate the importance of courts addressing complainants of molestation and sex offense in an exceedingly sensitive manner. it's important for all courts to stay cognisant of the actual fact that the legal process tends to be even more onerous for complainants who are potentially addressing trauma and societal shame because of the unwarranted stigma attached to victims of molestation and assault. At this juncture, especially in cases where police fail to deal with the grievance of such complainants, the courts have a crucial responsibility,” it said.