THE Jammu and Kashmir High Court has taken suo moto cognizance of the increase in the domestic violence cases against women amidst the ongoing nationwide Lockdown.
A division bench of the J&K HC comprising the Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajnesh Oswal referred to the latest data released by the National Commission for Women (NCW) which indicated within a week after the lockdown began on March 24, a total of 257 complaints relating to crime against women, have been received by its Complaint and Investigation Cell. This data showed a steep rise during the lockdown, compared with the figures available for the week between March 2-8, that stands at a total of 116 complaints. The cases of domestic violence, especially, rose to 69 from 30.
The High Court has, therefore, issued the following interim directions:
- Creation of dedicated funding to address issues of violence against women and girls as part of the COVID-19 response by the Union Territories of the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh;
- Increased availability of call-in services to facilitate discreet reporting of abuse;
- Increased tele/online legal and counseling service for women and girls;
- Designated informal safe spaces for women, say grocery stores and pharmacies, where they can report domestic violence/abuse without alerting the perpetrators.
- Immediate designation of safe spaces (say for instance empty hotels/education institutions etc) as shelters for women who are compelled to leave their domestic situation. These shelters must be treated as accessible shelters.
- Giving urgent publicity to information regarding all of the above measures as also the availability of the facilities for seeking relief and redressal against the issues of domestic violence.
- Increasing awareness campaigns on all aspects of the issues.
High Court has also issued notice to the Secretary, Department of Social Welfare, Government of Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and Member Secretary, Jammu and Kashmir Legal Services Authority ( JKSLSA) to inform the court to submit a report with regard to the steps taken regarding domestic or any other kind of violence being faced by the women on account of the implementation of the COVID-19 lockdown.
It has also been directed that the Secretaries of the Jammu and Kashmir Legal Services Authority shall call for a list of all cases involving cases of domestic violence which are pending as complaints with the police stations in the Union Territories or in the courts and ascertain the safety and well being of the complainants
Further, the HC has said that all the courts in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh shall treat cases of domestic abuse has urgent and proceed with the matters in accordance with the Circulars issued regarding the procedure to be followed ensuring social distancing.
HC in its order also noted that one factor in the mode of lodging a complaint, which has been noticed in India, is the inability of women and children from the economically weaker sections of the Indian society to accessing on-line platforms for assistance. Any measure for assistance to victims of domestic violence must provide for women and children from this group.
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