Sexual Assault: HC grants Delhi Government 3 weeks to formulate SOP for cases of child victims

The Delhi High Court on Thursday granted the city government three weeks to formulate the standard operating procedure (SOP) to be followed in cases of sexual assault of children.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma was informed by the counsel appearing for the Department of Women and Child Welfare of the Delhi government, the nodal agency for implementation of child protection laws, that the process of consultation with other stakeholders like the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) was going on.

“We require three weeks time to finalise, to hear everyone and finalise it,” the lawyer said before a bench, also comprising Justice Sanjeev Narula.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) it has initiated on its own after taking cognisance of the case of sexual assault of a minor girl allegedly by suspended Delhi government officer Premoday Khakha and the public disclosure of the victim’s identity.

Noting that the government was “still deliberating”, the court said, “Counsel for GNCTD prays for three weeks’ time to conclude deliberations to formulate the SOP. She is granted three weeks’ time.”

The bench also orally asked the police to provide the minor victim an escort whenever she comes to court to attend the proceedings, and listed the case for further hearing on November 10.

The court had on August 28 directed the authorities to ensure that the identity of the survivor is not revealed in any manner and that she should get due protection and compensation.

It had last month sought suggestions from various authorities, including the Delhi government and child rights bodies, on formulating an SOP to be followed in cases involving child victims.

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Suspended officer Khakha had allegedly raped the minor several times between November 2020 and January 2021. The family of the girl was known to the accused, the police had said. The alleged victim had stayed with Khakha’s family after her father died.

The suspended officer was arrested by the police on August 21 and is in judicial custody. His wife Seema Rani, who is accused of giving the girl medicine to terminate her pregnancy, is also in jail.

A case was registered under provisions of the POCSO Act and Indian Penal Code sections 376(2)(f) (being a relative, guardian or teacher of, or a person in a position of trust or authority towards the woman, commits rape on such woman) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to outrage the modesty of a woman), police said.

IPC sections 506 (criminal intimidation), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 313 (causing miscarriage without woman’s consent) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) have also been invoked in the case, police said.

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