Highlighting the significance of a doctor acting as the first responder to the victim of domestic or sexual violence, the Chief Justice of J&K High Court, Justice Gita Mittal today said the dying declaration of a victim supported by the testimony of the doctor, could send the people involved in the crime to gallows.
The Chief Justice was speaking at a day-long training programme for presiding officers and doctors on how to handle survivors of sexual violence at hospitals. The training held under the banner of High Court of J&K was organized in collaboration with the Health Department here at J&K State Judicial Academy.
Justice Alok Aradhe, Judge High Court, J&K, and Chairman of State Judicial Academy, Abdul Rashid Malik, Director State Judicial Academy, Yash Pal Bourney, Member Secretary, State Legal Service Authority, Dr Farida Noor, Professor and Head, Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, and doctors from various State Government hospitals were present in the meeting.
Addressing the galaxy of doctors, and legal experts, the Chief Justice said the purpose of holding this programme is to the explain the significant role a doctor plays in helping a victim to get justice at times.
Justice Gita said, "in a case of domestic violence, a doctor while trying to ascertain the reasons behind the patient's condition, usually records the patient's history.
"If the victim dies, the same statement recorded by the doctor before the death of the patient may be treated by the Judge as the "dying declaration" of the victim. The dying declaration, supported by the testimony of the doctor confirming that the victim actually made that statement, can be relied upon to convict the husband or the in-laws or whosoever, has committed the crime, and at times it could even be relied upon to send the accused to gallows," Justice Gita said.
The CJ urged for holding a frequent conversation between doctors and lawyers to remove the doubts that gets created at various instances while delivering the professional duties.
She deliberated what needs to be done if the medical examination of a victim of sexual violence records no evidence of rape.
"Rape is not a medical term. It is certainly not taught in the medical books. It has been interpreted after the 2013 amendment to the law and has several nuances and connotations, including outraging modesty and other terms. These are all legal expressions. So what the doctor has to record while doing a medical examination of a patient is debatable," she added.
Reiterating the need to overcome the personal biases, the CJ said "we do not realize that subconsciously we carry with us the baggage of our own experience in life."
Quoting an example, CJ said if a sex worker comes to us with a complaint of rape, the first impression people carry is how can a sex worker get raped!
"We have to overcome that understanding of conceptualization, as everyone has right to sexual bodily integrity, no matter what he/she is involved in or is doing.
Recalling the quote of one of the Judges of Supreme Court in America, Gita said, the Judge says, "Each one of us brings the experiences which we have had in life through whatever, we are doing. Be it, sportsman, be it doctor, and we have to realize we have a bias and have to overcome that.
She also explained the reason why it is important to sensitize the doctors regarding some legal knowledge and how they are supposed to react when they get a summon from the court.
"If a doctor is supposed to come to court as a witness, however, at the same time he gets an emergency call from the hospital to attend a patient urgently. What should a doctor do in such a circumstance? Whether to go to court and or to attend the patient and face the legal warrant afterwards. Therefore, it is important that doctors are aware with the law and how to deal in such circumstances," said the Justice Gita.
She said during the training, participants will understand about the entire gamut of issues around the cases of sexual violence, especially as professionals.
The CJ expressed the desire that such types of programmes would be replicated all the divisions of the State, including Ladakh and then repeated here in Kashmir to raise awareness among professionals.
She said trainings like these make us more aware and sensitize us with what is lawful and also clear doubts when doctors are carrying out the medical examination of the victim, including the child who has undergone through sexual violence.
During the day, the resource persons Dr Jagadeesh Narayan Reddy, and Vidya Reddy presented and discussed various issues at length with the participants.
The discussion on gender issues revolved around on understanding circumstances and context in which sexual violence occurs, while as forensic issues during survivor's examination were deliberated upon under legal issues and laws governing sessions.
Resource person Vidya Reddy made participants understand the importance of understanding child sexual abuse.
The participating doctors were provided with counselling in deposing evidence in the Court of law.
The workshop also shared some real time experiences with the participants.
Earlier, Abdul Rashid Malik, Director of State Judicial Academy welcomed the dignitaries and participants and introduced the topics.