Survival friendly trial centre in all courts in Kerela
HC Kerala High Court will soon establish a set up Vulnerable Witnesses Deposition Centre at a court in the state of Kerala and the motive is directed toward an attempt to provide Vulnerable Witnesses with a safe and conducive environment to testify bravely during a criminal trial and a directive which was issued by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in January asking all the high courts to set up the centre. The Vulnerable Witnesses include a child below 18 years old and gender-neutral survivors of sexual assault. The guidelines insist on the setting up of the centre (waiting rooms), which should only be used by the vulnerable witnesses and their non-offending family members and support persons. The approach of the waiting area shall be in such a way that it allows the witnesses to access the facility provided for them with ease and without having to confront other litigants, police or the accused and their associates.
This will also help witnesses in familiarizing the location of the accused in the dock, the roles of the court officials, where they sit and who else might be in the courtroom. There is provision for discussion of fear in addition to concerns regarding the safety of the accused, with the help of a person, prosecutor and the judge to dispel the trauma and anxiety related to the upcoming deposition. The guidelines issued by the Kerala High Court include the facility at the centre having the comfort items like blankets, stuffed toys, books games, drawing and painting materials, TV, etc for the child survivors to reduce their mental pressure (stress and depression) and trauma. These comfort making items will help in lowering the anxiety of the witnesses. And in addition to these provided comfort items, there will be a live link, like audio-video electronic means, to make it avoid the witness's physical presence and face to face interaction with the accused.
A pre-trial courthouse tour or a tour of the civil courts or the Juvenile justice board, along with the paralegal volunteer or support persons shall be allowed to the vulnerable witnesses to enable them to familiarize themselves with the layout. The court should give the order for the temporary shifting of the accused person from the courtroom to another room with a video link or one-way mirror visibility into the courtroom, if the child witness or survivor is not willing to give testimony in the presence of the accused or if the situation reveals that the child may be inhibited from speaking freely in that individual’s presence. The availability of the technology is also a part of the plan for a good set-up of the waiting area. The waiting rooms need to be fixed with a digital monitor showing the case which is being called to the courtroom for disposal.
Tags : #kerala #trial #HC #vulnerable #witnesses #safe #environment #SC #sexualassault #waitingroom #confront #police #litigant #trauma #anxiety