The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government and the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) have told the Delhi High Court that there are sufficient measures in place to safeguard victims of domestic violence and child abuse amid the lockdown in the country.
The submission was made before a bench of justices J R Midha and Jyoti Singh, which was hearing via video conferencing an NGO’s plea claiming that there was an increasing in number of domestic violence incidents since the nation was put under lockdown and sought an urgent intervention by the court.
The NGO — All India Council of Human Rights, Liberties and Social Justice (AICHLS) — in its plea has sought safeguarding measures for the victims of domestic violence and child abuse amid the lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which has infected 14,378 people and claimed 480 lives in India.
The Women and Child Development Department, represented by Delhi government’s additional standing counsel Sanjoy Ghose and advocate Urvi Mohan, told the court that sufficient facilities were available to house victims of domestic violence and children in need of care and protection.
The department also said there are 24×7 helplines in place and when a complaint is received, rescue of the victim(s) is carried out immediately.
The DCW, represented by advocate Rajshekhar Rao, told the court that the volume of calls on its helpline – 181 – has gone down after April 1.
However, there was a spike in call volume between March 26 and March 31, but it was largely for seeking clarity in relation to the imposition of the lockdown.
Normally, on an average, the DCW receives around 1500-1800 calls, it told the court. The submissions were made on notes placed before the bench by the department and the DCW on Friday (April 17).
The court, thereafter, listed the matter for further hearing on Saturday afternoon.
The DCW, in its note, has also said that analysis of the calls received on its helpline during the lockdown indicated no rising trend in domestic violence cases.
“On the contrary, the number of cases reported to the helpline has decreased. While no definite conclusion can be drawn, this is probably due to the circumspection on the part of victims in reporting such incidents due to the presence of the perpetrators in the house and the fear of further violence if such attempts to report were made known to the perpetrator,” the commission said.
It has also said in its note that the cases of molestation, sexual assault and stalking, etc. have decreased manifold presumably since a large number of these incidents take place outside the domestic setting and by third parties.”
“The reported cases of rapes have also decreased by 71 per cent (approx.) again presumably due to the perpetrators being third parties and the location of the attacks being outside the household. Kidnapping cases reported to the helpline has also seen a fall of more than 90 per cent,” the commission said in its note.
The NGO, in its plea, has contended that incidents of domestic violence and child abuse have gripped not only India, but countries such as Australia, the UK and the US, and the reports suggest that countries are witnessing a horrific surge in domestic violence cases since the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown.
The plea has claimed that the helpline numbers across the country have received about 92,000 calls based on domestic abuse and violence in the first 11 days of the lockdown alone, and sought to appoint nodal officers to attend such distress calls.