A Goa-based woman, Shruti Chaturvedi, withdrew a harassment case on September 3, that she had registered against a vendor in Ahmedabad, Gujarat after six years of attending hearings with no justice in sight. She took to Twitter and explained her ordeal through the trial comprising of a total of eight hearings in six years.
I retracted a harassment case today. A thread on why:
Some context – This was 2013, I was in college in Ahmedabad. My friend and I had gone to Bhadra Fort – I went to the Bhadrakali temple while she stayed outside, checking out earrings outside. When I came outside, I saw her pic.twitter.com/IhQ2faqJH1
— Shruti Chaturvedi (@adhicutting) September 3, 2019
Chaturvedi revealed that she got the first notice for hearing at a house where she no longer lives. “In last 6 years, I have switched two jobs, started my company and moved three cities setting up offices,” she said, adding that it was getting difficult for her to leave her work and travel back and forth to Ahmedabad. “Despite the judge insisting that the crime was unpardonable and I should pursue” she had to withdraw the case. The reason for it? “It didn’t look worth all the effort it takes anymore/don’t remember how it felt either. The man later today had the audacity to tell me “dukaan par aavjo” (come to my shop someday),” she lamented.
Finally, she resorts to saying, “The system sucks. Even to withdraw a case, no matter which country you are based in, you have to come to the court where the case is proceeding. The court can issue an arrest warrant on your name for not appearing for the hearing.”
What was the case?
Chaturvedi faced harassment along with her friend when she visited Bhadra Fort in 2013 when she used to study in a college there. While she went inside the Bhadrakali temple located at the fort, her friend stood outside, she writes in her tweet. The friend was trying out the earrings from a street vendor when the man started to harass her, touch her inappropriately and passed lewd comments. Chaturvedi saw this and went to help her friend but the hawker allegedly harassed her as well. This is when she slapped him and took control of the situation.
The system sucks. Even to withdraw a case, no matter which country you are based in, you have to come to the court where the case is proceeding. The court can issue an arrest warrant on your name for not appearing for the hearing. – Shruti Chaturvedi
Apart from raising the glaring issue of delayed justice, Chaturvedi raised other issues of trial courts being hostile to women and what makes women more comfortable reporting complaints on social media and not lodging FIRs. In the wake of #MeToo movement, a lot of women reported sexual harassment instances at workplaces and in different places on social media. While some reached Internal Complaints Committees in companies, some saw the courtrooms, most others were dismissed.
Delayed justice and other issues
This issue of justice delayed is as prominent in most of the other high-profile cases of sexual harassment and other crimes against women as it is in regular cases. Consider this, one of the most horrifying of crimes against women in the recent past—the Nirbhaya gang-rape case which happened in 2012 is still in court despite the fact that the Supreme Court has decreed capital punishment to the four convicts in the case. It has been seven years since the incident happened.
Talish Ray, the Delhi-based lawyer, agrees that the justice system is painfully slow. “One reason why these cases of sexual harassment seldom reach justice is that women don’t file cases because of the severe case of victim-shaming that happens. Secondly, in terms of withdrawal, a lot of women withdraw cases because the justice delivery mechanism is so convoluted that justice is mostly delayed. Therefore, denial of justice takes place in its own manner,” she tells SheThePeople.TV.
On women complaining of sexual harassment on social media, Ray is of the view that the government has put in a mechanism of women having fast track courts. “It is a different argument that they haven’t come up in the manner they should have. The fact that on social media, outside of shaming the accused, there is no justice being delivered. Just because you are acknowledging doesn’t mean that the other person is getting punished,” she adds.
A lot of women withdraw cases because the justice delivery mechanism is so convoluted that justice is mostly delayed. Therefore, denial of justice takes place in its own manner. Talisha Ray, Delhi-based lawyer.
Ray says that the justice system has to be made easier for the victims. She feels that this needs to be taken up on priority as to how redressal is happening for women. “One of the deterrents is definitely the fact that the process is so prolonged that victims are not able to move beyond that. Also, the question we need to ask is what happened to the Nirbhaya Fund and how has that been used to facilitate redressal process for women to get speedy justice?”
What’s also a lesson from Chaturvedi’s case is the behaviour of the accused after all the years. As she rightly puts, he had the audacity to call her to his shop again. This delay in justice and women losing faith in the system is what motivates perpetrators to continue harassing women. The growing rate of impunity and easy access to bail allows men to continue committing such crimes against women with the liberty that they do.
The views expressed are the author’s own.