From now on, only female magistrates will record statements of female and child victims of rape and sexual harassment in order to ensure fair investigation and justice, said a circular issued by the Supreme Court administration yesterday.
The circular said the chief judicial magistrates and chief metropolitan magistrates across the country have to assign female magistrates to this end.
Supreme Court’s Registrar General Md Zakir Hossain issued the circular as per instruction from Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain.
The circular said female magistrates will record the statements of those victims for the sake of fair investigation and justice in the cases filed over rape and sexual harassment.
There is a provision in the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act, 2000 for recording statements from the victim in such cases, the circular read.
“It has been noticed that statements from female and child victims are recorded by the male magistrates in several cases. Such victims hesitate to narrate the incident of rape or sexual assault before male magistrates in some cases,” it added.
To deal with the situation, a female magistrate is needed to record the statements from the victims so that they can narrate the incidents without any hesitation and confusion, it added further.
The chief judicial magistrates and chief metropolitan magistrates were specially requested by the Supreme Court Special Committee for Judicial Reforms to confer this responsibility on the female magistrates.
Contacted, Advocate Fahmida Akhter Rinky, who has been dealing with such cases for more than a decade, said victims of rape or sexual harassment would feel comfortable giving their accounts before female magistrates. Until now, who to record victims’ statements had never been an issue.
“Victim’s account is an important piece of evidence in a case of rape or sexual harassment,” the lawyer said, adding that more female magistrates should be recruited to ensure the comfort of the victims in describing how they got raped or assaulted.
The circular also read if a female magistrate is not available in a district or metropolitan area for doing this job, any other “competent” magistrate can be given the responsibility.
Asked, Zakir told The Daily Star that “competent” magistrate means a male magistrate who has a good reputation in dealing with such cases.
As per the circular, if the chief judicial magistrates and chief metropolitan magistrates face any problems in complying with the directives, they have been requested to bring this to the SC’s notice.
Replying to a question, Zakir said there are female judicial magistrates in all districts and metropolitan areas in the country.
He said the circular has been issued as per recommendation from the Supreme Court Special Committee for Judicial Reforms, which was formed in 2010 under the leadership of Justice Muhammad Imman Ali, a senior judge of the Appellate Division.
Other members of the committee are Justice Zinat Ara, Justice Syed Refaat Ahmed, Justice Moyeenul Islam Chowdhury, Justice Obaidul Hassan, Justice Md Rezaul Hasan and Justice Md Abu Zafor Siddique.