While reactions have poured in after the encounter that saw the deaths of the four accused in the Hyderabad veterinarian rape-murder case, the elephant in the room just seems to be getting bigger, and one cannot help talk about the number of rape cases that are still pending
The reactions to the encounter in the Hyderabad gang-rape and murder case were plenty. Many rejoiced the encounter, terming it as instant justice, but then there were a few who felt that the due legal process ought to have been followed.
The Nirbhaya case outraged the nation and it was assured that the killers would be brought to justice soon. It has been seven years now and the rapists and killers are yet to be hanged. The killers have exhausted almost all remedies to avoid being hanged, but there are a couple of remedies that still remain.
The Union Home Ministry is all set to reject their plea against the death sentence. Once this is done, it would be up to the President of India whether or not to allow their mercy petition. We have seen in the Yakub Memon case that he had challenged his death sentence in the Supreme Court in the form of a curative plea even after the President had rejected his mercy petition. This ideally means that the Nirbhaya case could drag on for at least a couple of months more. In 2020 it would be 8 years since the incident took place.
The statistics by the National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB) show that in 2017, there were 117,451 rape cases that were pending in the country. The statistics also said that 28,750 were brought to trial. These are worrying statistics and the slow justice delivery system gives the indication that many are going unpunished.
The NCRB data further reveals that in 2017, as many as 33,658 rape and sexual assault cases were reported. The other worrying fact is that in 2017, the police were still probing 46,984 cases and this clearly gives the indication that these cases were pending from the previous years. In addition to this, the data also showed that there were 331 cases which were of rape, gangrape and murder.
In 93.1% of the rape cases, the victim was attacked by known persons, the NCRB data also suggests. Only 2,298 strangers were accused in rape cases in 2017. The data for the same year also states that there were 43,197 persons arrested for rape and sexual assault. Out of this 38,534 were arrested, charged and put to trial.
The conviction rate is dismal too. Since the year 2012, the overall conviction rate in India in cases of rape stands at around 32% only.
While in 2012, the number of cases pending trial stood at 1 lakh by 2016, the number had gone up to 1,33,000. The NCRB says that the in all there are 85% of rape cases which are being heard and this indicates that all are in the pending status.
The report Crime in India-2017 shows that the conviction rate in the metropolitan areas stood at 27.25%. Further the total number of rape cases for trial in 2017 was at 1,46,201. However only 5,822 cases resulted in conviction.
The NCRB also said that the number of chargesheets have come down to 86.6% in 2017 when compared to 95.4% in 2013. In the year 2017, there were a total of 1,46,201 rape cases that were in trial, but only 18,333 cases were disposed of by the courts. Of the 18,099 rape cases that were completed only 5,822 resulted in conviction. 824 cases resulted in discharge and 1,1453 ended in acquittal.
Out of the 1,27,868 cases pending in the year 2017, as many as 12,216 have pending for more than five years, while 1,840 cases have been pending for more than 10 years.
While there is no doubt that the lower judiciary is extremely burdened, the role of the higher courts come into the question here. The higher judiciaries such as the Supreme Court and High Courts have often been accused of entertaining frivolous cases especially the Public Interest Litigations.
Senior journalist, Kanchan Gupta said on Twitter that judiciary is sitting on cases, admitting frivolous PILs, rather than clearing backlog placing cricket over crime. Several advocates that MyNation spoke with also echoed the same view. They feel that the higher judiciary plays an important part in the speedy disposal of cases. Instead they take up unwanted cases and hear them for months together. Worse, they hear and re-hear cases where the point of law has already been settled.
Let us look at the timeline in the Nirbhaya case. The crime took place on December 6, 2012. On January 3, 2013 the police filed the chargesheet. The accused are sentenced to death on September 13, 2013.
On March 13, 2014, the Delhi high court upholds the conviction and death penalty. On March 15, 2014, Supreme Court stays the execution. On April 13, 2016 and 19 months later, hearings in the Supreme Court begins. On May 5, 2017, the death sentences are upheld. Almost a year later, on July 9, 2018 the review pleas of the convicts are rejected.
This timeline clearly indicates where the delay has been in India’s most talked about case. 19 months in the cold storage before hearing could commence is sufficient proof that there is delay. Legal experts argue that a case of this magnitude and which has been in the media always witnessed such delays. You can only imagine what would happen in the lesser spoken about and reported cases.
Government speeding up trials:
To try cases against those involved in sexual offences against women and children, the government decided to set up 1,023 fast track courts. Prior to this decision, there were just 664 fast track courts operational in the country.
It was the law ministry that moved a note in 2018 and sought additional funding of Rs 767.25 crore for setting up of the courts. The Nirbhaya Fund empowered committee set up under the Criminal Law Amendments Act 2018 approved the budgetary allocation. The share of the Centre in this process was Rs 474 crore.
The implementation is being monitored by the Home Ministry and the Ministry of Law and Justice would submit quarterly reports to oversee the progress in these cases.
As per Section 28(1) of the POCSO Act 2012, every district should have an exclusive court to deal with sexual offences against children.
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Last Updated Dec 6, 2019, 2:12 PM IST