Latest data unveils horrific reality;
The latest data from Delhi police, which is under the central government, shows an increase in the number of reported rapes this year, while conviction rate in the same period has decreased. As on May 15, 780 cases of rape were reported - which boils down to an average of over 5 cases each day. Compared to the number of cases in 2017 upto May 15, data shows a 3.03% increase in the number of rapes reported in the country’s capital.
The police reports for 2017 and 2018, from January 1 to May 15 in both years, show a drop in the total number of heinous crimes in Delhi by roughly 5.6%. However, the reported cases of rape alone, have increased from 757 to 780.
Delhi Police in denial?
“These figures certainly do not mean that the crime rate has increased”, says Ex-Police Commissioner, Neeraj Kumar. He believes that reporting of the crime has increased because of several changes implemented in the legal system that have made the filing of FIRs simpler, and also added stalking, teasing, sexual harassment etc under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). As most cases occur within the private realm (96.63%) - when the accused is known to the victim - “police intervention becomes indirect and should not be confused with sluggish action”, he told NewsClick.
“Kumar’s comments don’t justify the low rates of conviction while the reported rapes keep increasing”, Chief of Delhi Commission of Women, Swati Maliwal, told NewsClick. She further argues that the nature of occurrence of the crime - private or public - should have no effect on police action. Maliwal blamed instead the archaic working of the police force, and the shortage of personnel.
Disputing Kumar’s claims too, Piyoili Swajita, Advocate, SC, who regularly represents sexual assault victims says, “... statement is symptomatic to the working of the Police. The Women’s Cell of the Delhi Police once tried to coerce my client to not file a domestic violence complaint as it would tarnish her marriage.” There is a pressing need to introduce proper, systematic training for the police personnel at all levels. In most cases, they seem to respect the institutions of family and marriage more than the rights of the woman.
Dangerous disparity between reported rapes and convicted cases;
The number of rapes reported each year in Delhi, as we see, rose 277% from 572 in 2011 to 2,155 in 2016, according to Delhi Police data.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, 2016, had revealed that only 1 in every 4 cases of rape ends with conviction. The already-low conviction rate of 29% in 2015, fell further to 25.5% the following year.
The data of conviction rates for the years 2017 and 2018 is not available yet. The gap between the number of rapes reported and the number of rapists convicted in the previous years is appalling.
The complexity of the legal system itself an impediment to conviction?
In Delhi alone, 20% cases reported in the first two months of 2018 are still pending trial. Explaining this complexity, Bindu, a litigator at Alternative Law Forum, told Newsclick that after the FIR is filed, most reports are dismissed due to lack of evidence. The victim turning “hostile” - that is, to withdraw the case - due to intimidation, is another reason for the low rates, she pointed out. The long-drawn cases lead to this hostility too; the victim tires out.
Once the chargesheet is filed and the case goes to trial, there arises a bigger problem of a “nexus being formed between the public prosecutor, the police and the accused that collectively works against the victim in order to get the case withdrawn” Bindu said. “Many public prosecutors are extremely corrupt and I have seen one take money to derail the case in front of my eyes.”
Only when we understand the nuances of the complexities of the legal system; when we mandate gender-sensitivity and capacity building workshops for all female and male police personnel; when we realise that the increasing numbers of reported rapes don’t hold any significance if the rates of conviction fall steadily, can we make Delhi safe for it’s women.