Whenever a rape is reported, especially in metropolitan cities, it occupies the front page headlines of the news papers and flash bulletins are forcasted on tv. It does not affect the Government and is soon forgotten, till the next case occupies the headlines. We are still governed by the laws drafted by the British in 1893 on rape. Some of the rapes committed are so ghastly that they cannot even be described, where victims range from children to old ones. There are numerous opinions about how to address this problem.
As per the latest census in 2011, total female sex ratio in India is 940 per 1,000 males and the female child sex ratio is 944 girl children per every 1,000 boy children of the same age group. Delhi has only 866 girls to 1,000 boys.
Whatever the self proclaimed moralists, may say, sex is the basic need of human beings and especially of men. Not only our laws are slothful, but there is a double whammy, on the victim women, girls or even children, as they are looked down upon, in society, not for any reason, except that they have become victims of the crime.
The women or girls in some states are killed in the name of the honour crime, for even talking to men outside their immediate family. Nothing happens to the males. The so-called activists of all lost cause, like the terrorists or those indulging in anti-national activities are silent, when the victims are subjected to the indignity of forcible sex crimes. However, ghastly maybe the crime, of rape committed in the most inhuman way, there is no capital punishment for rape. It was kept so, by the ruling Britishers as jail sentence, as they were in power and only they could have committed rapes.
A total of 20,737 rape cases were registered in 2007, 21,467 in 2008, 21,397 in 2009, 22,172 in 2010 and 24,206 in 2011. The conviction rates of rape cases during 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 were 26.4 per cent, 26.6 per cent, 26.9 per cent, 26.6 per cent and 26.4 per cent respectively.
Mumbai witnessed 647 rape and 1,877 molestation cases in the last three years. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 1,781 incidents of crime against women in Mumbai in 2012 which include 234 rapes, 614 incidents of assault on women with the intent to outrage her modesty and 235 incidents of insult to the modesty of women.
Of the total number of rape cases registered in 2011, a highest of 3,406 were filed in Madhya Pradesh, 2,363 in West Bengal, 2,042 in Uttar Pradesh, 1,800 in Rajasthan, 1,701 in Maharashtra and 1,700 in Assam among others. Among the major cities, Delhi registered 585 cases of rape in 2012, Chennai (94), Kolkata (68), Bengaluru (90), Hyderabad (74), Ahmedabad (63) and Bhopal (114).
My own feeling is that registered rape crime, is not even one fourth of the actual cases, because the performance of the Police is judged on statistics. So burking or understating the crime is the usual practice, because the Government would not give either the required number of policemen and provide training facilities.
The Government whether at the Central or State level talk about controlling the crime, but the Police strength is woefully inadequate. As per the information given to the Lok Sabha, India has a police-population ratio (number of police personnel per one lakh of population) of 134 as compared to minimum United Nations norm of 220. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have worst ratio of 63 and 74 respectively. Out of a total strength of near 21 lakhs Policemen, there are as many as 5 lakh vacancies in the country.
As per the Government information, against 906 sanctioned posts of the High Court Judges, there are as many as 275 vacancies. Out of a sanctioned strength of 17,151 posts of judicial officers, below the level of the High Court Judges, 3,170 were vacant in the country. Actually as per the norms laid down, we need 77,000 judges. The result is that sometimes, no justice is available during the life time of a victim.
Chidambram as Union Home Minister said; “Police system is outdated. Police are ill-trained, ill-equipped and ill-paid…The Police Constable, who works for 12 to 14 hours a day throughout the year is the most abused part of the machinery. Everyone believes that he (Constable) can be bullied, or cajoled or bribed… he is the most reviled public servant.”
We are still looking upto other countries for solving our problems and showing us the way. There is no harm in that, in picking up the best practices from others. No country spares any criminals, except India. But while making the laws, we leave all the loopholes, as escape routes, with the most lenient punishment. We have been blindly following the practice that a juvenile does not really know the consequences of his crime and he must be treated with the kid gloves. You have two prominent cases of rape in Delhi of December 16, 2012 and the Mumbai rape of a lady journalist in the 4th week of August, 2013. If a juvenile knows, what it is, to have forcible sex, why should he be spared of the consequences of his deed?
In fact a crime is a crime and it should be left to the judiciary, to decide, as to what punishment be awarded instead of laying a law, which is being misused. Why not have a harsher punishment for life and why should the tax payers spend on the criminal in the quest of reforming them and paying for them. Why not we show the lead, that a prisoner, once sentenced, will have to pay for his free boarding and lodging, by doing hard labour in the jail?
Another cry heard is that we have far too many prisoners in jails that is less than 4 lakh. Incidentally in USA there are 27 lakh prisoners in jail. It is upto the Government to rectify the deficiencies, to ensure that no case remains pending beyond six months.
A former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court while releasing the report of the High Court had said that it will take 465 years, for the present pendency in Delhi High Court to dispose off.
India is the biggest law factory the world has known, but hardly any implementation. It is time that the Government made the right to justice, in a reasonable time frame a reality. Otherwise, it will remain elusive as Judge Sturgess said “Justice is open to everyone in the same way as the Ritz Hotel.”
(The writer is former Director, CBI)
Is this the Mumbai we know and love?
For decades, Mumbai has enjoyed the reputation of a city that, despite all its serious problems, is safe for women. Women have always enjoyed the freedom to live their lives, travel alone at odd hours, and feel safe, but the facts prove otherwise… .
According to National Crime Bureau reports cases of sexual harassment, rape and sexual assault are on the rise. Cases of rape in Mumbai rose at a rate of 5 per cent in 2012. And it is utterly disgusting to note that 45 per cent of these cases were in the age group of 14-18 years and eleven victims under 10. Another appalling fact revealed through RTI is that on an average, there has been a rape every day in Mumbai in the first 3 months of 2013.
The frequency of incidents of sexual crimes against women and the severity of assault in many cases has shocked the conscience of the maximum city. While politicians and law-enforcers mouth insipid platitudes, the citizens are in a state of introspection as to what has gone wrong with the city we love.
How does one explain why this is happening – huge migrant population, growing have-have not gap, the role of mass media, and so forth. Or is it the lingering feudal mindset of men who consider women to be ‘property’ and ‘available’. Added to that, our law enforcement which is so lacking. There’s no certainty of punishment, or severity thereof. Even in one of the latest incidents where a woman was sought to be assaulted in the ladies compartment of a running local train, the policeman watched in stunned stupor.
How can this ever change? When will our sisters and daughters feel safe going about their lives in the manner they wish to? While expressions of outrage will stem from all corners, the time has come when we must leverage the collective conscience of the civilised nation to shame the perpetrators, empower the women of this country, while also exerting pressure on law enforcers to merely do their duties. The biggest tool we now have is social media. The power of media, in its most democratic avatar, is in the hands of each one of us. And that’s what we must use judiciously to articulate and then strive to bring about the change. There isn’t much point in talking about the change. The challenge for each right-thinking citizen is to make a contribution, walk the talk, and make a difference.
(The writer is noted fashion designer.)