Only 24 per cent of trials in rape cases in the country in 2012 ended in conviction, down from 26.6 per cent in 2010. The conviction rate for molestation cases went from 29.7 per cent in 2010 to 24 per cent in 2012 while “eve teasing” cases went down from 52.8 per cent convictions to a mere 36.9 per cent in those two years. The data, sourced from the National Crime Records Bureau, was cited by Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam in his speech during the release of two handbooks for survivors of sexual violence and the persons working to help the survivors, created by the Lawyers Collective Women’s Rights Initiative.
The books give simplified details of the legal provisions regarding violence against women, answer basic questions about procedure and legal aid, and offer a comprehensive look at the legal rights of victims.
During the release function held at the British Council on Monday, the Chief Justice also expressed concern over the “inconvenient truth” that the crimes against women are on the rise, and exhorted all stakeholders, legal professionals, NGOs and the media, to highlight issues concerning women’s safety and crimes against women.
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Sathasivam said among the myriad reasons for increasing crime was that most victims were scared of approaching the police or courts, and most people were not aware of their legal rights and the provision in law to help victims of sexual violence.
The CJI also said that to improve the conviction rates, not only was there need to improve the prosecution system, but also to spread awareness. “Legal services can be a tool for women’s empowerment,” he said, adding that legal clinics, with trained persons to give advice, had been opened in all villages in India on the directions of the National Legal Services Authority, and the Supreme Court was considering expanding the system to all municipal districts as well.
“If more and more people are aware of the laws and the prosecution and punishment, there will be less crime,” he said.
Supreme Court Justice Ranjana Desai spoke about various reasons for high rate of acquittals, including problems faced by the victims, who then turn hostile in court, lack of trained prosecutors and lawyers to handle cases of sexual offences, deficiency in policing, among others.
Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising, who is also the Executive Director of the Lawyers Collective, said the goal behind creating the handbooks was to “prevent the survivor from dropping out of the court system”.