Four years, 56 hearings on, little progress on women safety

After the December 2012 gangrape, the Delhi High Court took up two PILs on various aspects of policing and safety of women in the Capital.

Written by Aneesha Mathur | Published: December 22, 2016 4:16 am
women safety, women safety delhi, Delhi gangrape, nirbhya, women saftey india, india new At Munirka where the December 16 victim boarded the bus. (Express Photo: Oinam Anand)

On policing

From the beginning, the court has taken note of the lack of PCR patrolling along “dark” stretches of the Capital. By July 2013, the court also raised the issue of separating Delhi Police’s “crime investigation unit” from its “general law and order” duties. In March 2014, the court asked the police to map areas with high rates of crime against women. Police identified 44 “high-crime areas” and the Delhi State Legal Services Authority submitted a study on “hotspots” within the “vulnerable areas” where several factors — lack of police and CCTV surveillance, missing streetlights, and presence of alcohol vends — led to rising crime. The court also directed the police to conduct a “sociological study” to look at the background of offenders and victims, which revealed that over 60 per cent of all cases of sexual offences were committed by people known to the victim. Police informed the court in November that as a “pilot project”, five all-women PCR vans had been deployed in five places of the city from September. On Wednesday, police said the project expansion was not possible as they did not have “enough women drivers.”

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On personnel enhancement

Over subsequent hearings, the Delhi Police has told the court that it is “understaffed” and informed it of at least 18 proposals it had sent to the Home Ministry (MHA) seeking more personnel. In 2014, the MHA returned the initial proposal for 14,869 personnel after which the police sent a “revised” proposal for 4,749 posts.

However, in March 2015, the MHA “cleared” 15 different proposals sent for over 16,000 posts and sent the files to the Finance Ministry. But the Finance Ministry raised objections, forcing the MHA to set up a high-level committee to “revisit” the proposals. In the eight court hearings between December 2014 and September 2015, the court asked the Centre to expedite the process. Frustrated by the delay, the court in September 2015 summoned the expenditure secretary, Finance Ministry, to explain why the sanction for additional police posts was getting delayed. The court was told that the proposals were “too costly”.

Finally in December 2015, 4,227 police posts were sanctioned, but the MHA clarified to the court that recruitment would be done for only half of them in 2016-17. The court again said the “Centre’s attitude has been quite disappointing”.

In February 2016, the Finance Ministry reversed its stand and asked the police to submit a “consolidated proposal” instead of “piecemeal” ones. The police again sent “priority proposals” to the MHA seeking 53,959 additional posts.

While this was happening, the high-level committee submitted its report, rejecting the demand for additional personnel and seeking “rationalisation of the jurisdiction” of police stations for “better distribution” of resources.

Despite serious observations by the court for the delays, the Home Ministry, on December 21, again told the court that “first phase Priority 1 proposals” had now been “processed” by the MHA and were “awaiting clearance by the competent authority in the Ministry.” The proposals, which are for 12,271 posts, will be sent to the Finance Ministry once they are cleared.

On CCTV cameras

In May 2015, the Delhi Police submitted a proposal for 6,630 CCTV systems, at a cost of over Rs 404 crore, but the court dismissed it as being “outlandish”. The AAP government then offered to “finance” the proposal but a dispute arose between the police and the Delhi government over access to and control of the CCTV footage. In February this year, the court said that police “should” have control of the footage, but deferred the issue as police said it would “introduce a pilot project” in 10 areas. On Wednesday, the police again admitted that work of setting up cameras in police stations had not started.

On victim compensation

While the time taken for disbursement of compensation to victims of sexual offences, acid attacks and other crimes has reduced after the court’s intervention, the Victim Compensation Fund, an integral part of the compensation scheme, is yet to be created.

In 2014, the court had asked the Delhi government to “grant” Rs 1 crore to the victim compensation account of the Delhi State Legal Services Authority, which would allow it to directly pay compensation.

The Delhi government had in August 2014 “assured” the court that the fund would be set up “within three months.” In September 2015, after seeking several extensions to set up the fund, the Delhi government told the court that it had “repealed” its Victim Compensation Scheme of 2011, and passed a new one, which would need the Centre’s approval. In November, the court was informed that the new scheme had been cleared by the MHA but was yet to be notified by the Delhi LG. On Wednesday, the counsel for the Delhi government told the bench that the scheme had been “cleared” but was now being “translated” before it is notified.

On forensic labs

When the petitions were filed, the court noted how there was a delay of two to four years in getting forensic reports since there was only one Delhi government-run forensic science lab (FSL), in Rohini. “Urgent” cases were sent to the CBI’s Central Forensic Science Lab. The government then proposed to set up Regional FSLs in all 5 ‘zones’ of Delhi but it couldn’t reach an agreement with DDA on the transfer of land for the FSLs.

In May this year, the government reversed its stand and told the court that there was “no need” for regional FSLs as the two labs — Rohini and Chanakyapuri (which came up later) — could handle the work. The court then observed: “It is only to be seen that these proposals are acted upon and the expected results are realised.” In November 2016, the DSLSA and Delhi government filed reports blaming the Delhi Police for “delay” in sending forensic samples to the labs. The status reports indicated that police was taking up to 120 days to send a sample.

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