In a major reform towards fast-tracking rape trials, the Supreme Court has said that a rape victim should be taken directly to a magistrate for recording her statements within 24 hours of the crime.
In its order last week, a bench led by Justice Gyan Sudha Misra (since retired) held there was no need to record a victim’s statement first before the police and then again before a magistrate. Under the law, a statement recorded by the police is inadmissible with no legal sanctity. This new procedure, the court said, would put an end to repeated recording of the statements — “the primary reason for delay of the trial”.
“We are perturbed and anguished to notice that although there are fast-track courts for disposal of such cases, we do not yet have a fast-track procedure for dealing with cases of rape and gangrape, with the result that such heinous offences are repeated incessantly all over the country, including in the metropolitan cities,” said the bench.
It said if a victim’s statement was recorded under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, preferably by a woman magistrate, it would be treated as her deposition for the trial.
“It can surely cut short and curtail the protracted trial if it is introduced at least for trial of rape cases… and thus offer a speedy remedy by way of a fast-track procedure,” said the bench. “If there is any delay exceeding 24 hours in taking the victim to the magistrate, the investigating officer should record the reasons in the case diary and hand over a copy of the same to the magistrate.”
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The court said the investigating officer should record the date and time when he got to know about the offence and when he took the victim to the magistrate. The victim should be medically examined before being taken to the magistrate, it said.
“Necessary instructions by the DGPs and police commissioners of all the states and union territories be also issued to all the police station in-charges, incorporating the directions issued by us,” said the SC, adding there there was a pressing need to introduce further amendments in the CrPC.
ASG Sidharth Luthra, appearing for the government, had referred to the latest provisions in the Criminal Law (Amendments) Act, 2013 while claiming that the new law had the potential to cut down on unnecessary delays in rape trials.
The SC, however, noted that these amendments were “not adequate” and sought the views of the law secretaries of all states and the law commissions before passing this order while hearing a rape case from Karnataka.