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Lax,shoddy investigation leads to acquittals

The child was sexually assaulted by a 60-year old security guard at her school in the city’s western suburbs.

Written by SUKANYA SHANTHA | Mumbai | August 28, 2013 1:18:13 am

In February,sessions court Judge P G Ganediwala came down heavily on Vakola police for not properly documenting the statement a four-year old child,making it difficult for the prosecution to prove rape. The child was sexually assaulted by a 60-year old security guard at her school in the city’s western suburbs. While the court found accused Telam Singh guilty of unnatural offence,rape was not established. The child’s inability to locate the scene of the crime also helped the defence’s case.

In another 2010 case,where a 22-year-old domestic help was allegedly raped by her neighbour,the case was registered with the Sakinaka police station three days after the incident. While the police registered the case,the victim was sent for medical test a day later. The medical report turned out to be inconclusive and the accused was acquitted.

These issues,the prosecution says,is a routine affair,which hamper trials. The National Crime Records Bureau data for 2011- 12 shows a depressingly abysmal conviction rate — a 16.11 per cent of the 2,509 cases registered with the Maharashtra police. This figure is a third less than the average conviction rate (24.2 per cent) in India.

Public prosecutor Nilima Kasture,who handles rape trials,said from the time a case is registered at a police station till it reaches the court,it is prone to damage. “In majority of cases,the forensic reports brought to the court are inconclusive. The reports that can be compiled in a matter of few hours are not made available for months. With a large number of sexual assault cases reported daily,the forensic department should take necessary steps,” Kasture said. Acknowledging the issue of high pendency rate,which as per the NCRB data is 14,414 cases of rape in the state,she says,several dedicated courts need to be assigned to handle assault cases to ensure the backlog is cleared. “One court cannot handle all the cases,” she adds.

Following the gangrape of the photojournalist last week,Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil declared that the trial of the case would be held in a fast-track court. Veena Gowda,women’s rights lawyer,said the nature of courts and trials entail a lengthy procedure. “So if the cases are put on a fast-track mode,there also is a tendency to hastily deal with this case. Speedy trial cannot be conducted at the cost of fair trial,” Gowda points out.

Retired Justice Hosbet Suresh,however,feels rape trials need to be time-bound. “The moment a case is registered and chargesheet is filed,the victim should be brought to the court and her testimony should be recorded. This provision has been made available under the new Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. The same can be followed in rape cases too,” he said.

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