In a first-of-its-kind analysis of over 600 cases of rape and trial court judgments in these cases in Mumbai, a study has found that in 36 per cent cases between 2011-12, the victim’s name appeared in the judgment despite the Supreme Court guidelines to keep it confidential.
Also, while rate of conviction in cases where the victim is below 10 years is good, in cases where the victim is 11-year-old or older, the pattern changes and acquittals are higher. The trend reaches a peak for cases where the victim is 16-18 years, the study has found.
The study, a detailed analysis of rape cases that took place in the city between August 2012 and July 2015, was conducted by Rahat, a support programme for rape survivors, initiated by city-based NGO Majlis.
The Supreme Court’s directions clearly state that confidentiality of the victim should be maintained and her name should not be revealed in the judgment.
In the 154 cases that were studied, members of Rahat found that the chargesheet given to the accused’s lawyer had all the details of the victim. “In some cases, especially high profile cases, copies of the chargesheet are given to the reporters present in trial courts. The judges do not insist that the victim’s name and personal details should not be revealed and a truncated chargesheet should be given to the defence lawyers,” they said.
“There is no clear pattern emerging to indicate that the conviction rates are better if the judge is female,” the 36-page report has said, adding “We find both male and female judges can be sensitive or insensitive towards the victims. We believe that it is not physiology or biology that governs sensitivity, but social situations of the judge and the exposure to social issues as well as sensitisation programmes that the judges are exposed to.”
The study has also raised issues like recording of evidence by the victims in trial courts in the presence of the accused and said aggressive and prolonged cross-examination by the defence could also affect the victim.
“The police serve the summons to appear in court at the very last minute, many times on the eve of the court date, not providing sufficient time for the victim to get used to the idea of appearing in court,” it has added.
Data shows that in 92 per cent cases, FIR and victim’s statement were recorded at police stations in Mumbai. Only in three per cent of the cases, these were recorded at the hospital and child welfare committee shelter homes and only in a few cases, these were recorded at the victims’ home or at an NGO. Also, in 75 per cent of cases where marriage was promised, the victims were in the age group of 11-25 years.