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Monday, October 26, 2020

Amid criticism over Hathras probe, MHA issues advisory to states on dealing with crimes against women

The Ministry of Home Affairs has told states to ensure mandatory registration of FIRs, collection of evidence for forensic examination, and to take action against erring officers.

Written by Deeptiman Tiwary | New Delhi | Updated: October 11, 2020 1:51:45 am
hathras case, hathras gangrape, hathras dalit rape case, mha new notification on rape cases, centre rules on rape cases, UP policeUP police outside the residence of 19 year old Dalit girl who died after allegedly been gangraped by four upper caste men in Hathras (File/Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

In a fresh advisory to states Saturday, the Ministry of Home Affairs has asked them to take strict action in cases of crimes against women and adhere strictly to guidelines for dealing with such cases, including mandatory registration of FIRs and completing probes in two months in cases of sexual assault.

This advisory has been issued at a time when the UP government has drawn criticism for its handling of the alleged rape and murder of a 19-year-old in a Hathras village and the events thereafter.

The Allahabad High Court has asked UP officials to appear before it Monday, brief it on the status of the investigation and explain the sequence of events that led to the cremation of the victim’s body and the family’s complaint about the manner in which it was done.

In its advisory, the MHA, while maintaining that the government has, over the years, taken steps to strengthen legislative provisions to deal with incidents of sexual offences against women, said: “However, even with stringent provisions in law and several capacity-building measures undertaken, any failure of police to adhere to these mandatory requirements may not augur well for the delivery of criminal justice in the country, especially in context of women safety. Such lapses, if noticed, need to be investigated into and stringent action taken immediately against the concerned officers responsible for the same.”

“It is requested that States/UTs may suitably issue instructions to all concerned to ensure strict compliance with the provisions in the law… It is also requested to monitor the cases on ITSSO (Investigation Tracking System for Sexual Offences) to ensure that suitable follow-up action is taken for the chargesheet of the guilty in a timely manner as required in the law.”

Reiterating the guidelines and laid down norms for investigation of sexual offences, the MHA has asked states for mandatory registration of FIRs, action against officers who refuse to register FIRs in cases of rape and certain other crimes against women, to treat the dying declaration of a victim as a matter of fact, collection of evidence for forensic examination and use of sexual assault evidence collection (SAEC) kit, completion of investigation in sexual assault cases in two months, use of the National Database on Sexual Offenders for identifying and tracking repeat sexual offenders among others.

The Ministry, which recently distributed SAEC kits among states for better investigation of sexual crimes through forensic evidence, underlined the use of these kits.

“The Directorate of Forensic Science Services (DFSS) under the MHA has issued guidelines for collection, preservation & transportation of forensic evidence in sexual assault cases for Investigation Officers and Medical Officers. In order to facilitate the State Police, Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) has issued Sexual Assault Evidence Collection (SAEC) Kits to every State/UT. It is necessary to use these SAEC kits in every case of sexual assault reported… BPR&D and LNJN National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science (NICFS) have been regularly conducting Training and Training of Trainers (ToT) programmes on procedure for collection, preservation and handling of forensic evidence for Police/Prosecutors and Medical Officers respectively,” the advisory stated.

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