By Devesh K. Pandey.
A woman is gangraped by four
persons at Timarpur in North Delhi and she reports the matter to the
police. But despite their names finding mention in the victim's complaint,
the culprits remain at large even five months after the incident. On
the other hand, the traumatised victim is subjected to regular questioning
by the police.
This could be the story of
any victim in Delhi where on an average one rape case is reported every
Except for a handful of cases
such as that of a Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) student that rocked
the Capital recently and caught media attention, activists working in
the field of crime against women feel the behaviour of the police towards
rape victims leaves a lot to be desired. It was only the media pressure
in the MAMC case that made the police nab the perpetrators in quick
Recalling the agony of a
rape victim at Patel Nagar in West Delhi, a member of the Delhi Commission
for Women (DCW) says the victim was made to stay in the police station
till late in the night and asked "unpleasant" questions at
regular intervals. "The woman could not even speak. What information
could she have revealed about the accused in such a state of mind,"
the member asks. Problems in dealing with the police lead to many cases
of rape going unreported. Another DCW member, Reny Jacob, says in several
cases the Commission has had to summon the investigating officers following
charges by the victim that the case was being sabotaged. On a few occasions,
the victims even alleged that the investigating officers openly refused
to help them saying that they had been offered a good sum by the accused.
Delhi police statistics put the detection rate in rape cases at 93.8
per cent, whereas the conviction rate is estimated to be about 47 per
cent. The detection rates in rape and molestation cases is high as in
over 70 per cent of the cases the accused are relatives or someone known
to the victim. However, it has been observed that most such cases go
unreported primarily due to the "complications" involved in
the police investigation.
The aversion that rape victims
have for the police can be traced to the lack of proper sensitisation
of the investigating officers and non-availability of resources for
scientific investigation. The inherent stigma attached to the victim
in the social set-up is another reason why many such cases go unreported.
Senior police officers say the issue calls for immediate attention in
the field of infrastructure development. The former Joint Commissioner
of Police, Crime Against Women Cell, A.S. Khan, says lack of adequate
manpower in the department results in investigation of many of these
cases by local police who lack proper training and sensitisation in
the matter. According to Mr. Khan, the CAW Cell does not have the infrastructure
to take up its responsibilities.
While emphasising the need
to sensitise male police officers and make them work in tandem with
their women counterparts, the present Joint Commissioner of Police,
CAW Cell, Vimla Mehra, too admits to non-availability of manpower. However,
irrespective of the gender of the investigating officers, they should
be trained on regular basis to handle such cases of sensitive nature,
Even as the role of the police
in cases of crimes against women is put under the scanner, the Joint
Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, U.K. Katna, observes that the
police tread a thin line between duty and sensitivity while investigating
rape cases. "Despite the knowledge that investigations in these
cases could have a negative impact on the victim's psyche, an investigating
officer is compelled to establish a communication with her at the earliest
to gather clues."
In cases where there are
no eyewitnesses, as happens most of the time, the investigating officer
has no other option but to study the scene of crime and get information
from the victim. Mr. Katna says the police try to extract information
about the culprits from the victim soon after the incident as with lapse
of time the victims in many cases where the accused are closely
related to them try to hide their identity due to family pressures.
Activists say amateurish
investigation often leads to acquittal or delay in disposal of cases.
As a result, the victims end up regretting that they had even reported
the matter to the police, they add.
Claiming that things were
changing, Mr. Katna says the police have realised the importance of
"victimology" as a means for dealing with sensitive cases.
For their part, the police too have a grievance that many a time in
spite of their nabbing the culprits, the victim backs out and refuses
to pursue the case.