It takes almost a little less than an year for a case to get charge sheeted
Geetanjali Minhas | March 28, 2018 | Mumbai
Sexual crimes against minor girls in Mumbai is on the rise, Praja Foundation said in a report released on Tuesday. Out of the total rape cases reported in Mumbai in 2016, 72% (455 out of 628) rapes were on minor girls.
Between 2012-2013 and 2016-2017, reported cases of rapes and molestataions have increased by 96% and 165%, respectively. Despite the POSCO (Protection of Children against Sexual Offences) Act which is aimed to tackle child abuse, the data revealed by Praja speaks a lot about safety of children in Mumbai.
Praja’s report on Policing and Law & Order in Mumbai also point out the low conviction rate towards crimes against women. The reports shows that the conviction rates for Class II serious offences tried at the sessions court level was a mere 7% in year 2012. Though this has increased over the years, it is still 19% for the year 2016. Only 54 of 300 rape cases were convicted and 246 were acquitted. In murder cases out of 244 cases there were only 60 convictions. Failure to prove charges by the public prosecutor was the reason in 911 acquittal cases out of a total a total of 1326 cases.
“The data indicates a dip in disposal of permanent public prosecutors (PP) conviction rate by 10% from 2012 to 2016. The total cases disposed show a steep decrease from 310 cases in 2012 to mere 79 in the year 2016,” the report reads raising question mark on the role of prosecution and investigation agencies. It says that despite a monitoring process for Permanent Prosecutors and Contractual Prosecutors since 2008 this was only initiated in 2016. In 2008, a committee was to evaluate the performance of contractual PP’s and make recommendations for continuation of contracts, no such evaluation happened till 2016.
“Low conviction rates is a serious worry for the functioning of the criminal justice system. All of these findings point towards the poor quality of investigation and prosecution at the sessions court level. This exposes serious gaps in the judiciary and begs the question of what steps are being taken to discourage this practice. How many people were charged with perjury? Who needs to be held responsible for of the poor application of the existing laws?” asked Milind Mhaske, Project Director, Praja Foundation.
Further, the report highlights shortage of staff in police and judiciary affecting system. "Public prosecution plays crucial role in the criminal justice system and if this important limb of the justice system is understaffed the performance is going to be affected and would in turn affect the number of cases that reach conviction or acquittals” it says. In Judiaciary there is 21% short of additional and assistant sessions judges as on April 2017.
The report points out that it takes as long as 11.6 months on an average for the case to get charge sheeted after being first filled and as long as 21.3 months for rape case to reach a verdict from the date of registration of the offence. A murder trial takes as long as 24.7 months. In the 60’s the cases would be adjudicated within a session and took approximately 10 to 15 days.
In 2016, the number of complaints received against police were 179. While only 29 criminal cases were registered and 22 police personnel got arrested, 20 police personnel were sent for trial during the year 2016 in comparison to 16 in 2015. In 2016 disciplinary action has been taken against 150 police personnel for 128 enquires were conducted, while in 2015 against 183 were taken and 156 enquires were conducted. Out of the 20 police personnel sent for trial, 19 got convicted.
Praja recommends improving quality of investigation though periodic training, improved supervision on investigation of case and creating a separate and specialised unit for investigation of serious offences, It also calls for constituting State Security Commission and making Police Complaints Authority functional in letter and spirit.
(State Security Commission has not been formed till date under the Fadnavis Government as per the Despite Supreme Court directions on the 22nd of September 2006 State Security Commission under Fadnavis government has not been formed till date. In the case of Police Complaints Authority, Government of Maharashtra has constituted the said Authority notified by the home department on 25th May, 2015. It was done in pursuance of Section 22P (2) of the Maharashtra Police (Amendment and Continuance) Act, 2014 (Mah. XXIV of 2014) and come into force with effect from the 1st February, 2014. Even though a committee has been appointed it has not functioned till date.)
Praja also calls for filling gaps in sanctioned and available police posts at the level of investigating officer and police control room, continuous working of Sessions Court session as originally envisaged to deliver speedy and fast justice and initiating perjury sections in cases where witnesses turn hostile. The report also calls for improved coordination by the home department between investigating officers, PP and the judiciary to understand and reflect on shortcomings and devise methods to resolve issues on timely basis besides strengthening and creating necessary infrastructure for continuous training, forensic labs, crime mapping and forecasting and financial provision for improved performance
Nitai Mehta, Founder and Managing Trustee, Praja Foundation here added , “A sessions court is to adjudicate the matters within a session. However our study shows that over the years the period has crossed beyond the due session. This is indicative of the lack of the sessions court as it exists today for completion of a trial in a period of one session which was the idea behind the inception of a sessions court.”
The NGO collected the data through RTI on various parameters and carried out a rigorous study into 1326 cases from 2008 to 2012 tried at the session’s court level for the report.
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