In a large number of rape cases, the victims are forced to withdraw their complaints due to family or social pressure. This leads to miscarriage of justice and also wastage of precious time of the investigating agency and the courts. The courts too seldom act to dissuade such withdrawals. As a consequence, the conviction rate is a meagre 41.5 per cent in Delhi. The Hindu looks at this disturbing phenomenon...
When a senior Delhi Police officer was recently asked to disclose the reasons for so many rape victims turning hostile, he silently pointed towards a bundle of papers lying on the side table delivered to him through dak.
These were court documents pertaining to rape cases that had been recently disposed of and in almost all of them the judge had remarked that the prosecutrix had turned hostile and the case fell apart despite good investigation by the police.
‘Not difficult to prove charges’
“It does not require any extraordinary investigative skills to prove rape charges. If the victim stands by her statement in court, the accused can easily be convicted on the basis of medical and forensic reports. There is no need for eyewitnesses in such cases. The role of the police is mainly to ensure that the victim is not intimidated or threatened into withdrawing her statement, especially in cases involving strangers,” said the officer.
Noting that in cases where the victims were not known to the accused the conviction rate was very impressive, he said this just shows how family and social pressures make victims turn hostile.
Of the total of 706 cases of rape reported in 2012, the accused was “known” to the victim in all but 26 cases. Incidentally, the police also cite this as a major reason for its inability to curb rape. But the fact remains that in only about a fifth of these cases are the accused close family members of the victim.
Though there is a provision under the Criminal Procedure Code for the court to initiate perjury proceedings against victims who turn hostile, the charges are seldom pressed.
Another Delhi Police officer said: “I have not come cross a single instance so far in my career where a court ordered initiation of perjury proceedings against the victim for turning hostile. Getting a case registered initially and then withdrawing it for frivolous reasons not just leads to wastage of resources and precious time of the police and the court, but also poses a potential threat of abuse of law to settle personal scores or for personal gains.”
Rape is also being used as a tool to settle personal scores, the officer added. “There have been a number of cases in the recent past where rival parties involved in a dispute got cross-cases of rapes registered just to put pressure on each other. In such instances, the rape cases are withdrawn once the dispute is settled. And this trend is picking up,” he lamented.
Another senior officer said: “There is also a need for the law to differentiate between cases of consensual sex having gone wrong and cases where the accused used force and raped the victim. The difference can easily be made out from the medical reports. In case of consensual sex, there are no external or internal injuries to the victim, but in case of use of force the medical report reveals the injuries.”
“In cases where force has been used, the court should grant exemplary punishment to serve as a deterrent. But in cases of consensual sex, the judiciary must take into account that the victim’s consent was involved at the time of commission of the act. The judiciary must also take strict view of withdrawal of cases without proper reasons and registration of false cases to settle personal scores to avoid abuse of law as has been seen in dowry cases,” the officer added.