The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) has alleged that that at least 45 custodial rapes were reported between 2002 and 2010.

In its submission to the Justice Verma Committee set up in the wake of the gruesome rape on December 16 here, the centre said that at least 45 custodial rapes took place between 2002 and 2010 as per the complaints registered by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The number of cases registered by the NHRC with the period within brackets: two (2009-2010), four (2008-2009), 18 (2007-2008), 10 (2006-2007), five (2005-2006), four (2004-05), and two (2002-2003). No case was registered in 2003-04.

“These cases are the tip of the iceberg and the law enforcement personnel enjoy virtual immunity as prior sanction is required for their prosecution even in cases of rape as per Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code and Section 6 of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958,” according to Suhas Chakma, Director ACHR.

“The Justice Verma Committee must recommend removal of the requirement of prior sanction for prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding against any offences relating to sexual assault,’’ Mr. Chakma said.

The centre does not have consolidated figures for permission granted for prosecution of those involved in such offences. These are maintained by the States for the police, the Ministries concerned like the Home Ministry for paramilitary forces, and the Defence Ministry for the defence forces.

The ACHR criticised the restrictive Terms of Reference of the Justice Verma Committee which has been asked to suggest possible amendments in the criminal laws to provide for quicker trial and enhanced punishment for criminals accused of committing “sexual assault of extreme nature against women.”

“The Committee should bear in mind that failure of the law to take its own course against sexual assault, which may not necessarily be of extreme nature, ultimately creates the environment in which criminals dare to commit sexual assault of extreme nature. Women in India have been facing unprecedented sexual violence and the Committee must broaden the definition to capture all forms of sexual assault,” Mr. Chakma said.

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