In many cases, witnesses turned hostile, or police statements didn't match victim statements

The judge who convicted four men for the gang rape and murder of a Delhi girl had handed down only two other rape convictions in the last five years, court data shows. However, this record seems to raise more questions about the investigation process than the legal process.

Supreme Court advocate K. V. Dhananjay with a team of advocates who work with him analysed all orders passed in the last five years by Additional Sessions Judge Yogesh Khanna of the Saket District Court in New Delhi, and shared this data with The Hindu. Mr. Dhananjay looked at all orders in criminal cases, those in rape cases alone and those that involved convictions in Mr. Khanna’s court from January 1, 2009 to September 9, 2013.

He found that no rape cases came to Mr. Khanna in 2009 and 2010. In 2011, Mr. Khanna passed final orders in seven rape cases, all of them acquittals. In 2012, ten rape cases came to his court and all resulted in acquittals. In 2013, 15 cases had come to his court by the time Mr. Dhananjay accessed the data on the September 9, and all had resulted in acquittals.

The Hindu independently verified this data from the website of the district courts, and found two additional orders passed by Mr. Khanna in 2013, both of which had resulted in convictions. Mr. Dhananjay pointed out to The Hindu that both of these judgements had been uploaded on September 11, a day after he had circulated his findings among some members of the legal fraternity.

In total, of the 203 cases involving rape (IPC section 376) that Mr. Khanna had heard from January 1, 2009, to the day he convicted four men in the Delhi bus case, Mr. Khanna had passed convictions in two cases.

A reading of the judgements shows that in several cases, witnesses and victims turned hostile, in others the victim could no longer be traced, while in several others the police statements did not match what the victim or witnesses said in court. Moreover, in one of the two convictions Mr. Khanna relied almost solely on the testimony of the victim and dismissed the defence’s argument that the victim’s lack of injuries implied consent, which would suggest that the court’s low conviction rate did not appear to arise from any judicial bias.

“Low conviction rates in rape cases are primarily a result of the low quality of police investigation,” Supreme Court lawyer Rebecca John who has worked on several rape cases said. “Yes, there are cases where prejudices on the part of the judges creep in, especially when the prosecutrix [rape victim] and the accused are known to each other, or when there is an absence of injuries. But on the whole, conviction rates in all criminal cases would be much higher if the police did a better job of investigation,” Ms. John said.

With its quantity of medical evidence and witnesses, the Delhi bus case was such that it would have taken a particularly incompetent police force to bungle, Ms. John said. “But cases in which there’s plenty of medical evidence are rare not just in Delhi but all over India too,” she said. ,” she added.

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