Making the city safer for women, one order at a time

With sustained intervention by the High Court since 2012, the authorities have undertaken several measures but there is much left to be done

Following the gruesome December 16, 2012, gang-rape incident, the Delhi High Court had initiated a suo motu public interest litigation regarding steps to be taken to prevent such an occurrence in the future.

Over the span of seven years and 80 hearings, the HC passed numerous directions on the matter. The Hindu takes a look at the status of implementation of these directions

Bifurcation of police duties

In 2015, the Delhi High Court took note of a police report that showed a high acquittal rate in cases of crimes against women, children and elderly. It blamed “shoddy investigation” by the police for such acquittals.

The High Court had then stressed on the need for bifurcation of the Delhi Police into crime and investigation; and law and order. It also noted that such an action would go a long way in “better investigation of crimes resulting in the actual perpetrators being convicted finally by courts of law”.

On January 13, 2019, the Delhi Police launched a pilot project in 30 police stations where investigation, and law and order, were separated. Later, the bifurcation was implemented in all the police stations. “In order to improve the quality of investigation, reduce pending cases in police stations and to improve conviction rate, the bifurcation was implemented. Further, to overcome manpower issues, we have assigned investigating powers to graduate constables,” said a police officer.

The officer added that they keep organising workshops and training programmes for investigating officers to keep them updated on legal, forensic, scientific and technological aids. The timely disposal of cases with improved quality of investigation is resulting in improved conviction rate, he said further.

More policemen

Taking note of the staff shortage in the Delhi Police, the High Court has repeatedly asked the Centre to augment the force. In November last year, it asked the government to re-examine the issue “as there is evidently a dire need to create and thereafter fill-up vacancies expeditiously, in order to curb the crime in the city; and also give relief to the highly overburdened and overstretched police force”.

The HC Bench of Justices G.S. Sistani and Anup J. Bhambhani had said that a comprehensive survey should be conducted expeditiously on how requisite manpower in the police department can be ensured.

As reported by the Delhi Police, the present strength of police personnel in Delhi is 80,709, out of which 9.938 are women personnel — 12.31% of the total strength. “As per requirement, we sent a report on recruitment of manpower for approval... after it is sanctioned, recruitment is done. It is a continuous process,” said a police officer.

CCTVs in police stations

After intervention of the High Court, almost all police stations in Delhi are now equipped with CCTVs. This also include 53 police posts in the Capital. On the direction of the court, CCTV footage from the police stations are saved for one month.

CCTVs in vulnerable areas

In 2013, a first-of-its-kind ‘crime mapping’ exercise was conducted in the city by the Delhi Police on the orders of the High Court. The exercise had revealed that instances of crimes against women have not dropped despite the various measures adopted by the force.

The report also red-flagged 44 vulnerable areas as being prone to crimes against women.

In July this year, the Delhi government had informed the High Court that 6,630 CCTVs have been installed in the 44 vulnerable areas.

The High Court has also ordered that more vulnerable areas should be identified and deployment of police personnel should be increased in the trouble spots.

Special cell

Advocate Meer Bhatia, the court-appointed amicus curiae in the case, had suggested that a Special Cell be created to monitor and investigate all cases relating to crimes against women and children.

However, the Delhi Police has said that due to the large number of cases, it would be practically difficult to create such a cell. “In fact, creating such a cell will not serve the parties for whose benefit such a request has been made,” it had submitted.

The December 16 gang rape case has created huge awareness in the society and has led to more women coming forward to report sexual offences. This has led to a manifold increase in the registration of cases of sexual offences against women.

The Delhi Police has contended that it would be difficult for a single unit to investigate over 6,000 cases across the city. Such a unit would require massive infrastructure, as well as a large number of Investigating Officers (IOs) and Supervisory Officers (SOs). It also highlighted that the case:IO ratio in 2012 was 2.6:1; in 2017, this has shot up to 6.7:1.

Lighting up dark spots

The High Court has time and again stressed on identifying dark spots and stretches in Delhi “where women and children are soft targets”. It had directed that a survey be conducted in all districts of Delhi to identify such dark stretches and to provide electrification in such areas.

“This exercise gains further importance in the winter, when the sun sets by 6 p.m., but the working hours for women and others remain unchanged,” the High Court had remarked.

Expressing displeasure over the failure of authorities to complete the task despite its order two years ago, the High Court has given the civic bodies four weeks to identify the dark spots and begin the process to instal streetlights.

Utilisation of Nirbhaya Fund

On the last hearing, the High Court was informed that as on August 10, 2017, ₹3,100 crore has been collected in the Nirbhaya Fund, out of which roughly ₹2,209 crore was earmarked for various projects.

Of this, only ₹650 crore was disbursed for 22 projects while the rest remains unused.

The High Court has directed the Delhi Chief Secretary and the city government to examine how this fund can be utilised for the purposes of providing security to women and children in the Capital.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 6:15:51 AM |

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