According to a report by the office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) submitted to the High Court recently, a total of 26,695 rape cases have been filed across the country in the past five years. As the incidents of rape are on the rise, the number of cases being filed in these incidents have also increased. However, when it comes to the conviction rate in rape cases, the situation is as grim as it was before. Reportedly, the conviction rate in rape cases is still only three percent, with around 97 percent of the accused getting acquittal from the court.
While the Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunals (present in all 64 districts of the country) must finish the trial of the rape cases within 180 days of framing charges, the tribunals are not being able to complete the trials within the stipulated time. Delays in filing cases and conducting investigations are like a norm here while submitting the charge sheets takes years in some cases. There is also the culture of rapists intimidating the victims and their families so that they don't file cases or withdraw the cases that have already been filed. In such cases, the rape survivors rarely get protection from the law enforcers. Arbitration or out-of-court settlements are still a reality. And the legal system is still not friendly to the rape survivors in a society that often blames the victims, instead of the rapists, for the rape.
Moreover, while ensuring compensation for rape survivors and their families is as important as the prosecution of rape cases, the issue has been largely ignored. We know that a law has been drafted to address compensation for victims of violent crimes, including rape, but it could not be finalised in the last 14 years!
However, the High Court recently issued a rule directing the government to ensure compensation for rape victims, which is a positive development. It is also good to know that a monitoring cell has been formed in line with the HC directive to monitor whether the trials of the cases filed under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act 2000, are completed in 180 days. We hope the cell will discharge its duty efficiently. However, it worries us to learn that a HC bench has recently issued a condition that the accused in a rape case will be granted bail if they marry their victims in jail, given that there was a previous relationship between them.
There are so many critical factors including the legal loopholes that contribute to the delay in ensuring justice to the rape survivors. All these factors must be addressed efficiently by our legal system and the society at large to ensure that the conviction rate in rape cases increases. Only with an increased conviction rate may we see a decrease in rape cases across the country.