In the last 9 years, merely 15% of the rape cases in Ahmedabad ended in conviction while 67% gather dust as they await hearing or proper investigation. Interestingly the percentage of acquittals in rape cases is greater than the percentage of convictions. Of the total rape cases, 17% ended in the acquittal of the accused.
This was revealed by the information provided in response to a query by social activist Mallika Sarabhai under the Right to Information Act. She had sought information on the number of rape cases registered in all police stations in Gujarat and their status for the period from January 1, 2001 to June 19, 2009.
The information provided in response to the RTI query revealed that, in all, 312 rape cases were registered in the city during the above-mentioned period. Of this, in 46 cases the accused were convicted while in 54 cases the accused were acquitted. Further, 212 cases continue to be pending.
Bharatsinh Zala, an activist with an NGO, Cranti (Citizens for Resource and Action Initiative), said that often the case falls apart during cross-examination. Cranti was set up by Sarabhai as an activity of Darpana for Development.
“It is not that the victims are found to be lying. The lawyers use cross-examination as a tool for character assassination. A woman who has been through the trauma of rape finds it very difficult to relive the trauma all over again and answer the pointed and often suggestive questions of defence lawyers. Many victims decide to give it up at this point of time than face embarrassing and personal questions,” said Zala.
He said the sexist behaviour of policemen doesn’t help matters either. “Most policemen who investigate rape cases are men and they seem to sympathise with the accused rather than the victim. This too I think affects the investigation. Several such factors demoralise a victim and force her to give up the fight. And we should not ignore those cases that are never registered by the police,” said Zala.
On the poor conviction rate, Gujarat DGP Chitranjan Singh said, “It has been observed that rape victims, perhaps due to several factors, don’t show willingness to fight for justice. Many don’t even co-operate in the investigation and it drags on. Moreover, the long pendency of such cases also affects their morale,” said Singh. This is why there is an urgent need to set up fast-track courts for rape cases, the DGP said.
Singh also said that there was a need to sensitise the police force. “We have written to all SP-level officers in this connection and they have been asked to ensure speedy detection of such cases, not to mention ensuring that the victims are empathised and sympathised with,” said Singh.