The gang-rape case of a National Law School student ended in conviction, with six of the eight accused sentenced to life by a fast track court. But this case was indeed “the rarest of the rare”: A shocking 90 per cent of rape cases disposed of in the city courts in 18 months up to June this year ended in acquittal.
The reasons vary, but in most cases, the victims and prime witnesses turn hostile. Lapses in the investigation are another major reason. A senior police officer told Express: “Statistics are true, but the bigger truth is that most of these are ‘technical rape’ cases.’’
He explained that there was an increase in the number of cases filed by parents or relatives of the girl. “They accuse a known person of kidnapping or raping the girl. The police have to register a case for both the offences — kidnap and rape. Since a medical examination is not possible in such cases, witnesses play an important role. So, uncorroborated evidence ultimately leads to acquittals.’’
The city police do not have separate statistics for cases of “technical kidnap and rape”. In 2012, 32 city courts, including 15 fast track courts, tried 94 cases of rape under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, which were chargesheeted in 2010 and 2011.
Of these, only nine cases ended in conviction, while the accused in the remaining 85 cases were acquitted.
Director of Prosecution Chandrashekhar Hiremath gave the example of a case in 2012, where both the victim and her mother, who was the prime witness, turned hostile and the accused were acquitted. In another case, two vital witnesses turned hostile and the accused were let off.
“The Supreme Court judgment in 1996 clearly said that delay in filing the complaint or not having medical examination evidence shouldn’t lead to acquittal. So, the main reason for such high acquittal rates is either lapse in the investigation or hostility of the victim or witnesses. If that happens, in the eyes of the law there is no technical kidnap or technical rape,’’ Hiremath said.
This year, up to June, the city courts completed trial in 32 cases of rape. Only four have ended in convictions, while the remaining 28 have ended in acquittals. The prosecution director office stated that though the exact reason for the acquittals in 2013 cases is yet to be ascertained, in most of the cases the reason was the same — hostile witnesses.