RajasthanRajesh Asnani @ Jaipur
JAIPUR: On April 21, Rajasthan passed a law providing death penalty to those found guilty of raping a girl below 12 years of age. In over two months since then, till June 30, 37 minors between 3 and 12 years of age were raped across the state. In Jaipur alone, at least eight minors have been raped in the last three months.
If the stringent law has failed to have a deterring impact, the blame has been laid on the insensitivity of the state government that has failed to set up POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) courts for trial in such cases. There is just one POCSO court in the entire state, in Jaipur.
Facing criticism from all corners and under the pressure of the Rajasthan High Court, the Vasundhara Raje government on Friday agreed to set up 35 POCSO courts, According to state chief secretary DB Gupta, the new courts will be set up in one months’ time. But the question that is being asked is that when all these courts could be set up in such a short time, why did the government delay it for four years?
The government authorities are hard-pressed for an answer. Narpat Mal Lodha, the state’s Advocate General, said: “To open POCSO courts in every district, we need a building, adequate staff and more judicial magistrates. We are preparing a roadmap to set up these courts in a phased manner.”
The state government has been facing flak from various quarters over the rising sexual crimes against minors. Rajasthan ranks fourth in the matters of crime against women and figures among the top 10 states in rape cases against minors. But the process of justice for the victims is extremely slow. For example, in 15 of the rape cases registered between April 21 and June 30, investigation is yet to be completed. But the worst part is that the number of convictions is abysmally low. Government statistics show that every sixth accused in POCSO cases gets away.
Sources said given the paucity of courts and the laxity in probes, barely 15 per cent accused are punished. “Culprits are let off in so many cases and put pressure on the victims and their families, but there’s hardly any action against them,” said activist Nisha Sidhhu.
Women and social activists blamed the government for its insensitivity and failure to deal with the situation. A former chairperson of the Rajasthan Women’s Commission said the “law is being treated casually and culprits are getting emboldened by this laxity”. Current chairperson Suman Sharma favours drastic in cases of rape of minors: “The guilty should be hanged immediately so that a message goes out loud and clear.”
Though the Opposition Congress has hardly raised the issue in the last four years, it has awakened to the problem now that Assembly elections are just a few months away. Attacking Raje and home minister Gulab Chand Kataria, AICC general secretary Ashok Gehlot recently tweeted: “Despite a woman CM ruling, its (sic) sad that our girls are so unsafe. They talk of women’s empowerment but women here feel increasingly unsafe.”
On the rising crimes against minors, he said, “The government had passed a Bill that those involved in raping minors will get death penalty, but that’s all they have done. There’s no law and order in the state.”
Fearing the issue could damage its poll prospects, the government has assured to open more POCSO courts. “The process of opening more POCSO courts is on. We have sent a proposal to the legal department,” Kataria said.
However, he shockingly added, “We can’t do anything with the increasing numbers of such incidents; we register reports... and take all steps that are legally possible”.