While the Delhi gang-rape shamed the nation as a whole, the outrage it generated and its aftermath left everyone shocked and stunned. In the end, none of the players — the police, the agitators, the administration or the political hierarchy covered themselves with glory. The malady is rather deep.
The Indian Penal Code 1861 (IPC) seeks to restrict the wide spectrum of sex crimes inadequately under three sections of law. Section 375 IPC defines the offence of rape, Section 354 IPC, the crime of outraging the modesty of a woman and Section 509 IPC, the act of insulting the modesty of a woman, although in the case of sex crimes committed in custody, the issue of “Command Responsibility” looms large.
There is a need to create a separate chapter in the IPC under the head “Sex Crimes”, annulling the existing outdated provisions. The entire gamut of sex crimes should be listed, defined and a graded punishment prescribed, taking into account all the circumstances of the crime. Enhanced punishment for subsequent offences should be incorporated.
Corresponding amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code with regard to arrest, search, bail, custody, confessions etc should be made.
Similarly, the Indian Evidence Act relating to admissibility, burden of proof, confessions, recovery etc need to be suitably amended to ensure exemplary punishment to the culprits.
Severe paucity of resources for the police in all areas namely human resource, mobility, equipment, infrastructure, technological upgradation and housing has completely blunted its effectiveness.
The police-population ratio in our country is in the region of 153 compared to 481 in Portugal, 397 in France, 262 in Germany and 238 in USA, to provide a few examples. How does one expect first-class policing with less than third world resources?
For example, as per Data on Police Organisations in India as on January 1, 2008 published by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, Karnataka Government spent `0.69 per citizen per day on security! With such meager budgets can we expect superior policing? The situation is only worse in other states.
Criminal Justice System (CJS)
The three main pillars of the CJS are, the investigating agency which is the police, the prosecution and the judiciary.
Unless these three limbs work in unison towards the common goal of punishing the guilty, crimes cannot be checked. Endemic delays in the CJS have been haunting us for long.
All crimes, minor or major, including sex crimes, form part of one large basket and are taken up for trial in a chronological order. Therefore, not even drastic changes in laws will help, unless trials are fast-tracked through special courts so that there are greater chances of conviction.
Implementation of Justice Malimutt Committee recommendations on Reforms in CJS need to be urgently taken up.
There has been a hue and cry for police reforms but the Dharmaveera Commission report on the subject is gathering dust since its submission in 1980.
How can police reform alone ensure a peaceful and crime-free society when the rest of the administration is rooted in archaic laws, procedures and red tape?
The investigating agency depends upon several other wings of the administration in order to complete investigation and prosecute a case successfully. It will be futile if cooperation is not forthcoming from others.
For example, in a case of rape, medical evidence is critical and the role of the doctor examining the victim is paramount. There has been a debate over judicial reforms as well.
It is only when administrative reforms are carried out alongside police reforms, performance can improve.
It is high time that the report of the Second Administrative Reforms Committee under Veerappa Moily is dusted out and its recommendations implemented.
Simultaneously, gender sensitisation should be imparted to all wings of the government - legislature, executive, judiciary and the media without restricting it to police alone.
Power, Patriarchy and Depravity
Psychologists tell us that rape crime is a manifestation of man’s power over his victim. We are a highly patriarchal society.
Sexual and reproductive decisions are rarely taken by women even where they are empowered and the most gender based form of power is that over sexuality.
To make matters worse, sexual depravity among the average Indian male has also contributed to the incidence of rape.
Criminalisation and Politicisation
Among all the institutions in the country which have been eroded and emasculated owing to politicisation, the police department takes the cake!
This directly impinges on fair investigation, crime prevention and maintenance of public order. Add to this, the criminalisation of politics as well and you have a heady cocktail - a sure recipe for failure of public order!
Capital Punishment and Chemical Castration
The demand for capital punishment and chemical castration for people accused of rape has grown shriller. Understandably, such suggestions are emanating out of a sense of anger and revulsion at the heinous crime; yet they are no panacea.
A major study undertaken in the Bangalore Central Prison at Parappana Agrahara in 2007, by NIMHANS in collaboration with Karnataka Legal Services Authority and Karnataka Prisons Department under which 5000 inmates of prison were meticulously enumerated, brought out the significant relationship among mental health-crime-sex-substance abuse.
It threw up valuable information leading to the conclusion that most criminals need psychiatric help and counselling. Hence assured conviction through imprisonment alone, that too in double quick time, would act as a deterrent against rape rather than outlandish and extreme punishments, or protracted trials.
Some, if not all the solutions to check the vexing and despicable crime of rape are known to us. But can we demonstrate the will to implement them sooner rather than later? Let us close the stable doors before the horses bolt away.
Dr S T Ramesh,
former DGP (strameshn@ rediffmail.com)