NEW DELHI: The rape law that was amended in 2013 to make it more stringent has resulted in lower conviction in sexual harassment cases, a study has found.
According to the study published by the Indian Law Review Journal, researchers examined 1,635 rape judgments from trial courts of Delhi pronounced between 2013 and 2018.
Of these, 726 cases were adjudicated under the old law, of which 16.11% resulted in conviction. Under the amended law 909 cases were adjudicated but only 5.72% of them resulted in conviction.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act was passed in March 2013 following a nation-wide outrage over the Nirbhaya gangrape.
Preeti P. Dash, who conducted the study during her LLM at Harvard Law School, said: “In the years following the gangrape in December 2012, we see increasingly punitive activity in the legal space, where the state has repeatedly sought to increase the quantum of punishment for sexual violence.”
Dash said “the public also tends to believe that such measures will help prevent crimes against women. However, research indicates that this is not the case. In fact, such punitive moves have unintended harmful consequences, such as a reduced rate of conviction.”
The study said removing judicial discretion for punishment for rape combined in a grim fashion with the patriarchal nature of courts and legal structures result in a reduced rate of conviction in cases of rape. Many judges, it said, felt the cases not “serious rapes.”
“In a system where the reporting of peno-vaginal penetrative rapes is low and where the police often refuse to register rape cases, it is unlikely that cases of non-peno vaginal rapes would be treated with the same urgency and importance as peno-vaginal rape,” the study said.