12 December, 2019
Syllabus subtopic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
Prelims and Mains focus: About the factors causing delays in justice delivery mechanism in crimes against women and their consequences
News: Seven years after the crime, the infamous Delhi gangrape case labours on in the Supreme Court with the filing of a fresh review petition. In the Unnao case, the rape victim was killed before the final verdict.
Justice delayed is justice denied
In India, justice, even in high-profile cases of rape, can take time. The delays hurt victims and affect the society by eroding trust in institutions and increasing the clamour for extrajudicial justice.
Cases of rape in India fell in 2017 to 52 incidents per million women from 63 in 2016, according to the latest available data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). However, this figure is likely to be an underestimate. An earlier analysis had estimated that 99% of cases of sexual violence in India go unreported .
Even when rapes are reported, their resolution is delayed. Like with any crime, rape-related crimes are first dealt with by police and then by courts. Both processes can be slow. According to NCRB data, 29% of all cases of rape in India at the end of 2017 were unresolved by police. The court backlog was worse.
Nearly 88% of all rape cases in courts were pending resolution in 2017. These figures, however, were an improvement over 2016, but significantly worse than the 2001 figures.
This pendency persists even after concerted efforts to expedite rape cases. For instance, the Delhi gangrape in 2012 triggered several initiatives to prioritize resolving rape cases. They may have had an immediate effect with pendency rate for rape cases falling between 2012 and 2013. However, the pendency rate on rape cases is no better than the pendency for other crimes.
Even the fast-track courts established to expedite cases have a pendency problem. Though the government proposed establishing 1,800 fast-track courts, only 700 are operational with the total number of pending cases in these courts standing at around 700,000.
Delay in other crimes against women
Police and courts take time to process all crimes against women, not just rape cases. As law enforcement is a state subject, the time taken to process the crimes, which include acid attacks and dowry deaths, can vary significantly across India. For instance, police forces in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat seem to be the most efficient at disposing of both crimes against women and general crimes. In contrast, the police in Jharkhand, Delhi and Punjab are among the worst at processing crimes against women, compared to other crimes. The differences, though, could reflect levels of reporting in states. Gujarat, for instance, has a minor pendency issue, but also the lowest levels of gender crimes reported among Indian states.
In courts, pendency is a big issue in every state, but courts in eastern India, such as West Bengal and Odisha, suffer from bigger backlogs for both crimes against women and other crimes. These courts are also among the most under-staffed in the country.
Factors causing delay in justice delivery
National Crime Records Bureau
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