Cops need to be sensitised

THe police is the first responder to any crime.

Kanwardeep Kaur

THe police is the first responder to any crime. As far as rape is concerned, timely reporting of crime and medical examination of the victim are crucial for collecting vital evidence which eventually results in a conviction. Any delay leads to the loss of this vital evidence.

Timely reporting happens when the victim has the trust that justice will be delivered. Instead, what a victim gets is apathy of reporting officer, judgmental and inappropriate comments from those in authority. Even after the Supreme Court has held in Lalita Kumari v/s Govt of UP & others judgment about compulsory registration of cognisable offences and leaves no scope of a preliminary inquiry to verify the veracity of the claims, we still see many cases where a rape complaint is not registered. Any delay in the medical examination as a consequence of this leads to glaring gaps in the investigation, losing biological evidence like semen, saliva, blood, etc. After a few days of the non-registration of crime and lack of assistance or awareness for conducting a timely medical examination, victims are forced to compromise.

In a study visit to Leicestershire, UK, a delegation of Indian police officers (I was part of it) visited Juniper Lodge, a one-stop centre for victims of sexual assault. From the first reporting of the crime to specialised medical services, and from psycho/social counselling to legal aid and assistance in the trial, these centres have it all. The social services staff motivates victims through hand-holding to pursue criminal cases. A criminal investigation is launched only if a victim wants to. Post the medical examination and investigation, even the trial takes place through video conferencing, set up within the premises. At no point will a child victim, for instance, be forced to go to a police station, a public hospital or a court. This friendly environment helps them to firstly timely report the crime and then to co-operate in the investigation. Post this initiative, there has been a proven increase in reporting and increased rate of conviction.

On similar lines, making police station a friendly, accessible and welcoming place will increase the reporting. It is a welcome step that the Ministry of Women and Child Development is in the process setting up One-Stop Centers (OSCs) throughout the country. For the success of the scheme, it is a must that the staff, including counsellors, para-medical and legal staff, are well trained and well equipped. There is also a need to adequately sensitise the stakeholders, which include civil administration, police, medical and law officers.

It is also important that the duty hours of police officers be regulated, optimum funds be provided for investigation, dedicated teams be made for investigation of such cases and timely disposal be monitored at an appropriate level. Non-registration of crime should be reprimanded and strict action must be taken against the erring officials.

Police reforms can’t be done in a day. Neither is a crime-free society a plausible construct. However, good governance should have this exact aim. And to achieve it, society must be as much an active partner as the criminal justice system.

— The writer is Assistant Inspector General of Police, Counter Intelligence, Punjab


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