[ Tongam Rina ]
The President of India has promulgated the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018 to amend the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973 and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 under which minimum punishment for the gang rape of a child under 12 is life imprisonment or death, and the minimum for the rape of a child to 20 years up to a maximum sentence of life or death. The minimum punishment for the rape of a child under 16 is 20 years.
Following nationwide uproar after the rape and murder of 8 year old child in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir, a nervous Union government, faced with criticism for shielding rapists had approved the ordinance on April 21.
While the debate is ongoing regarding award of capital punishment to rapists, major steps in the new ordinance is that rape cases be investigated within two months and trials to be concluded in the same time span. The ordinance also includes establishment of fast-track courts and forensic labs.
But what happens if there are delays in investigation and trials? The new Ordinance has not addressed these two crucial points.
According to National Crime Records Bureau Data (NCRB), some 90% of child rape cases were pending trial in 2016 with a 20-year backlog in bringing cases to trial.
This data is extremely discouraging in a country where 54 children are raped everyday according to 2016 NCRB data.
The staggering number of rape cases of children calls for strengthening the police and judiciary. As of now, there is no way a case will be investigated and tried in four months time as the police and judiciary is more than over burdened. There has to be special trained police teams and courts in every district of the country.
In Arunachal, we have not only failed to chase the crimes but criminals as well. The reason is growing number of crimes, but the ill equipped police and near absent judiciary.
Until 2012, Arunachal refused to accept that there was anything wrong in the state by not bifurcating the judiciary from executive. The Indian Judicial System is new in the state and most cases are often resolved through the customary tribal justice system. The state still does not have judicial officers in all the districts. The state has a long way to in ensuring convictions of all reported cases.
The start was made with the passage of the Criminal Laws (Arunachal Pradesh) Amendment Bill 2018 in March this year after an outrage in the state following spurt in the rape cases. The Bill has a provision of death sentence or rigorous imprisonment of not less than 14 years in the case of rape of a minor girl below 12 years.
The Bill which is likely to become an Act soon is not going to be deterrent unless there is conviction of the criminals. The state has an abysmal criminal conviction rate and there are not enough courts to deal with the cases. Perhaps, establishments of courts in the all district and special unit of police to deal with crimes against children will be a first step forward.
[ Tongam Rina ]