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HindustanTimes Thu,25 Dec 2014

Unlike Delhi, snail's pace for Bihar rape cases

Avinash Kumar , Hindustan Times  Patna, September 11, 2013
First Published: 19:04 IST(11/9/2013) | Last Updated: 19:15 IST(11/9/2013)

The conviction, on September 10, of the accused in the gang-rape case in New Delhi on December 16 last year came about less than none months since the incident took place.

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By contrast, over 5,000 such cases are pending in different courts of Bihar for much longer periods of time, thanks to shoddy police investigations, delayed forensic reports and an inadequate number of fast tract courts.

"Over 500 cases of rape and sexual assault are pending in the Patna civil court alone," according to Sanjay Singh, an advocate who practices both in the civil court and the Patna high court.

After the New Delhi gang-rape case came into the limelight, the Bihar government had announced its decision to set up dedicated fast-track courts (FTC) to take up rape cases. Eight months on, not one has started functioning.

This is despite a rise in rape cases this year, as compared to last year. In 2012, 927 rape cases were recorded in Bihar, that is, an average of 77.25 cases per month.

Bihar home department's latest records show 681 rape cases were reported till July 31 this year. This answers to an average of 97.28 cases peer month, a 26% rise over the previous year.

Besides, hundreds of molestation and attempt to rape cases, have already been registered in various police stations across the state this, data culled from the Bihar home department website shows.

A district wise break up of rape data shows Katihar, in eastern Bihar registered 65 rape cases till July this year, the highest in Bihar. Patna and Bhagalpur recorded 41 cases each.

Besides, 37 cases were reported from Rohtas district in western Bihar, 36 from Kishanganj, 24 from Darbhanga and 19 in Muzaffarpur, both in north Bihar. 

The fact that Bihar, at 15.5%, has one of the lowest rape conviction rates in the country does not help matters.

"Most of the rape accused in the state are out on bail and have little reason to fear they will ever face serious punishment for their crimes," advocate Sanjay Singh added.

Around 80,000 cases of all nature are pending with Bihar's 183 FTC, none of which is dedicated to rape cases alone. As per official figures, 2,39,278 cases of all cognizable offences were transferred to FTCs, of which just 1,59,105 cases were disposed of till January 2013.

Since 2006, FTCs have convicted over 75,000 people in all kinds of cases, but they do have the right to appeal in higher courts.

Shashi Kant, a Patna lawyer, said nearly 40% of those convicted by FTCs had been given bail by the high court. "Rape cases go on for decades in the absence of concrete evidence and delay in forensic reports. As a result, the accused manage to get bail", he explained.

A woman police officer admitted to a lack of coordination between the police and prosecution, which led to unnecessary delay in disposal of cases.

"In many other sexual offence cases, the accused and victim marry and withdraw the case. In some cases, the victim opts for out-of-court settlement," said a senior IPS officer.

What makes things more difficult is the miniscule presence of woman cops. Out of a police force of around 80,000, less than 3,000 are women. "As a result, it's often difficult to instill confidence in women victims," an officer said.


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