As statistics of various crimes against women soar year after year, conviction rates have failed miserably to keep pace, police data over the last three years has revealed.
Sample this: The number of rape cases registered in 2011 went from 453 to 706 in 2012 and reached 1,559 in 2013, a rise of 120% over the previous year. But conviction rates dipped from 207 in 2011 to 158 in 2012 and then to 150 in the next year.
The police could secure conviction in less than 20% rape cases, less than 7% in sexual harassment cases and less than 6% in molestation cases, says the data.
“In three years, we registered 2,718 cases of rape of which 19% ended in conviction while 4,542 cases of molestation saw 5.8% convictions. We registered 1,209 cases of sexual harassment which saw just 6.5% convictions,” said a senior police officer.
“Given the long-winded judicial process, many cases came up for trial in three to five years,” said another officer, defending the low conviction rates.
But there’s more bad news.
While conviction rates in cases of sexual harassment remained more or less stable, those in rape cases decreased after the December 16 gang rape. Cases of molestation, however, saw a slight rise in this rate.
While the police blamed the ‘instant registration without initial investigation’ approach to sexual complaints as per the new laws, lawyers blamed it on shoddy investigation.
“As per the new law, we are required to convert a complaint on sexual offence into a case as soon as it is received,” said a senior police officer. “A chargesheet must then be filed within 20 days complete with forensic reports, medical reports and circumstantial evidence. Since we aren’t given time to investigate the case adequately, it results in a weak case,” the officer admitted.
Advocate Vikas Garg, who practises in the Supreme Court, said, “There are many instances where the police conduct shoddy investigations and aren’t able to produce any evidence. But it is also true that not all cases of crime against women are bona-fide. The police need to form a committee to see what has happened in cases which have ended up in acquittals and examine the reasons,” Garg added.