When the custodians of the law become the custodians of morality, we have something to be very worried about. To compound this, when they also blatantly flout the law which they are supposed to uphold, they must be shown no quarter. In the latest instance of what is either callousness and incompetence or deliberate character assassination, the Noida police have revealed the identity of a rape victim including details of her residential address. To make matters worse, the victim is a minor. The girl was allegedly raped after a party by five of her neighbours in a moving car. Snide references to the fact that she had willingly drunk alcohol were made as though this justifies the criminal assault on her.
This is not the first time the Noida police have behaved so crassly and objectionably. In the Aarushi murder case, every effort was made to malign the little girl's character to cover up police inefficiency in evidence-gathering and the failure to make out any plausible case. Now, by revealing the identity of the rape victim, she has been doubly traumatised. She will now find herself open to perverted scrutiny by sick elements in society — of the sort who assaulted her in the first place. The job of the police was to gather evidence, record the victim's testimony and frame charges. It is not to hand out adverse character certificates. The law regarding the protection of a rape victim's identity is not obscure and is part of standard operating procedure in any case. Time and again, we've raised the issue of sensitisation of the police in the case of crimes against women. But, the police seem determined not to learn lessons or rectify their prejudices. It was only recently that a top police officer in Andhra Pradesh suggested that women should not wear provocative clothing, in this case he referred to the salwar kameez, if they did not want to invite unwanted attention. This suggests that the mindset that women who are raped are usually asking for it is ingrained among many in the police force. In the Aarushi case, the police were pulled up but, quite clearly, their behaviour in this latest case shows that they have learnt no lessons, or worse still, refuse to mend their ways.
If an example must be made of the perpetrators of this crime against a minor, then equally an example must be made of those who were supposed to protect her dignity after the trauma she has suffered. What recompense does she now have after her pain has been laid bare to the world? What can the police do to ensure that their disclosure will not bring her further mental stress? They cannot be allowed to bluster their way out of this one, only to repeat their follies. For once, the government must act as the custodian of the good conduct of its police force. Otherwise, it will be an accomplice to this crime.