With over 18,000 rape accused set free, govt response to Dec 16 film unwarranted: Expert

  • Aloke Tikku, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 05, 2015 09:02 IST

The government decided to bar the telecast of a documentary by British filmmaker Leslee Udwin on the December 2012 Delhi gang-rape, with home minister Rajnath Singh telling Parliament he was "stunned and deeply hurt" when he heard about the controversial interview of one of the convicts.

Rejecting a request from India not to telecast the documentary, the BBC aired it in the early hours of Thursday (Indian time).

But, there is something more that might surprise the home minister.

Courts across the country had to set free over 18,000 men charged with rape due to insufficient evidence in the 12 months after the December 16 gang-rape of the paramedical student in Delhi in 2012.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, courts returned a guilty verdict in only 6,892 of the 25,386 cases decided in 2013.

This means that the 18,494 men charge-sheeted and tried for rape are back on the streets.

The same year, over 33,000 women reported they were raped. That is nearly 90 women raped every day.

"The scandal is not that someone accused of rape was interviewed. The scandal is that in the two years after the gang-rape, women are as unsafe as they were in December 2012," said Ajai Sahni, head of Delhi-based security think-tank, Institute for Conflict Management.

"No one seems really concerned about the nuts and bolt of the legal process. Ensuring that the guilty are brought to justice, and punished," added Sahni.

He had accused the political class of barking up the wrong tree after the 2012 gang-rape when they brought in harsher punishments for rape.

Police officers have long argued that deterrent to crimes was not harsher punishment but the certainty of punishments. But they argue that the executive – politicians and civil servants alike – hardly ever focus on this aspect since it required too much effort, and money.

"The interview is essentially a footnote to the scandal of state failure," Sahni said, calling the response to the gang-rape and the interview as posturing by politicians, activists and sections of the media.

And this is a decade after a panel headed by a retired high court judge warned that the criminal justice system was on the verge of a collapse.

Former home secretary RK Singh, too, agreed with this assessment ahead of his retirement in 2013.

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