Rape convictions a rarity

As per latest data, the conviction rate in cases of rape in Delhi has hit a 5-year low, reports Archis Mohan.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2006 10:33 IST

Here's why Delhi can never shrug off its unsafe city for women tag. As per the latest data, conviction rate in cases of rape has hit a five-year low.

In 2005, city courts found merely 16 per cent of all alleged rapists guilty. Even 2004's figure of 23.6 per cent convictions looks respectable in comparison.

Activists working in the field cite the crumbling of Delhi Police's Rape Crisis Intervention Centres (RCICs) as the immediate cause.

The RCICs provided emotional and legal counselling to victims and their families — mostly from poor and semi-literate backgrounds.

"Failure to punish culprits sends a message that people can get away with crime, which emboldens culprits," concedes a senior police officer.

Predictably, last year Delhi Police registered the highest number of rape cases — 642. In 97 per cent of these, police arrested the culprit but failed to secure a conviction.

In 97.5 per cent cases, the victim knew the rapist, and was pressured not to pursue the case.

In a 'Right to Information' reply, the Director of Prosecution has cited two reasons for acquittal in molestation and rape cases.

"Most cases fall through as the victim and her family either turn hostile or change their residence. Police fail to produce these material witnesses in the court and the prosecution's case falls flat."

The sharp drop in conviction rate in 2005 has coincided with the unraveling of the RCICs.

These centres were established in mid 1990s. Workers with police help would develop a long-term relationship with the victim and her family helping them fight the protracted litigation.

But with little financial support most have become nearly defunct.

The importance of RCICs is evident in the 2005 data.

In police districts where these RCICs are still operational, the conviction rates are better than the average — northeast (25%), south (20.3%) and southwest (18%). RCICs run by Centre for Social Research in south west district and Pratidhi in east and northeast districts are still functional.

"Victims and families from lower middle class and poor backgrounds fighting a legal battle against a relative, a family member or a local toughie and in face of social stigma need support which the RCICs provided," said Raajmangal Prasad of Pratidhi.

First Published: Feb 20, 2006 02:24 IST