Women at a rally in Mumbai on Monday protesting the gang rape of the photojournalist. (AFP)
New Delhi, Aug. 26: The Supreme Court today voiced concern over the spurt in rapes and wondered if something was wrong with the system before expanding the scope of a plea filed by the father of a raped Dalit girl in “larger public interest”.
The written order directing all states and Union territories to work out a comprehensive rehab package for victims came days after the Mumbai gang rape of a photojournalist, the latest such assault to have triggered outrage since the December torment of a trainee paramedic.
The bench of Justices R.M. Lodha and Madan B. Lokur appeared to allude to both when it said such cases were “happening more in the metropolitan cities”.
The court asked the states and Union territories to respond within eight weeks.
The father of the victim, a 15-year-old Dalit from Haryana, had accused police of being hand in glove with the suspects who had not only raped the teenager repeatedly but are also alleged to have killed her mother to intimidate the family. He sought a compensation of Rs 10 lakh and adequate protection for the family.
Senior counsel Colin Gonzalves told the court the victim was being socially boycotted, allegedly at the behest of the powerful upper-caste families of the two suspects and the local panchayat.
The government secondary school where the victim studied added insult to the injury, deleting her name from the register.
“What is wrong with the system?” the bench wondered. “We would like to know whether police is not investigating the cases properly and whether (the) criminal justice system is not working swiftly…. These cases are happening more in the metropolitan cities,” it said, apparently referring to the gang rape of the photojournalist and the Delhi gang rape of the trainee paramedic who later died.
“Is it that the social values have changed? It (rape) is far worse than any other crime and why it is increasing when special courts are there for this crime?…. We wonder whether the investigations are flawed or whether wrong standards of appreciating evidence are adopted. Or is it that victims don’t support the case?” the bench asked the senior counsel.
“We have noticed that in 90 per cent of the cases there are acquittals,” Justice Lodha observed, wondering “why is it happening despite having so many investigators in the country”.
The bench observed that the recent spurt in incidents of rape and gang rape was a “serious” matter that “needs our consideration”, before going on to pass the written order enlarging the scope of the writ petition.
“A lot of sexual harassments are reported. Plight of the victim of the gang rape in this case is that she is pulled out of the school and the offence is committed. The issue with regard to (the) rape victim’s compensation and rehabilitation has been raised in the writ petition with a very limited prayer (for her own compensation and personal security).
“Having regard to the spurt in rapes, gang rapes, sexual harassments and rape and murders in the country, we are inclined to treat this writ petition in lager public interest for a direction to all the states and Union territories for framing rehabilitation schemes for rape victims…. Notice to the chief secretaries of the states and administrators of the UTs for response in eight weeks,” the court said, adjourning the matter.
The 15-year-old was allegedly abducted by the suspects, Aman, son of Sultan Singh, and Krishan, son of Fateh Singh, on August 6, 2012, and raped repeatedly. She was also threatened that her mother and other family members would be eliminated if they complained to police.
After initial hesitation, the family had filed a complaint. But in the meantime at the alleged instance of the accused’s family and the local khap panchayat in Nilokhadi district, Haryana, the victim and her family were boycotted. Adding insult to the trauma, the principal of the government secondary school where the victim was studying deleted her name from the register.
On September 3, 2012, the victim’s mother was abducted by the alleged accused and murdered, allegedly by the accused who were roaming free.
The Haryana government, in accordance with provisions of the SC/ST Atrocities Act, paid the family Rs 60,000, as interim compensation for the rape, and Rs 3.75 lakh for the murder.
Gonzalves said such compensations were not only inadequate but an insult too.
The counsel told the court rapes, gang rapes and murders had become common in Haryana and the victims were mostly poor and from backward classes. “The brazenness and the frequency of the rapes indicate that in the state of Haryana there is a sense of impunity among certain male sections and a feeling that rape will go unpunished,” he said.