Speedy justice

The recent changes in the Criminal Procedure Code, notified by the Central government, will hopefully ensure greater justice in rape cases and give faster relief to victims. Though the changes were proposed long ago and Presidential assent was given, the notification was delayed because of objections raised by the lawyers’ community to certain provisions like the power of the police to make arrests and the court’s powers to grant adjournments.

These have been referred to the Law Commission but the amendments which have come into force make comprehensive changes in the criminal law to check the highhandedness of the police and make justice more easily available to victims. The law now gives greater protection to rape victims and provides for completion of trial in sexual offence cases within two months. It is known that such cases drag on for years because of slackness in investigation, apathy and judicial delays. The members of the family of a woman, who was allegedly raped and murdered, had to stage a dharna in Belgaum for close to three years for a promise for action in the case.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau only three out 10 cases involving crimes against women are investigated within the same year. Delays in investigation are used by offenders to scuttle the case to get away easily. Along with completion of the trial in two months, the law now mandates hearing of rape cases by women judges as far as possible and recording of victims’ statements at a place of her choice, preferably by a woman police office officer and in the presence of her family members or a social worker. Audio-video statements and in camera trials have also been prescribed.

The vulnerability and weakness of women, their embarrassment in pursuing cases and the unhelpful attitude of the police and official establishment are major reasons for frequent failure in the prosecution of cases of crimes against women. The amendments are an attempt to address these problems. Courts have tried to deliver justice through some remarkable judgments and better interpretation of laws. Last week’s observation by the supreme court that a woman is unlikely to make a false allegation of rape is noteworthy, though its import needs to be carefully studied. Even with all the changes in the law, however, effective implementation is still crucial.

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