Examine ways to utilise Nirbhaya fund: Delhi HC

Delhi High Court. DH photo

The Delhi High Court Friday directed the chief secretary to examine as to how the large sum accumulated in the Nirbhaya fund, announced in 2013 after the gang rape of a student in Delhi on December 16, 2012, can be utilised for providing security to women and children and helping the overburdened Delhi Police.

Noting that there is a shortage of staff in Delhi Police, the high court said the chief secretary may consider employing manpower from Directorate General Resettlement (DGR), comprising of ex-servicemen from armed forces and other agencies, to help and assist the local police.

A bench of Justices G S Sistani and Anup Jairam Bhambhani was informed by the counsel for Delhi Police that the unused amount in the Nirbhaya Fund was over Rs 3,200 crore in 2017, out of which Rs 1,000 crore was earmarked for certain projects not yet functional.

"Since the large sum is available in the fund, we direct that the Chief Secretary shall examine as to how this fund can be utilised for providing uniformed security to women and children in the city," the bench said.

"This exercise will also ensure the use of fund which is lying unutilised and help to curb crime against women and children which is going unchecked," the court said.

Delhi government standing counsel (crime) Rahul Mehra, who was representing Delhi Police, informed the bench that four years ago there was a shortage of 61,000 personnel in the department and now the vacancy is around 52,000.

He said the duty hours of police personnel are inhuman, they are overburdened, no appreciation is given to them and they are even paid less.

The court asked the Additional Solicitor General to re-examine the issue of increasing manpower in Delhi Police as the vacancies are required to be created and filled up expeditiously to curb crime in the city and give an opportunity to tiring and highly overburdened police force for some accommodation.

It asked Rajesh Deo, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Crime Branch, who was present in the court, to consider the presence of women officials in plain clothes in some of the market and vulnerable areas for the safety of women and children as it would act a deterrent to criminals.

The court was hearing a PIL initiated by it in 2012 after the horrific December 16, 2012 gang rape of a young woman in a moving bus. The woman later succumbed to the injuries.

Advocate Meera Bhatia, who was appointed amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter, made a suggestion that a special cell is created to monitor and investigate all cases relating to crime against women.

In his response, Mehra submitted the minutes of a meeting held by the authorities in January last year stating that it will be practically difficult to create a special cell in view of a large number of cases and it will not serve the purpose.

He said more awareness has been created in public after the December 16 gang-rape incident and now more women come forward to lodge a complaint against sexual offences.

The bench expressed satisfaction over the explanation given by the Delhi Police and agreed with the suggestion that instead of creating a special cell for probing cases of crime against women, a central cell is formed to monitor these matters by senior officials.

The court said the minutes of the meeting of the authorities have also highlighted an important aspect which goes to the root of the matter, be it a crime against women, children and aged persons or law and order, that is, depleted police force.

It noted that incidents of the chain, mobile snatching and others are increasing making the lives of people, especially women, children and aged persons difficult and insecure.

The court listed the matter for further hearing on January 16.

It had earlier directed the AAP government and Delhi Police to prepare an action plan for making the national capital "crime-free for women", observing that why can't the city be safe for them like Mumbai.

The court has been from time to time issue directions with regard to increasing the number of police officers in the city, installation of CCTV cameras in police stations as well as vulnerable or crime-prone areas, reducing delay in testing of samples in forensic science laboratories (FSL) and ensuring speedy disbursal of compensation to victims of sexual assault.

Earlier, it had directed the Delhi government and the police to abide by the respective timelines given by them for filling up vacant posts in FSLs and installing CCTV cameras in police stations.

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