By B. Raman
The next step in the case relating to the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old girl in New Delhi, who has passed away, is the investigation and prosecution of the six accused in quick time to ensure that justice is done to the Braveheart, whom the shocked nation looks upon as its daughter. Justice means their conviction and sentencing to the severest sentence possible under the existing laws.
The Government has done well to designate a Special Prosecutor to ensure the successful prosecution of the accused. For this purpose, the proposed Special Prosecutor should be given whatever manpower, resources, and expertise that he might require for a successful prosecution.
It would be unwise to be self-complacent thinking that since the accused have already confessed, getting them convicted should be no problem. There is every possibility of the accused retracting their confession as public memory and anger fades. It would be necessary to strengthen the other evidence that the police are able to collect to supplement the confessions.
Now that the girl is dead, the most important piece of evidence, inter alia, will be her dying declaration recorded before a magistrate in a New Delhi hospital and the medical findings of the doctors who treated her in New Delhi and Singapore. The Special Prosecutor and his staff should see that an iron-clad case is made out of such evidence which will withstand attempts that might be made by the lawyers of the accused to question their acceptability before the court.
The Special Prosecutor, his staff and the Police should not let themselves be taken by surprise by any attempts by the lawyers of the accused to question the reliability of the evidence.
An equally urgent measure will be to strengthen physical security for women in public transport and in public places that are used by rapists to commit their crime. The Government has already announced certain measures such as verification of the character and antecedents of the staff of public transport and removal of the coloured windows of the buses.
While necessary, these measures alone would not be adequate. It is equally important to order that all public transport plying anywhere in Delhi between 7 PM and 7 AM would have a Constable and making the staff of the transport and their owners liable for criminal action if they ply a transport during these hours without a constable. All public places unfriendly and risky to women should be identified and static guards should be posted at all such places during these hours.
The number of additional constables and supervisory staff that would be required for this purpose should be estimated and a special sanction issued by the MHA for the recruitment and training of the additional staff needed for preventing crime against women.
The police regulations, manuals, operating procedures and training syllabi having a bearing on the prevention, investigation and prosecution of crime against women should be reviewed and updated in order to make them more women-focussed. There should be a separate training capsule on crime against women with a separate examination for joining the police at any level—from constables up to IPS officers.
A list of offences against women, which should be treated as heinous offences, needs to be drawn up and incorporated in the police regulations and manuals. All heinous offences against women should be liable to mandatory supervision by senior police officers of the rank of at least a Superintendent of Police.
It should be made obligatory for Station House Officers to record an FIR and start the investigation in respect of all crimes against women — whether heinous or not so. There should be a computerized data base of all crimes against women indicating the stage of investigation and prosecution in respect of each case.
Separate divisions on crime against women should be created in the office of the Commissioner of Police and in the office of the Secretary, Internal Security, of the MHA, and these should serve as the nodal points for monitoring all action against crime against women. Crime against women should be treated as seriously as terrorism with special squads for investigation and prosecution and special courts for trial.
The need for early implementation of the police reforms recommended by a committee set up by the Morarji Desai Government and subsequent bodies such as the National Security Advisory Board and the Special Task Force headed by Shri Naresh Chandra has been stressed by many. The implementation of the recommendations at the pan-Indian level has been tardy due to resistance from different State Governments and political parties. The delay in implementation at the pan-Indian level is likely to continue.
The Government should, therefore, separate the recommendations relating to the Delhi police from those relating to other States and set up a fast-track implementation mechanism. The Delhi Police cannot be compared to the police of other metropolitan cities. In addition to tasks relating to crime control and law and order, the Delhi Police performs important and sensitive tasks of a unique nature relating to VIP security, including security of visiting foreign VIPS, and diplomatic security.
While there should be no problem in transferring to the supervision of the Delhi State Government the tasks relating to crime control and law and order, the MHA has to have a say in the supervision of matters relating to VIP security and diplomatic security. If this is also transferred in toto to the State Government, problems of co-ordination and command and control could arise if different parties come to power in the Centre and the Delhi State.
Delhi, therefore, needs a separate policing architecture with the State Government having primacy of supervision in respect of crime and law and order and the MHA in respect of VIP and diplomatic security. All Governments which were in power in the Centre were opposed to changing the status quo in which the MHA has total control. The possibility of an alternate architecture with dual supervision had never been examined. The time has come for examining this.
The recent incidents of violence in New Delhi in the wake of the gang-rape incident highlighted the lack of sophistication in crowd control by the Delhi Police. Public were shocked by the crude manner in which the police officers, including the women police, handled women protesters. They used the same high-handed techniques against men as well as women. There is a need for a total revision of our crowd control techniques relating to men and women, in order to make them more sophisticated.