In view of the rising cases of crime against women, the Centre has decided to take strict action against the culprits. The Ministry of Home Affairs on Saturday issued an advisory for states to ensure mandatory action by police in cases of crimes against women. It said that the government has taken steps to strengthen legislative provisions to deal with incidents of sexual offences against women and girls.
The MHA mentioned that strict action to be taken by the police in cases of crime against women, including in cases of sexual assault which includes registration of FIR, collection of evidence for forensic examination and use of Sexual Assault Evidence Collection (SAEC) Kit, completion of investigation in sexual assault cases in two months, use of National Database on Sexual Offenders for identifying and tracking repeat sexual offenders etc.
In the cases of criminal laws relating to sexual offences against women, compulsory registration of FIR in case of cognizable offence under sub-section (1) of section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC). The law also enables the police to register FIR or a “Zero FIR” (“in case the crime is committed outside the jurisdiction of police station) in the event of receipt of information on commission of a cognizable offence, which includes cases of sexual assault on women.
Section 166 A/c) of IPC provides for punishment to a public servant for failure to record FIR in relation to cognizable offences punishable under section 326A, Section 326B, Section 354, Section 354B, Section 370, Section 370A, Section 376, Section 376DB, Section 376E or Section 509 in IPC.
Section 173 of CrPC provides for completion of police investigation in relation to rape in two months. In order to facilitate the state police to monitor compliance, in this regard MHA has provided an online portal called Investigation Tracking System for Sexual Offences (ITSSO) for monitoring the same. This is available exclusively to law enforcement officers.
Section 164-A or CrPC provides that in rape/sexual assault investigation the victim shall not be examined by a registered medical practitioner under consent within twenty-four hours from the time of receiving the information relating to the commission of such offence.
Section 32(1) of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, provides that the statement, written or verbal, by a person who is dead shall be treated as relevant fact in the investigation when the statement is made by a person so as to the cause of his death, or as to any of the circumstances of the transaction which resulted in his death. Honorable Supreme Court in its order dated 7th January 2020, directed that a particular statement, when being offered as dying declaration and satisfied all the requirements of judicial scrutiny, cannot be discarded merely because it has been recorded by a magistrate or that the police officer did not obtain attestation by any person present at the time of making of the statement.
The Directorate of Forensic Science Services (DFSS) under the MHA has issued guidelines for collection, preservation and transportation of forensic evidence in sexual assault cases for Investigation Officers and Medical Officers. In order to facilitate the state police, Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) has issued Sexual Assault Evidence Collection (SAEC) Kits to every state/UT. It is necessary to use these SAEC kits in every case of sexual assault reported. MHA advisory dated 5th October 2020 in this matter may be referred. BPR&D and LNJN National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Sciences (NICFS) have been regularly conducting Training and Training of Trainers (ToT) programmes on procedure for collection, preservation and handling of forensic evidence for police/prosecutors and medical officers respectively.
However, even with stringent provisions in law and several capacity-building measures undertaken, any failure of police to adhere to these mandatory requirements may not augur well for the delivery of criminal justice in the country, especially in context of women safety. Such lapses, if noticed, need to be investigated into and stringent action taken immediately against the concerned officers responsible for the same.