How Can A Minor Rape Victim Be Locked Up In Jail?
It is disgusting to see that a 10-year-old rape victim was locked up in a Bulandshahr jail by police personnel the whole night. The victim, a Dalit, was allegedly raped by a 35-year-old upper caste man.
According to the mother of the victim, “The woman inspector asked me to wait outside and took my daughter inside. She made her sit inside the lock-up throughout the night, while I sat outside. We were sent back the next morning after a case was registered.”
Even the Superintendent of Police (City), Ajay Kumar, while admitting that it was a lapse by the police, termed the incident “an illegal confinement”. He also didn’t shy away from admitting that, “Since the girl was a minor, her custody should have been given to her parents. The constables had no business asking her to sit inside the lock-up for the entire night.” He said an inquiry had been ordered against the officers on duty and that women constables on duty had been suspended and two sub-inspectors transferred to the police lines.
Not unexpectedly, the Supreme Court on April 10, 2013 took suo motu cognizance of the case. The Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir himself expressed his disbelief by saying, “What is this? A minor rape victim in lock-up? This is much much serious. It is shocking.” A bench of Supreme Court led by Chief Justice sought an explanation from the Uttar Pradesh government over the incident. While severely slamming the incident, the SC summoned UP counsel and asked him to furnish explanation over the Bulandshahr incident. The bench minced no words in pointing out by stating, “How can a juvenile be ever put in a police lock-up? How can the police detain a 10-year-old girl? It is not at all permissible under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act. Let the state government respond to the newspaper report by Monday and explain the circumstances.”
What is most tragic here is that instead of immediately registering the complaint and sending the victim for medical examination, the traumatised girl was thrown behind the bars. All this exhibits total apathy and inhuman behaviour on part of Bulandshahr police where the incident had taken place. What is most shocking is that the incident took place at a police station being run by women police personnel themselves.
The Apex Court bench also took strong exception to the fact that the minor had reportedly gone to the police station to lodge a complaint. The victim’s mother expressed her gratitude to the Supreme Court for its concern and said, “We are very happy that the Supreme Court has taken a strong view of this case. It has lifted our spirits to fight for justice till the end. We now know that law of the land will prevail.”
It may be noted here that the rape victim’s family had been tremendously pressurised and threatened with dire consequences if the case against the accused were not withdrawn immediately. The action was supported by the village panchayat dominated by upper castes.
The Times of India dated April 11, 2013 with the headline “Rape Of Justice” wherein it pointed out that, “By jailing a minor for lodging a rape complaint, UP police bring shame to their uniforms. Although we all know that a new law against sexual crimes against women would not work like a magic bullet, a case from Bulandshahr has still shocked us by exposing how little deterrent and punitive power is wielded by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. A 10-year-old was raped this Sunday. Overcoming the fear of being stigmatised that often makes families discourage their daughters from complaining, this little one’s mother approached a police station. After being ignored through Sunday night, the child was sent for a medical examination and then to a Mahila Thana on Monday morning. It is reported that women cops then tried to convince the child’s family to settle with the rapist instead of filing an FIR. When the family persevered, the child was thrown behind bars, perhaps even beaten. Because a journalist caught this on camera, two Mahila Thana constables have been suspended. But what kind of horrifying institutional malevolence had these two women punishing the rape victim, a child?… But this is hardly an isolated case. In the long term, the process of justice delivery and the rate of conviction for crimes against women must pick up pace.”
The police must be trained and sensitized, including women cops on how to deal with rape victims in order to bring a perceptible change on ground as ideally should be the case. Those who still dare to misbehave with them under any circumstances have no rights to don the police uniform and must be not only dismissed but also made to pay through the nose to those they misbehaved with particularly rape victim.
Another editorial in The Indian Express with the headline “Outrage in Bulandshahr” dated April 12, 2013 states, “To address sexual violence, begin with gender sensitization of the police. In the wake of the Delhi gan-grape last December, calls for a more lasting change coalesced around a single, impatiently rushed through law the Criminal (Amendments) Bill, 2012. While discussion on the provisions of the bill dominated the public discourse on rape, less attention has been paid to how law interacts with, and addresses, caste, class and gender biases, how it translates in different contexts, not just in the metros but also in smaller towns and villages. Law must operate within a matrix of local power relations heavily tilted against victims of sexual violence, especially those from lower castes. The police belong to this matrix, complicit in the interests and prejudices working within it. It is urgent, therefore, that issues such as gender sensitisation of the police and the non registration of complaints are highlighted and addressed. Incidents such as the one in Bulandshahr point to the need for wider and deeper changes such as those recommended by the National Police Commission. While urging measures to de-link the police from the existing power structures and political interference, it also proposed a special cell to look into complaints of police insensitivity and intransigence coming from weaker sections of society, including SCs and STs. The Bulandshahr scandal is a reminder that deliberation and discussion on sexual crimes cannot be whittled down to a single law. It must take into account a gamut of more difficult changes, social and institutional, that transform the way such crimes are perceived and their victims are addressed.”
All sexual victims after being traumatised at the hands of sexual offenders first are humiliated and further victimised in police stations and then are at the receiving end at courts. As if these are not enough, in many cases, the victims are pressurised by the offenders and in some cases by her own family members to withdraw the cases. Such things must end forthright. Even those in police force who are guilty of shielding the offenders and harassing the victims must be taken to task. Only then can we hope to provide some relief and succour to the victims in real sense.
By Sanjeev Sirohi