Criminal Victimization and Justice Administration in India: The Slow Road to Justice for India’s Rape Victims

Parisha Singh[1]

Sexual victimization is a unique form of victimization that has been widely studied because of its persuasiveness and negative effects. It encompasses any type of victimization involving the sexual behaviour which can range from forced penetration to surreptitiously video-taping. One of the heinous crimes against females is “Rape”. It is a peculiar offence where the victim has to suffer mentally, physically, psychologically, socially, economically and culturally for the rest of her life. It is also against the public policy and social justice.[2]

In India, rape is a cognizable offence punishable under the provisions of Indian Penal Code 1860. Rape is a psychological phenomenon instigated by environment and the culture in which the people are brought up. In modern times all though such an ideology is continued in theory, but in practice there is every threat to the safe existence of women for a variety of reason. Women are always exposed to risk of sexual violence in form of rape, molestation and harassment of dowry, eve teasing, and so on. Growing number of rape cases shocks the conscious of civilized society

The problem of rape victim is innumerable in the present day of criminal justice system and social set up. Indian police estimate only 4 out of 10 rapes are reported, largely because of the deep-rooted conservatism of Indian society, where victims are scared to come forward for fear of being “shamed”. Those who go report face numerous challenges in getting their attacker put behind bars. The number of courts, judges and prosecutors is grossly inadequate, leading to intimidation of victims and witnesses, and never ending trials. Victims often become tired and disillusioned during trials. As a result, victims are pressured into accepting illegal “out-of-court” settlements like small cash payment. The victim’s family is pressurized into marrying their daughter to the accused. There is no witness protection program in India. The offence of rape causes great distress and humiliation to the victim. It can be safely said that a rape victim in India is brutalized twice, first by the rapist, and then by the State. The victim is judged through various preconceptions and prejudices. The way our criminal justice system handles a sexual assault case is crucial to the way India can resolve its spiralling sexual assaults and crimes against women.

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In our country Judiciary is the third pillar of the Constitution. It has played a vital role in finding the proper solution in rape cases, through wide interpretation of provisions and sometimes. Judiciary has envisaged to strike a balance and equilibrium in the society by fulfil the gap between fast changing society and rigid laws. Nirbhaya’s case has once again raised the question of inadequacy and lack of proper implementation of the laws. It led to the appointment of Justice Verma Committee, which observed, apart from implementing police reforms, it shall be ensured that there is adequate number of judges to hear the rape cases and ensure speedy justice. Thus Indian judiciary needs to augment the number of judges and there is a need of time-bound action plan by states to deal with pending cases of crimes against women. However, Anti-rape Bill- Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 has been passed and laws relating to rape victims have been enacted after much public cry or through judicial intervention only after mass protests. But court can only lay down the guidelines but important role has to be played by the society in its implementation.

According to legal experts, one of the biggest hurdles are the protracted trials. India does not have the sufficient number of courts, judges and prosecutors which leads to a backlog of millions of cases. The lack of a witness protection law in India makes rape survivors and witnesses vulnerable to pressure that undermines prosecutions Insensitive questions are posed to the rape victim traumatizes the victim further. Law reforms also need to start from the stage of rape reporting itself. The guidelines issued by World Health Organization for medico-legal care for sexual assault victim is rarely practiced in India.

The foregoing discussion makes it obvious that the compensatory relief to be provided to a victim of the offence of rape under existing law in India is under an embryonic stage. Although the highest court has opened new vistas in awarding compensation to the victims of rape, the consequential efforts thereof in the post-decision events compel the need for taking further effective steps to executive the laudable principle laid down by the highest judiciary of the country. Since crimes against women are partly the result of social system and partly the outcome of individual pathologies a reformatory attitude towards female victims may be helpful in achieving the desired result. The rehabilitation has to be three fold- physical, mental, social. Physical rehabilitation involves creating proper living and working condition to the victimized female. Mentally, she needs to help to restore her lost esteem. Psychologically she needs help to overcome her depression and insecurity and socially she need helps to b accepted back in the social fold.[3] While sexual violence against women is situated in India’s patriarchal, feudal society, it is clear that the criminal justice system is failing women. Unless there are strong police accountability measures to monitor and punish inaction on the part of the police and measures to monitor investigation and prosecution, it is unlikely that there will be any change in the mindset of the people who commit these crimes. The criminal law amendments would make no difference unless efforts are taken to implement them seriously and policing reforms are put in place to ensure accountability of the police.

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[1] Student.

[2] Lorraine Wolhuter, Victimology: Victimization and Victims’ Rights 87-88 (2008).

[3] Dr. Puran Batria, Sex and Crimes in India 171 (1992).