Maharashtra Police issue detailed SOPs for investigation in rape cases

The SOPs were laid down earlier this month in a circular issued by Special Inspector General (Law and Order) Milind Bharambe.

Gautam S. MengleUpdated: Sunday, June 12, 2022, 10:23 PM IST
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The Maharashtra Police have issued a set of detailed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to be followed for efficient investigations in rape cases to be followed by all police commissionerates in the state.

The lengthy circular covers all aspects of rape investigations, right from the registration of an FIR to the submission of a charge sheet, and also lists down measures to be taken to prevent crimes against women.

According to statistics compiled by the State Crime Records Bureau (SCRB), 4,846 cases of rape were reported in Maharashtra in 2020, which was an 11.42% decrease as compared to 2019. Till 2020, while the police had submitted charge sheets or closure reports, on the conclusion of their probes, in 66.11 per cent of these cases, the courts announced their verdicts in only 2.50% cases, even as the rest were yet to be decided, as per the SCRB data. The conviction rate for Maharashtra for rape cases in 2020 stood at 21.05%.

The SOPs were laid down earlier this month in a circular issued by Special Inspector General (Law and Order) Milind Bharambe. They encompass all crimes under section 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code as well as section 2 (1) (d) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, which deals with penetrative sexual assault on a minor.

“The following instructions are being issued so that such crimes may be prevented, that serious and appropriate action be taken at every level of the investigation and to increase the conviction rate so as to create a fear of the law in the minds of offenders,” the circular states.

It goes on to remind all officers in the state that such cases should be registered immediately and that strict departmental action be taken against any personnel found to be shirking their duty in this regard. All heads of police stations have been instructed to ensure this.

“An FIR should immediately be registered in case of a cognisable offence, without waiting for the victim herself to inform about it. It is not mandatory for the victim to be personally present to give such complaints,” the circular states.

Other guidelines include that a female police officer registers such complaints, that translators be provided to victims if required and that the victim's statement not be tampered with in any way.

Police personnel have also been instructed to make sure that a parent, guardian or social worker be present if the victim is a minor.

“It is imperative that the provisions of the existing laws be followed very strictly so that the accused does not benefit from any technical shortcomings in the investigation. Further, even after a charge sheet is filed in court, it is necessary for the police to be vigilant about the case till it reaches the final stage,” the SOPs state.

Other guidelines mentioned in the circular include gathering as much electronic evidence, like call detail records and closed-circuit television camera footage, acting swiftly against the accused, and capturing the evidence recovery process on a video camera wherever it is required by the law.

The advisory also cautions the police about sharing details of such cases with the news media.

“Cases of sexual offences attract the attention of the news media as well as the people. Care should be taken to not reveal the victim's identity. Only authorised personnel should brief the media. In case of the victim's identity being revealed or the investigation otherwise suffering, the investigating officer would be liable for action,” the circular states.

BOX:

4846 cases of rape were registered in Maharashtra in 2020.

66.11% cases were disposed of by the police

2.50% cases were disposed of by the court.

Maharashtra's conviction rate of rape cases in 2020 stood at 21.05%.

97.84% cases of rape were pending before various courts in Maharashtra as of 2020.

Victims in 56.23% of cases were below the age of 18 years.

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