The Maharashtra police have issued a set of detailed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to be followed for efficient investigation of rape cases by all police commissionerates in the state. The lengthy circular covers all aspects of a rape investigation, from the registration of an FIR to the submission of a chargesheet and also lists the 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, an 11.42 per cent decrease from the numbers for 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 per cent cases, even as the rest were yet to be decided, as per the SCRB data. The state had a conviction rate of 21.05 per cent for rape cases in 2020.
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 register 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 chargesheet 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 such as call detail records and closed-circuit television camera footage, acting swiftly against the accused, and capturing the evidence recovery process on 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 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.
4,846 cases of rape were registered in Maharashtra
66.11 per cent cases were disposed of by the police
2.50 per cent cases were disposed of by the court
Maharashtra’s conviction rate for rape cases stood at 21.05 per cent
97.84 per cent cases of rape pending before various courts in Maharashtra
Victims in 56.23 per cent of cases were below 18 years of age