Navigating Criminal Justice

Session Report
Divyansh Dwivedi

LPPYF Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship is an Online National Summer School Program, a Two-Month Online Immersive Legal Awareness & Action Research Certificate Training Course and Internship Program, from June-August 2023 by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. An informative and interactive panel discussion on Navigating Criminal Justice II” was held on the 3rd of July, 2023 by Adv. Dr. Shalu Nigam, visiting senior fellow at IMPRI, an advocate, an author, and a researcher. It was an extension to the session on Navigating Criminal Justice I delivered earlier during the fellowship program.

While enlightening us about the historical concepts of judicial activism in the criminal justice system, the session by her was primarily centralised towards crime against women, and children.

Strong Laws on Paper, Data on Justice Inflicting Otherwise

She opened up the session by enlightening us about the surge in crimes against children and women. While the laws against the prevention of crimes against women and children are particularly stringent, and they look strong on paper, it seems that despite them being sturdy, the records as released by the National Record Bureau somehow question their effectiveness and delivery of justice, Ms. Nigam added. 

A report released by National Record Bureau shows a shocking 30% increase in rape cases. Out of total 21,397 rape cases, 94.9% of cases involved offenders who were known to the victims. She also added, that 4 children are abused sexually every hour. The Ministry of Women and Child Development through its study conducted in 2007, released data that about 53% of the total children surveyed have been sexually abused. 

It is true that all sexual involvements must occur between two consenting adults, and the consent should be free, clear, and ongoing, and the person should not be intoxicated in any manner, Ms. Nigam further elaborated.

The Past, Present and Future: A Look at our Justice System

The session then was taken forward by her by mentioning the infamous Mathura Rape Case, which happened on 26th March 1972 which factually states the rape of a tribal woman named Mathura by two policemen in Maharashtra. This was the first rape case in India, post-independence. SC in 1979 acquitted these offenders with a view that there were no visible marks of injury on Mathura’s body. 

She then emphasised the aftermath of Mathura’s Rape Case, where four professors named, Upendra Baxi, Raghunath Kelkar, Lotika Sarkar & Vasudha Dhagamvar wrote an open letter to the Supreme Court, opposing the view that the court took in this case, and differentiating on the point of consent. 

Various protests took place and as a result, the Criminal Law Amendment Act was introduced on December 25th, 1983, where custodial rape was made punishable, and the burden of proof was shifted from the accuser to the accused. Ms. Nigam then discussed the Nirbhaya Protests, which happened in December 2012, which raised huge rage, but the voices raised for justice were suppressed. 

On January 23, 2013, Justice Verma Committee, submitted a report which proposed various amendments in order to strengthen the system even more. It opined to take the offence of acid attack a separate offence, rein formation of medical examination of rape victims, discontinuation of the two-finger test, and further setting up of rape victim cells for effective assistance. 

Ms. Nigam further enlightened the session by throwing light on various sections added/amended through the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013. Sections like Section 354 A Indian Penal Code constitute Sexual Harassment, S 354 B, which states Assault or Criminal Force with an intention to disrobe women, S 354C, which states Voyeurism, 

S 354D, which covers Stalking. She further laid emphasis on the punishment provided for rape that is covered under Section 376, which is a minimum of 10 years imprisonment, which may extend to life imprisonment. 

The liabilities of the provisional authorities were also part of the discussion, which laid down their duties to be fulfilled while dealing with a rape victim, and Section 166A & 166B, making them liable if they fail to discharge their duties towards the rape victims. 

Her attention was then drawn towards Sections 154 & 161 of Crpc, which were amended that a statement when recorded of a rape victim shall only be done by the female police officer. 

The Indian Evidence Act, of 1872 also laid down various provisions for the protection of women, and the care to be taken when dealing with a case of rape. 

Elaborating further, she made us aware of various sections like Section 53A, 114A, 146, and 119, that are present to take care of when dealing with such cases. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO), Act, 2012, raises the voice towards the protection of children from being sexually abused and exploited. 

Further, the rights of rape survivors were discussed by her. Such rights include,

  • Right to file zero FIR.
  • Right to speedy Trial, with dignity & Protection
  • Right to Compensation.

The case of Mahender Chawla vs Union of India was discussed, in which Supreme Court opined that the if a victim wants to hide her identity, the court will accept her request, and will introduce her with some other name. 

It is no doubt, that IT Sector has been evolving at a great pace, which has led to increasing crimes against women by online sexual predators. In Jitendra Singh Grewal vs The State of West Bengal, where the accused created a fake Facebook profile of a woman and uploaded obscene pictures of her, he was denied bail by the court.

The session was concluded by her by showing a video of violent protests that took place in Chile in 2019, which led to a crackdown of military forces on citizens.

Acknowledgement: Divyansh Dwivedi is Visiting Researcher at IMPRI.

Read more event reports of IMPRI here

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