In the midst of outrage over the reported gang rape and brutal mutilation of a 19-year-old Scheduled Caste woman in the Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued an advisory to all State Governments and Union Territory administrations calling for mandatory action by the police in cases of crime against women.
In a fresh advisory, the MHA while referring to its previous advisories has once again reminded the States/UTs of the existing “mandatory action by police in cases of crimes against women”.
Referring to Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), the MHA has said the law also enables the police to register an FIR or a “Zero FIR” (in case the crime is committed outside the jurisdiction of police station) in the event of receipt of information on the commission of a cognizable offence, which includes cases of sexual assault on women.
It reiterates the need to complete the investigation in relation to rape cases in two months as prescribed under Section 173 of the CrPC.
“In order to facilitate the State police to monitor compliance, in this regard MHA has provided an online portal called Investigation Tracking System for Sexual Offences (ITSSO) for monitoring the same. This is available exclusively to law enforcement officers”, the advisory reads.
The MHA goes on to add that Section 164-A of CrPC provides that in rape/sexual assault investigations the victim must be examined by a registered medical practitioner, under consent, within 24 hours of receiving information relating to the commission of such an offence.
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It also refers to Section 32 (1) of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 which provides that the statement, written or verbal, by a person who is since dead shall be treated as a relevant fact in the investigation when the statement is made by a person as to the cause of his death, or as to any of the circumstances of the transaction which resulted in his death.
The advisory cites the decision of the Supreme Court directing that a particular statement, when being offered as a dying declaration and satisfies all the requirements of judicial scrutiny, cannot be discarded merely because it has not been recorded by a Magistrate or that the police officer did not obtain the attestation by any person present at the time of the making of the statement.
The MHA emphasised that any failure of the police to adhere to these mandatory requirements may not augur well for the delivery of criminal justice in the country, especially in the context of women’s safety. Such lapses, if noticed, would need to be investigated and stringent action taken immediately against the concerned officers responsible for the same, the MHA advisory has said.
It has requested all States/UTs to issue instructions to all concerned to ensure strict compliance with the provisions in the law.
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