by Avinash Pandey

The police in Maharashtra sent a 17-year-old rape survivor back to her
assaulters as “bait”, not once but twice. The insensitivity of
placing a minor in this situation is manifest. The girl must still
have been struggling with the trauma. But, the police also went ahead
and botched up the ploy by following the girl too closely the first
time around and then being nowhere close the second time. The
policemen thus ended up getting the minor raped again.

The legendary inefficiency and insensitivity of police forces in India
has never been suspect. From beating minor suspects arrested for petty
crimes to pulp in full public view to parading the accused on donkey
backs, the Indian police’s deeds have stopped baffling people long
ago. A majority of Indian citizens, mostly the poor and marginalized,
have been compelled to accept and internalise this to the extent that
they would prefer going to the local criminals and not to the police
to get their issues resolved. Ask them why and they may shrug, as if
indicating, what is the difference between the two in any case?

But stop and consider the police allowing a serious penal offence like
rape committed on their watch; one may wonder about the absurdity of
it, and even the very possibility of something like this occurring
anywhere else in world, even in the most rotten criminal justice

What would have been on the minds of the officers who employed this
“out of the box” method of investigation into a serious crime? Did
they have any clue about the guidelines put in force after the
infamous Delhi gang rape and murder case in 2012? Did they know that
Justice J.S. Verma has put the blame of continuing sexual assaults
against women squarely with the criminal justice system?

In the final report of the Justice Verma Committee on Amendments to
Criminal law, constituted in the aftermath of outrage that rocked the
nation, it is observed, “… the root cause behind sexual assault
upon women is a failed criminal justice process, particularly the
police and delay in prosecutions.”

Maharashtra police have proved him right, once again. One does not
know what else the police undertook for investigating the case, as the
details are still emerging. What one can be certain about is that the
process flouted all standard procedures in investigations of sexual

Take the Delhi Police’s Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) for
investigation of rape cases, as per Delhi Standing Order no. 313 of
2005, of the Office of the Commisisioner of Police. The first and
foremost thing it marks out is handling the victim/survivor with
utmost care and sympathy and sending both the victim and the accused
persons for medical examination at the earliest. Evidently, neither
was Maharashtra police sensitive towards the survivor nor did it do
anything to arrest the accused for having their medical examination

Another important aspect of SoP for rape investigation is securing the
alleged crime scene to ensure that evidence does not get destroyed.
The fact that the police decided to use the rape survivor as
“bait” shows that they were aware of the crime scene and the
accused persons allegedly involved. It is baffling that they went
ahead with this inane ploy that could endanger the safety of the
survivor rather than securing the crime scene and collecting evidence,
including DNA for forensic inquiry.

If the media reports are to be believed, the idea and execution of
this idea was that of

Vinod Ejjapwar, a male police officer, despite the SoP of having
female officers as the Investigating Officers. Though the police have
promised an inquiry into his role in 20 days, the failure may not lie
with him alone. There is a whole chain of failures in this case with a
whole set of people responsible for specific acts of omission and

For example, his superiors, flouting the norm of having a female
officer in charge of the case, appointed him as Investigating Officer.
Similarly, the plan of using a rape survivor, as “bait”, may have
been his own genius at work, but it would have taken many other cops
to execute the same nonchalantly to botch it all up. This is why one
must not hope too much from the inquiry committee report, which will
likely be, as usual, an attempt at whitewash the episode of
investigative brilliance, rather than an opportunity for course

Such glaring failures have deflated the chances of justice for rape
survivors. In cases of rape survivors, the chance of a rapist being
punished is today near half what it was in the 1970’s. In 1973, the
year Aruna Shanbaug was attacked, the conviction rate in rape cases
was 44.3% as against 27.1 % in 2013, following a little improvement
from 24.2% in 2012. The only thing worse than the dreary conviction
rates is the fate of the rape cases pending trial in courts. The rates
were 83.4% in 2014, with a slight improvement from 85.1% in 2012.