Reading time: 6-8 minutes.
Rape is a ferocious crime, not only against the victim but against the society at large. The most recent incident of brutal rape and murder, is the Disha rape and murder case, where a 26-year- old female vet-doctor had been gang-raped, murdered and then burned by her perpetrators, which shook the conscience of the entire nation.
The following week, the four accused in this case were killed in an exchange of fire with the police at Chatanpally, Shadnagar, near the site of the crime.
Brief details about the crime:
On November 27, 2019, Disha was stranded at the Shamshabad tollgate and was allegedly abducted by the accused. According to the police, the four deflated the tyre of her two-wheeler and approached her on the pretext of help, and then dragged her into a walled deserted compound nearby.
The men allegedly poured whiskey into her mouth and took turns to repeatedly rape her as she was falling unconscious. They then took her to an under-construction bridge, a few kilometres away and set her body on fire. The police found her charred remains the next day. On November 29, the four accused Md. Arif, Jollu Naveen, Jollu Siva and Ch. Chennakeshavulu, were nabbed by the police.
The rape and murder of the veterinary doctor shook the nation with all political parties, leaders, celebrities and people demanding capital punishment for the accused. G. Kishan Reddy, MoS for Home Affairs expressed that there cannot be a more inhuman crime than this which has put the entire nation to shame.
He also stated that the Government is ready to amend the IPC and CrPC to ensure faster justice in cases of rape and murder. There were nation-wide protests against the brutal rape and murder. There were also, unprecedented protests in Shadnagar Town as the accused were brought to the local police station before being presented in front of the local magistrate.
Thousands of protesters mobbed the Shadnagar police station near the Hyderabad-Bengaluru National Highway on 30th November and 1st December demanding the police to hand over the accused to them so that they could punish them.
CM K. Chandradekhar Rao ordered fast track investigation and trial of the case and granted the custody of the accused to a Special Investigative Team of the Cyderabad Police for a week. Later, on December 6, 2019, the four accused were shot down in an encounter with the police near Chattanpalli after they allegedly tried to snatch the weapons in a bid to flee.
Legal principles (rape and murder):
Sections 375 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code (hereinafter referred to as IPC) deal with the issue of rape, wherein the former Section provides the definition of rape and the latter Section provides for the punishment of rape.
The procedural requirements are as follows:
Firstly, it is a mandatory requirement under Section 154 of Code of Criminal Procedure (hereinafter referred to as CrPC) for a police officer to immediately take the complaint of rape, record the information and register the FIR.
The victim should also be taken for medical examination and her statement should be recorded under Section 164 of the CrPC. It has been held in Lalita Kumari v. Govt. of U.P., that the police cannot say no on the ground of territorial jurisdiction.
A police officer guilty of failing to register a complaint of rape or sexual offence against women, is liable to be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a period, not less than 6 months up to 2 years under Section 166A IPC.
Further, the Supreme Court in State of Karnataka v. Shivanna, observed the disturbing feature of consistent recurrence of heinous crime of rape and gang rape all over the country and issued certain guidelines for fast track procedure for investigation without causing unnecessary delay.
Secondly, it is a mandatory requirement of law under Section 309 of CrPC, that in every enquiry or trial the proceedings shall be continued from day to day unless the adjournment is found necessary by the courts for reasons to be recorded in writing. But, unfortunately this mandatory requirement of law has rather become an exception.
Application of laws in the case:
In this instant case, the police officials delayed in registering the FIR which is mandatory in law as discussed above. Delay in registering the FIR may weaken the conviction of the dreaded criminals.
The four accused were shot dead in the same place, almost 400 m away from where Disha’s body was burnt. They were taken to the scene of the crime to collect evidence of the crime where they allegedly tried to attack the police and escape which made the encounter inevitable to save the lives of the policemen.
Furthermore, the killing of the four accused raised mixed reactions amongst the public. Though there were celebrations, the extra-judicial killing on the part of the policemen were condemned by many people, especially human rights activists. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took cognisance of the killing of the four accused men and ordered an inquiry into the police encounter.
The Andhra Pradesh assembly on the 13th of December passed the Disha Bill,2019 (Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2019) which mandates that cases involving crimes against women must be settled in 21 days through special courts.
The Bill also proposes death penalty for rape convicts in cases of adequate evidence to conclusively prove the crime. The investigation shall be completed in 7 working days and trial of cases are to be completed in 14 working days. The death penalty for rapists will be ensured by amending Section 376 of the IPC under the Andhra Pradesh Disha Bill, 2019.
Crimes against women have been rising at an alarming rate in India. We need to give a serious thought as to what exactly we, as a nation and civic society should do to ensure that the women and girl children of this country can live freely without any fear. Travelling alone in a cab or returning home late continues to be a challenge for women in Indian cities.
Author: Pavitra Mani from Sastra Deemed University, Thanjavur
Editor: Farsana Sadiq from Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia.