The Centre has issued a fresh advisory to states and union territories on mandatory action in cases of crimes against women, and said probe into rape cases must be completed within two months, as per law and that the dying declaration of a victim can’t be discarded merely because it has not been recorded by a magistrate.
The detailed three-page advisory of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) came days after the alleged gangrape and murder of a woman at Hathras in Uttar Pradesh sparked nationwide outrage.
The Home Ministry said there should be compulsory registration of an FIR in case of a cognisable offence under the CrPC, and any failure of police to adhere to laid down rules does not augur well for the delivery of justice.
The law also enables the police to register an FIR or a “Zero FIR”, in case the crime is committed outside the jurisdiction of a police station, in the event of receipt of information on commission of a cognisable offence, which includes cases of sexual assault on women, the Ministry said.
“However, even with stringent provisions in law and several capacity building measures undertaken, any failure of 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 safety,” it said.
“Such lapses, if noticed, need to be investigated and stringent action taken immediately against the concerned officers responsible for the same,” the advisory to states and Union Territory administrations said.
The Home Ministry told the states and UT administrations that Section 173 of CrPC provides for completion of police investigation in relation to rape in two months and Section 164-A of CrPC provides that in rape or sexual assault investigation, the victim should be examined by a registered medical practitioner under consent within twenty-four hours from the time of receiving the information relating to the commission of such an offence.
It is necessary to use the Sexual Assault Evidence Collection (SAEC) kits in every case of sexual assault reported for which the Home Ministry has been regularly conducting training and Training of Trainers (TOT) programmes on the procedure for collection, preservation and handling of forensic evidence for police and prosecutors and medical officers, respectively.
In order to facilitate the state police to monitor compliance, the Home Ministry said, an online portal called Investigation Tracking System for Sexual Offences (ITSSO) for monitoring the same has been available exclusively to law enforcement officers.
The states and UTs were advised to use the national database on sexual offenders for identifying and tracking repeat sexual offenders etc.
The Home Ministry also mentioned the previous advisories sent by it on the issue of crimes against women and pro-active police action on May 16, 2019, December 5, 2019, and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Investigation and Prosecution of Rape against Women issued by BPR&D and distribution of SAEC kits.
“The Government of India has taken steps to strengthen legislative provisions to deal with incidents of sexual offences against women and girls,” it said.
“It is requested that States and UTs, may suitably issue instructions to all concerned to ensure strict compliance with the provisions in the law…It is also requested to monitor the cases on ITSSO to ensure that suitable follow-up action is taken for the charge-sheet of the guilty in a timely manner as required in the law,” the advisory said.