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Odisha Rape Maze: Crimes up, Convictions down & Govt clueless!

A host of factors like delay in charge-sheet filing leading to witnesses turning hostile, inefficient crime investigation together create this mess. Unlike Delhi, Odisha yet to commission women safety audit in State

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Bhubaneswar: Odisha records a very paradoxical trend. Rapes are on the ascent here but conviction of rapists on the descent.

The year 2019 seems to have turned a disastrous one as far as women safety is concerned. While the number of rapes had risen in as many as 21 districts in 2019, the conviction rate in such grave crimes tumbled to 17.9 per cent – the second lowest in the last 5-years.

The pervading rot in State’s criminal justice system has been laid bare by a statement laid by MoS, Home, Dibyashankar Mishra in the State Assembly today.

The statement pops up another big pitfall. Not only conviction, the number of rape cases disposed off in a year in the State dropped to 944 in 2019 from 1099 in 2017.  It needs worth mentioning here that the year 2019 had recorded a massive 2,905 rape cases.

Significantly, when every 17 of 100 rapists only see conviction in the State, then how can rapists feel deterred here.

The MoS, Home, Mishra has laid emphasis on better coordination among all stakeholders like police, judiciary, doctors, witnesses and victims to rein in the rising rape graph in the State. The statement hints at all is not well in the Odisha’s criminal justice delivery system.

A study of acquittal cases in the State over the years has put the glare on some vital factors listed below.

a) Delay in chargesheet: A look at the 2018 data revealed that the State police could complete preliminary investigation in mere 37 per cent of total FIRs on rape cases registered. The year 2018 had witnessed 2,502 rape cases, and preliminary inquiry was done merely in 926 cases. Though State police claimed to have filed charge-sheet in 61 per cent rape cases in 2018, the claim looked doubtful when preliminary inquiry was completed in mere 926 cases.

Similarly, the data shows the charge-sheeting rate in 2019 hovered at around 17 per cent only, if charge-sheeting of rape cases of previous years are excluded.

Outcome of the delay: Witnesses have turned hostile in many cases. Legal experts say lack of protection to witnesses in the State is the main factor behind turning hostile. Owing to such twists, accused gets bail that helped them in influencing further to turn the judicial verdict to his favour.

b)Policing not up to mark: The police expenditure in State is lowest in the country. Police are neither equipped nor trained to use science in crime detection. There are only 3 regional forensic labs in State. In mobile forensic vans, Odisha is poorer than Jharkhand.

Why the rapes are on the rise? The main reason behind is lack of public safety. Unlike Delhi, Odisha is yet to conduct a women safety audit of cities. The best part of such audits is it provides the exact loopholes like crime-prone places, need of special women safety infrastructure in transport sector etc, and simultaneously it helps police in launching targeted patrolling.

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