552 rape cases between January & March 2019; filing of charge-sheet drops to new low!

Despite mandatory 60-days timeframe, only 17% cases see charge-sheets in Jan-Mar 2019. The dismal fact is, in 2018 only 37 per cent cases see completion of preliminary inquiry

Bhubaneswar: When the State is aghast over the rising cases of rape with as many as 6 cases being reported in a day, what shocks  is charge-sheeting rate in the State has hurtled down to a new low in the first 3-months of the year 2019.

This is so when it is mandated by law to file a charge-sheet within 90-days of registration of an FIR in a rape case. Significantly, Odisha government has reduced the time-limit further to 60-days. But the rate of charge-sheeting in the first quarter is pallid, despite the State police claiming of completing preliminary inquiry in around 83 per cent of cases.

According to the data available with State police, Odisha has registered a whopping 552 rape cases in the period of January – March, 2019. The data claimed of completing preliminary inquiry in around 458 cases, but charge-sheets were filed in a mere 94 cases during the period. The charge-sheeting rate then boils down to around 17 per cent only.

The investigation and conviction in rape cases is lackadaisical in the State. 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 the State police data claimed of filing chargesheets in 1,562 cases or around 61 per cent of cases in 2018, senior lawyer Nishikant Mahapatra has reservations over the numbers.

“The numbers are hard to believe. When the data admits of completing preliminary inquiry in mere 926 cases, how could charge-sheets be filed in more cases. The charge-sheeting data probably has included cases from previous years,” he explained and added that taking a long time to file charge-sheets post preliminary inquiry or delay in conducting the preliminary inquiry itself will give a long rope to the accused to influence witnesses leading to acquittal of the accused.

An analysis shows how poor is the conviction rate in rape crimes in Odisha. The rate hovered between 12  and 23 per cent during 2010-18. Mayurbhanj, which has recorded maximum rape cases in the State, had a poor conviction rate of around 11 per cent. The trend has been noticed in other districts that record maximum sexual crimes against women every year: Koraput, Keonjhar, Balasore, Balangir, Kendrapara, Bhadrak-Jajpur, Sambalpur, Rourkela, Sundergarh, Boudh and Ganjam.