Shinde urges introspection on low conviction rate

New Delhi, Jan 4 (IANS) Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde Friday called for introspection by senior government officials on the low conviction rate in crimes against women and sought corrective steps for time-bound punishment to the guilty.

Addressing a meeting of directors general of police and chief secretaries of states on curbing crime against women and atrocities against the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs), Shinde said the brutal gang-rape of a woman here last month had led to various sections of society echoing concern about the safety of women.

He said the role of government agencies had also drawn critical comments.

Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath said she was in favour of capital punishment for the Delhi gang-rape attackers.

She suggested that laws should be amended to include death for rapists in cases where the victim is no longer able to lead a normal life.

Minister of State for Home R.P.N. Singh called for "zero tolerance" in crimes against women, including assault, molestation and acid attacks, and said "change must begin here".

Shinde told reporters that each police station in Delhi will have 10 women constables and two women sub-inspectors.

"I have signed a file to recruit 2,508 lady police personnel, including 418 sub-inspectors," he said, and added that similar recruitment will have to be done by the states.

The home minister said that several suggestions have emanated at the conference, including bringing down the defined age of juveniles to 16 from 18 years and making anti-rape laws stricter.

Shinde said he had asked police to be "very strict" about harassment of women and increase patrolling.

He said that complaints can be registered online using the newly Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and System (CCTNS).

Shinde, who launched a pilot programme of CCTNS earlier Friday, said the home ministry would launch by April citizen-centric services such as online registration of complaints and tracking of First Information Reports (FIR).

He said CCTNS would leverage benefits of technology and bring greater transparency and accountability in police functioning.

Addressing the conference, Shinde said it was "not acceptable that women should live in fear and anxiety".

He said crimes against women need to be curbed with an iron hand.

Citing figures of the last three years, which showed very few convictions in crimes against women, the minister said prompt action against offenders would bring respect for the law.

"This conviction needs introspection. Why we failed: whether investigation, whether lethargy or ineffectiveness of law," Shinde said.

He said over 2.03 lakh cases of crimes against women were registered in 2009, charge sheets were filed in about 1.62 lakh cases but there were only 27,977 convictions.

He said over 2.13 lakh cases were registered in 2010, leading to nearly 1.72 lakh charge sheets and 30,270 convictions.

In 2011, over 2.28 lakh cases were registered, about 1.78 lakh charge sheets were filed but only 30,266 convictions were secured.

R.P.N. Singh said the meeting of police chiefs and chief secretaries was being held against the backdrop of the grief at the death of Delhi's gang-rape victim.

"The entire country is watching us with great expectations. We cannot fail their hopes. We need to set the agenda here with two words -- zero tolerance. Zero tolerance for molestation, for acid attacks, for any kind of assault... and the change must begin here," Singh said.

Addressing the gathering, Krishna Tirath said mixed views have been emerging ranging from chemical castration to death penalty as punishment for rape.

She said chemical castration may not be a practical option since it required continuous administration of medication.

Tirath said incidents of harassment of woman should not be seen as normal behaviour and changes should be made in the criminal law amendment bill.

Tirath said the Dec 16 gang-rape was a rarest of rare cases and the attackers should be given capital punishment.

Asked if the death penalty should be awarded in other cases too, she said courts would decide that on the evidence available.

The minister said gender sensitisation should be part of curriculum and there should be compulsory training to all public functionaries.

"It should be linked to promotion and ACRs (annual confidential reports)," she said.

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