Srinagar, Nov 11: A look at the last six years data shows that the majority of the rape victims are eventually caught in the rigmarole of long legal battles that take years to reach to a point where the culprits are punished and justice delivered.
Official data until March 2019 shows that 1,046 rape cases in Jammu and Kashmir are under trial with 831 of them pending since at least 2014.
The conviction rate in the last six years, the data shows, is as low as 5%.
Ironically, 822 of these undertrial cases involve victims which are minors.
The year-wise data and pendency, a copy of which is with The Kashmir Monitor was compiled by the State’s Crime Branch.
Data shows that alone in the first three months of 2019, 64 cases of rape were registered in the state of which 33 had minors as victims of the heinous crime.
The year had already begun with a backlog of 198 rape cases under-investigation from 2018 and a long undertrial backlog of 1069 cases that had accumulated during the last at least six years. The figure rose to 1099 as 30 cases from the first three months of this year were sent for trial.
|RAPE CASES IN J&K||Cases under investigationtill March 2019||Casesconvictedsince 2014||Cases under trial till March 2019|
|Where victims are major||40||09||224|
|Where victims are minors||172||86||822|
In 46 of these 1099 cases, the accused were acquitted or the case itself discharged, while in seven, the accused were convicted thus leaving a final undertrial figure of 1046 cases.
A look at the year-wise data shows how the crimes against females are now becoming a norm rather than being an exception in J&K, usually viewed through the prism of a morally upright society.
In 2014, 352 cases, 265 of which involved minors, were registered. In years 2015, 16, and 17, the 312 (251 minors), 263 (204 minors), and 314 (213 minors) cases were registered respectively.
The number of rape cases registered during 2018 was 359 of which 273 had victims as minors.
The horrid picture presented by the data is an alarm bell telling that the state needs some immediate measures to fix this growing menace.
A case in point to understand the long wait for justice is the 2005 rape-and-murder of a six-year-old girl by a 40-year-old man in Srinagar.
The trial went on for 12 years even as the investigation revealed that the man had lured the child, raped her, smothered her to death, and then dumped her body in a trench close to her home.
In 2017, the man was sentenced to death. During this period he had enjoyed more the six years of interim bail between August 2010 and November 2017. During these years, the culprit was found regularly absent from the trial. He was finally convicted on the penultimate day of 2017.
But the sentence has not been carried out yet as the death penalty given by the Additional Sessions Judge Srinagar is awaiting the High Court nod.
In other words, justice to the family of the six-year-old has been incomplete for the last 14 years.
Ask the legal experts about the inordinate delay in such sensitive cases and they have the stock answers ready.
“The main reason behind the pending under trial cases of sexual harassment is that Kashmir has a scarcity of judges. There is an extremely limited number of judges to deal with such cases,” said Mushtaq Ahmad Dar, Criminal Lawyer at High Court.
Dar said that a single judge has to see thousands of cases and it is not possible for him to do justice with his job.
“The witnesses are not brought on time. It is being delayed by the prosecution in getting the witnesses. In many cases witnesses do not come forward or are withheld for some vested interest or accused are not brought before the court due to which the matters are delayed,” Dar said.
“In In Srinagar district, there is currently one judge, Special Second Additional Sessions judge who is hearing sexual harassment cases,” Dar told The Kashmir Monitor.