India is one of the most populous countries in the world. This demographic statistic gives ample room for heinous crimes to breed in. The recent atmosphere of chaos and euphoria among the masses, with the encounter killing of Priyanka Reddy’s rapists and with justice served by the Nirbhaya rape case convicts awarded death penalty gives an ambivalent touch to the current criminal justice system.
The criminal investigation process is of considerable importance and the failure to get information about the crime recorded weakens it. The escalation and decline of crime rate during the tenure of the police and government is an efficient parameter to measure the efficiency of these authorities. The malpractice of not recording the crime and fidgeting the figures to manage the crime statistics has now become a commonly practised adventure. This manipulation of crime figures is an occupational disease plaguing the police force. At the root of this manipulation lies the practice of non-recording of information in cognizable offences to fabricate desirable statistics.
THE CHANGES MADE AFTER THE AMENDMENT
The recent surge in rape cases in various parts of the country questions the reliability of the Criminal Laws Amendment Act, 2013. Nirbhaya rape case had shaken the conscience of the nation. Amendments to the legislation were the need of the hour. However, Priyanka Reddy rape case and the delay in justice in Nirbhaya case has compelled the nation to believe in alternatives of court. The encounter killing in the Priyanka Reddy case was cherished and celebrated unanimously by a large chunk of the population. Registration of information in rape cases has been made mandatory after the amendment and a police officer refusing to register such information is liable to punishment. It must be understood that the surge in the number of rape cases does not establish that incidences of rape have risen suddenly, the fact is that reporting of such incidences has increased exponentially. Section 166A of the India Penal Code keeps a check on the concerned carelessness showcased by the police. Police officers now cannot turn a deaf ear to the plea of a rape victim. Effecting compromises among the parties make the officer guilty of the offence of refusal to register an FIR under Section 166A of IPC.
Section 154(1) of the Cr.P.C makes registration of an FIR having information of the commission of a cognizable offence a mandatory registration. This is done in order to minimize the procedural restrictions in legal validation on the basis of territorial jurisdiction. Justice Verma Committee had recommended this extremely needed concept. Earlier, the police officers refrained from registering the FIR, even though the cases were well within their jurisdictional capacity. The recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee focused on creative steps to decrease the manifold rise in criminal activities in relation to heinous crimes of rape, kidnapping and abduction against the women of the country. Inequality against female gender had become the norm. Recent revolutionising women empowerment activities are in a constant fight to undo the wrong done to them. Criminal justice system need not stay immune from such growth.
Section 154(2) laid down that when information relating to offences which are under section 354, 354A, 354B, 354C, 354D, 376, 376A, 376AB, 376B, 376C, 376D, 376DA, 376DB, 376E or section 509 of the Indian Penal Code which are committed against a mentally and physically disabled person shall be recorded by a police officer, at the residence of the reporting person or as per the person’s convenience, in the presence of an interpreter.
Analysing the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee Report:
It rekindled the sanctity of the Constitution of India by stating that the equality of women is integral to the Constitution. The report unequivocally supported the noble cause of women equality and stated that the denial of such equality is a constitutional violation. It recommended the details of an offence to be explained to a women officer. It is deemed to be a psychologically less painful task for the victim/complainant to disclose the details to a female officer rather than a male counterpart. Women officers will be well equipped to provide the necessary emotional assistance in such excruciatingly painful circumstances.
Such offences are emotionally challenging and torturously complex to put down in words and sentences.
The offences for the first proviso include criminal force and assault to a woman to outrage her modesty, sexual harassment, rape, stalking, voyeurism, causing the death of women in a vegetative state, sexual intercourse by a person in authority or staff of a hospital with women admitted, sexual intercourse with wife during separation, acid attacks, repeating of offences and insulting modesty of a woman.
The second part of the provision has nearly reduced the offences of acid attack. However, the exclusion of the offences under Section 326A and 326B is not backed by a clear rationale. This brings the intelligible differentia used to segregate and exclude these offences in a vulnerable position.
Advantages for the victims and sufferers:
- The disabled rape case survivors faced a hard time lodging their complaint. The criminal justice system had no proper mechanism for hearing, speech or visually impaired people. Their communication with the police authority usually resulted in the police officers recording their imaginations and assumptions to the incident narrated by the disabled victim. This amendment has immensely helped the disabled rape victims to come forward and report their case.
- One of the major reasons for acquittals in rape cases is the retraction of statements by survivors. When a magistrate records the statement, it will be of great difficulty for the person to backtrack as she can be lawfully held liable to prosecution for making a false statement under oath.
- Videography has proved to be an instrumental step. It saves the time of the court in resolving the distracted version of the statements recorded. It also saves the victim from revisiting the traumatic event going through the details of the scarring crime in the courtroom during the trial. The videography taken under amended Section 154 of the Act is inadmissible as evidence.
- Vagueness arises with the qualifications of the interpreters and special educators. Another sphere where ambiguity arises is when the complainant is not the victim herself. The position of the application of the provision becomes complex and it defeats the purpose of the provision.
- Mandatory in nature: While constructing Section 154(1), the legislature uses the word “information”. This bars the police officer from refusing to record information and registration of a case thereon on the ground that he is not satisfied with the reasonableness or the credibility of the information. This is unlike section 41(1)(a) and (g) of the Act. This was laid down in the case of Lalita Kumari v. State of Uttar Pradesh. This judgement is important in its context since it recognized the changes made by the amendment of 2013. Section 154 and Section 166A added by the 2013 amendment makes the failure to record information under Section 154(1) relating to sexual offences a punishable act.
After this amendment, the consideration of the question of the time-lapse and delay in the lodging of the FIR and the conducting investigations has been removed. This amendment curbed the procedural barriers and it becomes very advantageous for the helpless victims. In cases like Rape and Sexual Violence this is very impactful by which the sufferer will be treated on the par with others. There is a concept like Zero FIR comes by the recommendation of the Committee which also similar step in the quest of speedy Justice. There has to be the improvement in the case were not the victim but any other person reports the crime, it has to clear. The permissibility of the videography has to be given some evidentiary value which will help from the side of the victim and there has to be monitoring in the process in order to avoid the miscarriage of Justice.
 Verma J. S., Seth L., and Subramaniam, Repot of the committee Amendments to Criminal Law, (Jan 23, 2013), https://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Justice%20verma%20committee/js%20verma%20committe%20report.pdf.
 Section 154 of Criminal Procedure Code 1973.
 Lalita Kumari vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, (2012) 4 SCC 1.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Abhishek Choudhary is a second-year student at National Law University Jodhpur. He is interested in Criminal Law and International Law.
Aditya Shekhar is a second-year student at National Law University Jodhpur. He is interested in Criminal Law and Constitutional Law.