Insensitivity continues

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Insensitivity continues

Chandigarh stalking case has raised some pertinent yet uncomfortable questions

The insensitivity of the police force to put forth an effective first response to the Chandigarh stalking case is vulnerable. On the first instance, on a complaint lodged by the victim, the two accused were booked on charges of stalking the woman but were soon let off on bail, (according to Section 354D of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), stalking is a bailable offence). Soon after, amid mounting pressure from the media and civil society groups, who pointed out towards the police forces' inept response to this case, in a rapid pace of development, the police claimed to have found new facts and evidences in the case and issued fresh non-bailable charges against the accused and arrested them. It is most deplorable that the police failed to see the seriousness of the case on the first instance and could not collect available evidence. The moment when the girl registered an FIR, alleging kidnapping, they ought to have invoked Section 365, which pertains to kidnapping and Section 511, which deals with attempting to commit offences, punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonment. Such lackasdical attitude on the part of the police officials has raised some pertinent and uncomfortable questions about their working procedure itself when it is their utmost duty to protect the accused and not the victim.

And this is not an isolated incident. Innumerable cases like these can be traced from the past which will speak volumes about the archaic nature in which our criminal justice system functions. Inefficiency, corruption, indifferent attitude, insensitivity to crimes against women are some traditional terms that best define their conduct. It is also a fact that the country has fewer number of police force on ground and very few are competent enough to understand the gravity of the situation or to prepare a water-tight case. The present case has but highlighted the need for a complete overhaul of the police forces across the country. Present mindset of protecting the accused, who may be the son or a relative of a VIP must be changed. The issue is not about being a VIP or a non-VIP. The real issue is about the safety of women, which must be supreme. The very first duty of the police must be to take custody of the accused and then proceed with the case with successful interrogation.

Meanwhile, the courage shown by the victim is commendable. It is a fact that stalking cases in the country have been on the rise but reportage is negligent. As per data, 6,266 cases of stalking were registered in 2015 alone. What is more distressing is that conviction rates are really low. In the same year, a total of 6,694 people were arrested and 473 were convicted. The Chandigarh incident has once again brought forward the issue of women's safety to the fore. Even as crimes keep happening, stalking is considered to be too mild a crime to be taken seriously. While some rubbish off such incidents believing no harm was done, others downplay the act, pointing figures on the woman herself. It is a fact that stalking is a serious offence that can lead to tragic consequences. One hopes that there is deeper understanding about this offence.

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