The Ministry of Home Affairs on Saturday issued an advisory to states and Union Territories to deal with rising instances of crimes against women and said any failure on the state police’s part to adhere to the laid-down rules “does not augur well for the delivery of justice”, PTI reported.

This came amid nationwide outrage over the death of a 19-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, after four men from the upper-caste Thakur community brutally raped and tortured her. She succumbed to her injuries on September 29.

In the two-page advisory, the Home Ministry’s Women Safety Division highlighted three key sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure that deal with compulsory registration of FIR, completion of investigation in relation to rape within 60 days and a mandatory medical examination with consent of the individual by a qualified medical professional within 24 hours of receipt of information of such a crime.

Besides this, the ministry asked states to ensure the police file a Zero FIR in case the crime against a woman was committed outside the jurisdiction of the police station. A Zero-FIR means that a first information report can be filed in any police station irrespective of place of incident and jurisdiction, which can be later transferred to the appropriate police station.

“It is requested that States/UTs, may suitably issue instructions to all concerned to ensure strict compliance with the provisions in the law... also requested to monitor the cases on ITSSO to ensure suitable follow up action,” the notice said. Investigation Tracking System for Sexual offences, or ITSSO, is an online portal available to all law enforcement agencies at national, state and district level to undertake real time monitoring of rape cases.

“However, even with stringent provisions in law and several capacity-building measures undertaken, any failure of police to adhere to these mandatory requirements may not augur well for the delivery of criminal justice in the country, especially in the context of women safety,” the Centre said. It warned of “stringent action” against those who fail to comply with the orders.

Also read:

  1. The power of mourning: Why the authorities did not allow the Hathras woman a dignified funeral
  2. India can no longer allow public institutions to fail to protect women

The Hathras case

On September 14, four upper-caste Thakur men had tortured and raped the Dalit woman. She died on September 29, a day after being moved to the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi. She had suffered multiple fractures and other serious injuries, and was left paralysed. The four men have been arrested.

In the events that followed, the Uttar Pradesh government forcibly cremated the body of the woman even as her family was detained in their home by the police, with the aim to stop the incident from becoming a focus of protests.

The case has become emblematic of the caste-based sexual violence faced by Dalit women in the state. As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 2019, nearly ten Dalit women are raped every day in the country with Uttar Pradesh recording among the highest numbers.

But despite initial medical reports pointing to sexual assault, the Uttar Pradesh government has repeatedly denied a rape had taken place at all. Some Bharatiya Janata Party leaders even alleged that the woman and one of accused were in a relationship.

The Adityanath government claimed that the protests demanding justice for the woman were the result of an “international conspiracy”. It filed at least 19 FIRs across the state against unidentified persons for allegedly attempting to incite caste-based conflict after the woman’s death last month.

A journalist from Kerala was arrested under a stringent anti-terror law for “going to Hathras to disrupt peace as part of larger conspiracy”. The state police alleged he and three others were members of Popular Front India and booked them for sedition.

Chief Minister Adityanath himself had on October 5 claimed the BJP’s political opponents were attempting to conspire against it by “trying to lay a foundation for caste and communal riots through international funding”. On Thursday, he urged Bharatiya Janata Party workers to be on guard against elements who want to incite riots in the state.