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CRIME AGAINST WOMEN DEALT SERIOUSLY

With voices for checking sexual offences against women getting louder following the December 16, 2012 gangrape, special fast-track courts here came out with some strong decisions in 2013. Widespread outrage sparked by the gangrape case prompted authorities to set up six fast-track courts at the outset of 2013 to exclusively deal with cases of sexual offences as rape, molestation, eve-teasing, voyeurism, stalking incidents rose manifold in the national capital. An incident of voyeurism was also reported from the Delhi High Court where women advocates were filmed on a mobile phone in the ladies restroom. This provided an impetus for fulfilling the demand for putting in place the guidelines laid down in 1997 by the apex court in Vishakha judgement in its precincts for dealing with complaints of sexual harassment at workplace. Though there was consolation that few of the cases including December 16 gangrape-cum-murder reached its conclusion, there are others like, rape of a five-year-old girl here by two men, which are yet to be decided. Acting tough, the court in this case invoked on its own the provisions of rape and unnatural offence against the duo facing trial for raping the child on April 15. They are also accused of inserting foreign objects in the minor's body. The case saw charges being framed under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act which was brought in force in November last year. The December 16 gangrape case led to amendment to the Indian Penal Code with stricter laws against rape with death penalty if the victim dies or is left in a vegetative state. Routine 'misdemeanour' like eve-teasing, stalking and voyeurism also came to be expressly defined as non-bailable offences. At the beginning of the last quarter of 2013, the court sentenced the convicts in the December 16 case to death while admonishing the gravity of the incident and "hair-raising beastly and unparallelled behaviour". Amid protests for convictions in rape cases, there was a rise in false complaints of rape and sexual offences and courts noted that judiciary cannot be swayed by public outcry. While the debate on rape cases and false complaints was on, a judge's remark that "girls are morally and socially bound not to indulge in sexual relation before proper marriage and if they do so, it would be to their peril and they cannot be heard crying later that it was rape" created controversy. The December 16 case was not the only rape case in which death penalty was awarded to the culprits. 
For rape convicts, especially those who had victimised minors, the courts refused to show leniency and termed them as "menace to the society" not deserving to be alive. In November, another court awarded death to a 23-year-old youth for raping and brutally murdering his minor neighbour. In another case of rape of a minor girl, a fast track court termed it "heinous" and awarded death penalty to a 56-year-old man for murdering a three-year-old child after ravishing her. The courts also acted tough in cases of eve-teasing and molestation. One such case was when two brothers were sentenced to death for killing a man who came forward to save his sister's honour. The court refused to show any leniency saying, "This battle of one half of the Indian population (women) is something that we cannot lose sight of and the courts cannot let the things pass in the name of compassion/ mercy." During the year, the courts also pulled up girls and their parents who were found to have lodged false rape cases. In one such case, the court went to the extent of saying that girls voluntarily elope with their lovers to "explore the greener pastures of bodily pleasure and on their return, they conveniently fabricate the story of kidnap and rape in order to escape scolds and harsh treatment from parents". Surfacing as the need of the hour was a law to regulate placement agencies with courts coming across increasing number of false rape cases by maids against their employers. The fast-track courts acquitted accused in many rape cases, including an 80-year-old man, saying they appeared to be "living example" of placement agency's maid levelling false allegations of rape "out of vengeance" over non-payment of salary or any other trivial complaint. "There are no laws, policies or rules to regulate the placement agencies which supply maids and servants for working in houses. "Considering the crying need of the day, it is required that some regulatory law or policy is made by the government and police so that there can be a check on placement agencies and it is made compulsory that police verification of maids and servants who are to be employed in private houses is done before they take up employment," the courts noted. The courts also took note of poor and illiterate girls being brought to Delhi from remote areas of the country by private placement agencies on the pretext of job but are exploited, thrown into prostitution or used to level false rape cases against rivals. 

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