Authorities in Delhi plan to speed up rape trials and lower the age at which juveniles can be prosecuted as adults following two alleged gang rapes of young girls, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi led by CM Arvind Kejriwal said on Monday.
Two juveniles were arrested on Sunday following the rape of a two-and-a-half-year-old girl in west Delhi. In another incident, three men have been detained in connection with the rape of a five-year-old girl in the east of the city.
The two cases triggered protests over the weekend, and Kejriwal said he had set up a panel of ministers to examine ways to curb sex crimes and strengthen the security of women and children in the city of 16 million people.
“I don’t think all the bad people live only in Delhi, and that people living in places like Kolkata, New York, London or Varanasi are saints. It is just that the fear of law is not there in Delhi,” Kejriwal told a news conference.
“Rapists know nothing will happen to them.”
Kejriwal said he planned to allocate funds to increase the number of fast track courts to bring more convictions for rape.
The Delhi government is also considering allowing juveniles aged 15 and above to be tried as adults for heinous crimes such as rape, he added.
The Juvenile Justice Act, the country’s primary legal framework for minors, currently defines a person under 18 as a child and caps punishment to three years in a correctional home.
According to police, the two-year-old girl was abducted by two boys on Friday and later found dumped in a park near her home. On the other side of the city, a five-year-old girl was lured to a neighbour’s house and raped by three men.
Both children have been admitted to city hospitals and are in a stable condition, said police, adding that they may be discharged on Monday.
The attacks come eight days after a four-year-old girl was allegedly raped and slashed with a knife before being left unconscious on a railway track in the capital.
The cases have evoked memories of the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a bus in December 2012 which led to nationwide protests and forced the government to tighten laws on crimes against women.
Kejriwal over the weekend blamed the city’s police for failing to curb rising cases of sexual violence and reiterated a demand that the federal government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, hand over control of Delhi’s police force.
But police officials said it was difficult to prevent such cases as the victims were often known to perpetrators.
“The police could not have prevented this as such kind of depravedness is now pervasive in certain areas and communities,” said Pushpendra Kumar, deputy commissioner of police, on Sunday.
The number of rapes in India rose by 9 percent to 33,707 in 2014 – with New Delhi reporting 1,813 rapes, making it the city with the highest number of such cases.
The data showed that 86 percent of rapes had been committed by close family members such as fathers, brothers and uncles, as well as neighbours, employers, co-workers and friends.
The report also indicated that nearly 40 percent of rape victims were below the age of 18.
(Thomson Reuters Foundation)