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food for thought

The Assam government has opened a toll free helpline ‘181 Sakhi’ to help women in distress. The caller will be rescued by the nearest PCR van from the police station in the area, provided medical aid through ambulance service, along with professiol counseling, legal aid and shelter if needed. Meanwhile, the Gauhati High Court has given its nod to Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal’s proposal of setting up fast track court in every district to try cases of sexual crimes against women and children. The Assam CM had mentioned in his proposal the significant improvement in conviction rates of offenders tried in fast track courts under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. It is expected that fast track courts conducting hearings on daily basis in cases of crimes against women and children will help improve the justice delivery mechanism greatly. However, for such courts to function effectively, the process of crime investigation and framing of charges needs to be overhauled urgently. Unless the police respond to complaints fast, take proper care with the crime scene and use best practices plus technology to gather evidence, there can be little improvement in conviction rates. In this context, the proposal to set up dedicated cells in police stations to investigate crimes against women and children should be implemented soon across the State. Unless police work improves to the desired extent, courts can do very little on poor evidence. Overall, there needs to be public awareness not to tolerate the culture of impunity that is a bane to the State. It is this culture that allows crimils to walk away blithely while the public looks the other way. Considering the threat of violence by anti-social elements, law enforcers should explore ways to better protect whistle-blowers who prefer to tip them off anonymously when a crime is committed. Catching crimils in the act or soon thereafter makes good sense, playing politics over their ethnic or religious identities does not. 

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Ankur Kalita