A lot of cases of crimes against women go unreported or unpunished because of a lack of legal knowledge.
In our new series of Dainik Samvaad explainers, we shall bring you step-by-step guide for legal measures that can be taken in various cases.
Here is a guide on filing a rape case:
Step 1- Filing an First Information Report (FIR)
- A rape survivor, her family and friends or anyone who knows her and is aware of the heinous crime can file an FIR in a police station (covering the jurisdiction where the rape was committed) as the first account of the crime.
- FIR is defined under Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC).
- According to this section, an FIR can be given to the officer-in-charge, either orally or in a written manner. If the information of the crime is given orally, then it shall be reduced in writing and read over to the person giving information. Once, the informant confirms that the written statement matches the information provided, it shall be signed by the informant.
- The Officer then records it in a book in the station, as provided by the State government.
- In case the FIR is filed outside the jurisdiction (also known as, a zero number FIR) of the place where the rape was committed, the police station has to transfer the zero number FIR to the police station that will be in charge of the investigation.
Step 2- Launch of an Investigation
- In order to examine whether the allegations of rape made by the informant is true or not, an investigation has to be launched by the police.
- The survivor and the witnesses are called in the police station and their statements are recorded which serves as evidence. Any information that can put the perpetrator, the survivor and the witnesses at the same place and time amounts to evidence.
- Evidence also includes crime surveillance and medical examination of the survivor.
- Medical examination comprises of treatment of the survivor and indication of any signs that might amount to rape. It should be noted that, in case no evidence is found in the medical examination, it does not signify that crime has not occurred. Clothes, jewellery or any relevant possession that the survivor had on herself at the time of rape is collected and the a document containing the list of items is prepared and it is called a panchnama. The panchnama must be signed by two people whom the survivor trusts.
- Unfortunately, in many cases, it has been reported that the medical examination were not carried out within the guidelines set by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
- The procedure for medical examination for the victim of rape is enshrined in Section 164A of the CrPC and it says
- The woman against whom the offence of rape has been committed shall be sent for medical examination within 24 hours of receiving the complaint.
- The medical examination shall be conducted with the consent of the victim or with the consent of a competent person on her behalf
Step 3- Arrest of the accused
- Once the investigation is done and the police can directly arrest the accused if the survivor knows his whereabouts.
- In cases where the perpetrator is unknown to the victim, the police rely on sketches and illustration from the survivor and the witnesses. The police can also arrest a number of suspects out of which the accused is identified through an official identification parade.
- Similar to the survivor, the accused also undergoes a medical examination that validates any sign of rape as told by the survivor. Again, even if there is signs are absent, it does not mean that the rape has not been committed.
Step 4- Recording statement before a magistrate and filing the chargesheet
- The survivor or any of the witnesses give a detailed version of the crimes in their statement before a magistrate. It is used as the official statement that allows the chargesheet to be filed and it serves as evidence in the court.
- Chargesheet also includes FIR and findings of the investigation. The chargesheet is then submitted to the Sessions Court.
Step 5- The Trial
- The trial begins once the chargesheet is submitted in the Court.
- The survivor is represented by the state where she resides and the public prosecutor fights for the survivor. However, the survivor is free to choose her own lawyer.
- The lawyers of the survivor and the accused put forth their arguments and the evidence is examined by the Court.
- A rape trial is always held-in camera to protect the identity of the victim and therefore, is not open to the public and the media.
Step 6- The Judgement
- If the accused is found guilty of rape, he is charged under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code and can be jailed for a minimum of 7 years which can be extended to life imprisonment and fined, depending on the exact nature of the rape.
- In case the incident is ‘rarest of the rare’, the accused can be sentenced to death.