Victims’ silence roadblock in convictions
Aug 9, 2012, 05.37AM IST TNN[ Sanjeev Shivadekar ]
MUMBAI: The state administration says that prosecution and securing conviction in female foeticide and sex determination cases are challenging tasks since the victims are statutorily not the complainants in such cases.
A senior official said that female foeticide cases remain confined between the government and the errant doctors because it is not mandatory on victims to file complaints. Unlike other crimes against women, “where the victim is often the complainant, in cases of sex determination and female foeticide the state is the complainant against the criminal medicos. As a result, the state has to take the initiative in unearthing such cases, employing techniques like sting operations,” the official added.
He explained that the practice of victims not being made complainant is in place to prevent the women from suffering “social embarrassment”.
“Nevertheless, victims should be prodded to turn complainant. If a victim comes forward at the stage of filing compliant, it adds teeth to the case and makes investigation , prosecution and conviction a well-coordinated task. To protect her, the victim’s identity should not be revealed at any stage,” the Mantralaya official said.
Congress MLA Praniti Shinde, who is a member of the state PCPNDT committee, too maintained that victims should step forth and help fight the menace of female foeticide. “The society should encourage victims to lodge complaints against crooked doctors. The government, for its part, should ensure that the victims’ names are not revealed and there is no danger to their lives,” Shinde said.
The increasing incidence of female foeticide has, over the years, put the ruling Democratic Front government in a tight spot. It adopted a slew of measures to curb the menace , thanks largely to the activism of voluntary and women’s rights groups.
Health minister Suresh Shetty, during the recent monsoon session of the legislature , announced that plans are afoot to also book the family members of victims in sexdetermination cases. Shetty declared that the government would seek the Centre’s opinion for slapping homicide charge against those involved in female foeticide.
A government official said the reason for poor conviction in sex determination cases, apart from victims not being part of them, is the lack of paperwork and scrutiny before cases are filed. “Following an outcry over the declining child sex ratio, the authorities swung into action and started raiding sonography centres and hospitals. But many times officials, in a hurry, do not bother to prepare a watertight case. Furthermore , lawyers taking up such cases on behalf of the government do not understand the importance of the matter. Insufficient paperwork and poor homework, therefore, lead to acquittals of medicos,” the official added.
Shinde cited the instance of an additional public prosecutor who remained absent from the hearing in a Solapur court of a criminal appeal against a doctor booked under the PCPNDT Act. “The lawyer’s behaviour was indefensible.”
Fight against foeticide will be won or lost in court
The government is right, to some extent, when it says connivance by victims’ families makes things difficult for the prosecution. But there has to be a solution. One way could be to charge in-laws of women, who are forced to undergo the procedure, with abetment to the crime and make the punishment a real deterrent. Ultimately, the punishment that killers of the female foetus get in court will determine whether Maharashtra can contain this crime against humanity.