NEW DELHI (TrustLaw) - Delhi police who allegedly delayed the search for a 5-year-old girl after she was abducted, raped and tortured in the capital must be arrested and charged with dereliction of duty under the country's new anti-rape law, women's rights activists said on Monday.
The girl - who was kidnapped on April 15, held in captivity near her home in New Delhi and raped by a neighbour - was found two days later and is currently recovering from her injuries in hospital. Two men have been arrested.
But the crime has sparked public anger against law enforcement authorities following allegations police officers tried to bribe the victim's family with 2,000 rupees not to file a case and after video footage showed another officer slapping a female demonstrator.
Three policemen have been suspended but women's rights activists, students groups and opposition political parties who protested for the fourth day have demanded the resignation of Delhi's police commissioner as well as action against local police officers.
"We are asking for stiff punishment for the policemen responsible, not for suspensions, inquiries and transfers," said Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women Association.
"Not registering a sex offence as part of dereliction of duty is now a criminal offence under the new law and slapping someone and bribery to suppress a case are also crimes."
Women's rights experts and lawyers say rape victims in India endure an archaic, poorly funded, under-resourced and insensitive criminal justice system that fails to care for victims and deliver justice.
Police often try to dissuade victims from complaining and suggest a "compromise" between the victim and the perpetrator, largely because of their insensitivity to sex crimes, but also because local police officials are rarely held accountable.
Public outrage over the fatal gang rape of a woman in New Delhi in December forced the government into passing a new, tougher law to punish sex crimes and hold police and hospital authorities more responsible. This includes sentences of up to two years in jail for police officials if they fail to register a complaint.
Activists said the rape of the young girl could have been prevented had the police responded quickly to the complaint made by her parents and started a search for her immediately.
"Clearly it is a case where dereliction of duty on the part of the police has cost this child tremendously in terms of her safety and the harm that has been done to her," said Krishnan, adding that the Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar also had to be held responsible.
Kumar told a news conference on Monday that he had taken action against three officers because "prima facie, there were shortfalls in the reaction of the staff at the police station," adding he would "make an example of the erring police officers."
However, he refused growing calls for his own resignation.
"If my resigning will prevent such depraved actions of society, then I am prepared to resign a thousand times, but that is not going to address the problem."
"The problem is one of mental depravity, the problem is one of psychopathy, the problem is one of mental sickness and that will not be sorted out by anyone resigning, least of the leader of a police force."
(TrustLaw is a free legal news site run by Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit trust.org/trustlaw. For more information on the TrustWomen Conference visit trustwomenconf.com)
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