Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy inaugurated the first Disha Mahila Police Station in the state in Rajahmundry on Saturday. Speaking at the inaugural address, Jagan said that a total of 18 such police stations will be set up across the state by the end of the month to exclusively deal with crimes against women and children. Each police station will be headed by a DSP rank officer and have a staff of 26 to 47 police officers, Jagan said, adding that the staff will mostly comprise of female officers.
The state government is implementing a series of measures under the name of Disha, as a tribute to the veterinary doctor gang-raped and murdered recently in neighbouring Telangana. Disha (name changed) was brutally raped and killed in the outskirts of Hyderabad on November 26 last year. Four suspects in the case were arrested on November 28 and killed in an alleged encounter by the Telangana police on December 6.
The 18 Disha Women's Police Stations will be upgraded versions of existing women's police stations. While the present staff will continue their functions, the additional staff, headed by a DSP, will deal with crimes covered under the Disha bill, including IPC section 376 (rape and gang rape), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and the POCSO Act.
30 per cent special allowance has been announced for the staff of Disha police stations, apart from an investigation expenditure of Rs 1 lakh per month.
According to the recently introduced law called the 'Andhra Pradesh Disha Act Criminal Law (AP Amendment) Act, 2019’, apart from special courts, police stations, additional forensic labs and a mobile app for sending SOS alerts to the police will be set up.
The Disha Act mandates completion of the investigation into cases of sexual offences within 7 working days from the time of record, and the trial must be concluded within 14 working days from the date of filing the charge sheet. The appeal against the sentence passed under the new law has to be disposed of within six months.
The Bill, which amend the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure to enable speedy investigation and trial, and award of death penalty in cases with adequate, conclusive evidence has been passed by the Assembly, but is awaiting Presidential assent.
“Since law and order is not just a state subject, the Act is in the Concurrent List. We have done our part and are now waiting for the presidential assent. The Home Ministry has to move the file. We are hoping it is approved, although it is not entirely in our hands,” Jagan said.
“We are doing whatever is in our hands at state level,” Jagan said, adding that funds have been sanctioned for setting up 13 special courts across the 13 districts of the state. “Rs 26 crore have been sanctioned for setting up special courts. Rs 1.65 crore has been sanctioned for arranging special public prosecutors for these courts. Once the High Court approves, the courts will be set up,” he said.
Jagan also added that Rs 31 crore have been allocated for setting up additional forensic labs in Tirupati and Visakhapatnam, apart from the one in Mangalagiri, as the existing staff and equipment were found inadequate. The ‘Disha Forensic Science Labs’ are set to have ‘advanced DNA equipment, serology/biology equipment and cyber forensic tools’, according to an official statement.
“These are things that could be done at the state level in preparation for the act to be approved,” he said, adding that all of these mechanisms would be fully implemented within 3 to 4 months.
An amount of Rs 21 Crore has been allocated for the ‘Disha Women Police Stations’. The police stations will reportedly be equipped with facilities like creche, rooms for taking care of babies, waiting halls and counselling rooms.
An exclusive control room in the name of Disha call centre will also be set up to handle distress calls, apart from the Disha app, which includes an SOS alert feature. The app will also send the location of the caller, and the audio and video of 10 seconds of the call duration to the control room for assessing the situation. Rs 7.26 crore have been allocated for the maintenance of the app and call centre. The Disha app will send the location
Speaking about the Disha incident, Jagan said, “When such incidents occur, everyone feels that there’s nothing wrong in giving the harshest punishment to the culprits. In films, when such crimes happen and the hero shoots the culprits, we applaud. Unfortunately, in the case of law and order, the laws don’t give us that freedom.”
After the alleged encounter of the four suspects in Disha’s case, the death penalty was given in two more rape-murder cases in Telangana. On January 30, a special fast track court in Adilabad gave the death sentence to the three accused in the gruesom case of gangrape and murder of 30-year-old Samata (name changed). The judgment came two months after the incident. On February 6, a special court in Nalgonda sentenced to death Marri Srinivas Reddy, who was found guilty in the Hajipur triple rape and murder case.