The circular, released by State Police Chief Loknath Behera, cites the sections that require police to take mandatory action in crimes against women.

Loknath Behera in uniform, says something
news Crimes against women Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - 19:55

On November 13, Loknath Behera, the Kerala State Police Chief, issued a circular within the department, to take mandatory action in cases of crimes against women. This includes filing of First Information Report (FIR), collecting evidence for forensic tests and completing the investigation in sexual assault cases in two months, among others. There have been many instances in the past, where women have walked out of police stations, unhappy with the police laxity in filing cases. 

The circular clearly states that there should be 'compulsory registration of FIR in case of cognizable offence (offences where police can arrest without warrant, start an investigation without court permission) under Section 154(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC)'. Cases of sexual assault fall under cognizable offences. If the crime is committed outside the jurisdiction of the station, the police can register a 'Zero FIR'. The case can later be transferred to the jurisdictional station within 24 hours. No police station can refuse to register such a case on account of jurisdiction.

Read: What is zero FIR and why cops cannot cite jurisdiction and refuse complaints

"No police personnel shall intimidate/dissuade/discourage a victim of crime from reporting a cognizable offence on the pretext that the victim has to undergo serious social issues during the investigation and trials of the case. The victims should be informed about their rights and also about having the advantage of the body examination by a woman medical officer, recording of the statement by a woman magistrate, services of a special prosecutor, and so on," the circular says.

A female police officer should explain these rights to the female complainant. "It is also instructed that the statement of a woman, who is a victim of crime, should be recorded only in the presence of a woman police person or a woman of reputation," it says.

The circular says that section 166(A)(c) — punishment for non-recording of information — provides for punishment to a public servant for failure to record FIR in relation to cognizable offences punishable under various sections of the Indian Penal Code.

Under section 173 of CrPC, the police investigation in relation to rape should be completed within two months. The Ministry of Home Affairs has provided an online portal called Investigation Tracking System for Sexual Offences for law enforcement officers to monitor this. 

The circular also points out that section 164 A of CrPC says that in investigations of rape or sexual assault, the victim 'shall be examined by a registered medical practitioner under consent within 24 hours' from the time of receiving information of the offence.

It also states that section 32(1) of the Indian Evidence Act says that the written or verbal statement of a person who died later shall be treated as a relevant fact in the investigation —  when the statement concerns the cause of the person's death or circumstances that resulted in death. In the Purshottam Chopra and Another Vs State (Delhi) case, the Supreme Court had directed that a 'particular statement, when being offered as dying declaration and satisfies all the requirements of judicial scrutiny, cannot be discarded' merely because it has not been recorded by a magistrate or attested by a person present at the time.

There are also guidelines for collecting, preserving and transportation the forensic evidence in sexual assault cases for investigation and medical officers. The Bureau of Police Research and Development has issued sexual assault evidence collection kits to every state and union territory.

The circular warns that strict action will be taken against officers who fail to adhere to these mandatory requirements for criminal justice in the context of women's safety.