New Delhi: Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde Friday called for introspection by senior government officials on low conviction rate in crimes against women and sought corrective steps for time-bound punishment to the guilty.
Addressing a meeting of directors general of police and chief secretaries of states on curbing crime against women and atrocities against Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), Shinde said the brutal gang-rape of a woman here last month had led to various sections of society echoing concern about the safety of women.
He said the role of government agencies had also drawn critical comments.
Shinde earlier launched a pilot programme of Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and System (CCTNS) and said the home ministry would launch citizen-centric services such as online registration of complaints and tracking of first information reports by April.
Minister of State for Home R.P.N. Singh called for "zero tolerance" in crimes against women, including assault, molestation and acid attacks, and said "change must begin here".
Shinde said it was "not acceptable that women should live in fear and anxiety".
Citing figures of the last three years, which showed conviction having taken place only in about one-eighth of cases of crimes against women, he said prompt action against all offenders would bring respect for law.
"This conviction needs introspection. Why we failed: whether investigation, whether lethargy or ineffectiveness of law," Shinde said.
He said crimes against women need to be curbed with an iron hand and added that the rate of these crimes and atrocities on SCs and STs had not declined even 60 years after Independence.
Shinde said "knowledge and equity" should be the touchstone of government leading to the upliftment of weaker sections.
He said over 2.38 lakh cases were registered for crime against women in 2009, chargesheets were filed in about 1.62 lakh cases and there were only 27,924 convictions.
He said over 2.13 lakh cases were registered in 2010 leading to nearly 1.72 lakh chargesheets and 30,270 convictions.
In 2011, over 2.28 lakh cases were registered, 1.78 lakh chargesheets were filed and 30,266 convictions secured.
In his speech at the launch of the CCTNS project, Shinde said it would leverage benefits of technology and bring greater transparency and accountability in police functioning.
He said the launch of a CCTNS citizen portal in the coming days will make police citizen-friendly and improve delivery of citizen-centric services.
R.P.N. Singh said the meeting of police chiefs and chief secretaries was taking place in the backdrop of the grief at the death of the gang-rape victim.
"The grief, however, is also for the thousands of faceless women around the country whose plight this young woman came to represent and the best tribute to her memory is how each one of us here can work to make sure that this never happens again," he said.
"The entire country is watching us with great expectations. We cannot fail their hopes. I think we need to set the agenda here with two words -- zero tolerance. Zero tolerance for molestation, for acid attacks, for any kind of assault... and the change must begin here. Change must come at several different levels in the making of laws which is the legislature's responsibility, and the implementation," he added.
He said the government machinery could not protect "this one daughter of India but now we have to protect the over a billion men and women for whom we are all responsible. This is the greatest service we can do for our country".
The minister said he had asked for setting up a national register of sexual offenders.