Faced with criticism of governments' inability to prevent crimes against women - which has come into sharp focus following the alleged gang rape and torture of a 20-year-old Dalit woman in UP's Hathras last month - the centre has reminded state and UT governments of existing laws for "mandatory action by police in cases of crimes against women".
In an advisory issued Saturday the Home Ministry highlighted three sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure that deal with "compulsory registration of FIR", completion of investigation (in relation to rape) within 60 days and a mandatory medical examination, to be conducted with the individual's consent, by a qualified medical professional within 24 hours of receipt of information of such a crime.
"It is requested that States/UTs, may suitably issue instructions to all concerned to ensure strict compliance with the provisions in the law... also requested to monitor the cases on ITSSO (an online portal to track sexual offence cases) to ensure suitable follow up action," the notice said.
The centre further said that "failure of police to adhere to these mandatory requirements may not augur well for the delivery of criminal justice in the country, especially in context of women safety" and warned of "stringent action" against those not following these rules.
The reminder comes amid severe criticism of the UP government and police over its handling of the Hathras tragedy, in which a Dalit woman was allegedly gang raped by men from the "upper castes".
The young woman died at a Delhi hospital last week after sustaining horrific injuries in a savage assault that many have compared to the 2012 gang rape in the national capital - a crime that triggered nationwide protests and calls for stricter laws to prevent crimes against women.
UP police, accused of a slow response to the complaint, has alleged there was no rape and cite a forensic report - that said it found no semen - to back their claim. This has, however, been disputed by experts who say the samples were taken 11 days after attack.
The police also provoked a furious reaction after a secretive 2.30 am cremation that the young woman's family was allegedly not allowed to attend; the police cited intelligence inputs of "major law and order problems" to defend itself in the Supreme Court.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's administration has also been accused of trying to cover up the crime blamed on "upper caste" Thakurs. The police, meanwhile, have filed 19 FIRs - not against the accused - but against "unknown people" for a conspiracy to defame the state government.
The focus on women's safety in Uttar Pradesh has been further highlighted by a number of similarly brutal crimes reported in the days after the Hathras incident (which took place on September 14). At least three such crimes - including an assault on a 11-year-old girl - have been reported since.
Concerns over women's safety has been raised in other states as well, with the Jharkhand High Court last week reprimanding state police for a "lackluster and shoddy investigation" into the alleged rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl earlier in the year. Last month two alleged rapes were reported from Rajasthan, although a medical examination ruled out rape in one case.
According to data released by the National Crime Records Bureau last month, India recorded an average of 87 rape cases every day last year - a rise of over seven per cent from 2018.
The 2018 figure was also an increase from the year before - with 32,559 cases in 2017 and 33,356 rape cases in 2018.