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Speed up probe, trial in sexual offences against minors: Shah



Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday asked state chief secretaries to devise a mechanism to ensure that investigation and trial in sexual offences like rape against girls under the age of 12 are completed within two months of the crime.

Speaking at the 24th meeting of the Western Zonal Council comprising Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and the Union territories of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Shah said that the chief secretary of the state must personally monitor adherence to legal provisions with regard to completion of investigation and trial in sexual offences against minors within two months.

The Home Minister, who chaired the meeting, also called upon the states to give their suggestions for improvements in the Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code. 

Shah pointed out that the government has zero tolerance to offences under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act and stressed on the need to strengthen forensic science laboratories to ensure accurate investigation and high conviction.

The Western Zonal Council meeting, which was held at a Dona Paula-based hotel, also resolved to cover all villages, which have hitherto remained without any banking facilities within five-kilometre radial distance, by a bank or India post payments service. The data was derived from geographic information system (GIS) platform of National Informatics

Centre (NIC), which will be further corroborated by the states using road distance on the ground.

A senior official informed that there are six villages in Goa where there is no banking facility. These villages will be covered under the new guidelines in the near future.

The meeting was attended by Chief Minister of Gujarat Vijay Rupani, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister of Goa Pramod Sawant, Administrator of the Union territories of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli Praful Patel and senior officers from the central and state governments.

The meet also decided to cover the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) through the India Post Payments Banks (IPPB), as the IPPBs are covered by core banking solution. Speaking on the issue, Shah underlined the need for systemic reforms instead of merely chasing statistics.

Shah stressed that after due deliberations, unequivocal decisions taken by consensus should be implemented to further strengthen the federal structure of the country. The Home Minister said that the west zone has been instrumental in giving impetus to the Indian economy, as the states of the zone are contributing around 24 per cent to the GDP and 45 per cent to the total exports of the country. 

“Hence, all the pending issues between the states and the Centre need to be resolved on priority through the medium of Western Zonal Council,” he said and lauded the states in the zone for excellent work and for being the harbingers in the cooperative sector. 

The Home Minister stated that the states in the west zone have been big exporters of sugar, cotton, groundnut and fish and contributing immensely to the economic development of the country. 

Shah stated that besides the issues listed in the agenda, he would also like to add and discuss issues relating to law and order and administrative reforms so that the Council meeting helps in providing further pace to the development of the country. 

Discussion was also held in detail on action on the Master Plan submitted by Maharashtra government for utilisation of surplus Salt Pan Land for rehabilitation of slum dwellers. The Maharashtra government will send a detailed proposal in two months suggesting broad contours of a transparent financial model for involvement of slum dwellers on competitive basis for rehabilitation of slum dwellers and transfer of land/monetisation for the central government.

Discussion was also held on enhancement of DBT portal to include scheme and village-wise details by collecting real-time information from respective portals of beneficiary-oriented schemes to give village-level fund transfer and benefits, beside innovative solution of encrypted QR Code on Aadhaar card for verifying antecedents of marine fishermen.

Shah appealed to the states of Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat to quickly assess the damage caused due to the floods and send their requirement to the central government. Speaking at the meeting, the Home Minister expressed his deep concern for the flood victims in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa. He also said that the government of India has taken an initiative to assess the damage on its own, for which central teams have already been constituted to visit the flood-affected areas without waiting for reports from the states.

Sawant welcomed the guests and assured his full cooperation in resolving all pending issues. The Chief Minister of Gujarat stated that his experience with the Zonal Council has been good, as almost all the issues pertaining to the state had been resolved in the past.

It was also decided to host the next meeting of the Council in Maharashtra.

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