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The push for making harder laws whenever there is a heinous crime ..




At the time of the Nirbhaya gang-rape crime in December, because of the huge public pressure and the constant focus of the media, there was a push for making more strict laws to punish such offenders. The idea of having the death penalty in the case of rape was pushed strongly, as that would serve as a deterrent to people who are wont to commit such heinous crimes. So the Justice Verma commission came up with some recommendations, some of which have been affected (with those provisions relating to marital rape, and holding officers of police and armed forces responsible for crimes committed by their personnel not being implemented). In the wake of the heinous crime relating to the rape and torture of the 5 year old girl in Delhi in April 2013, there is again a call for the death penalty for rape, with the belief that this was act to prevent more of these.
However, I would submit that these calls for the death penalty for rape do not really serve a purpose. The new law did make harsher punishments for where the case of rape caused death or a totally debilitating punishment, and this was totally appropriate. At the same time, the recent protests are seeing more people making the case for efforts and steps that will actually be useful. Most of these related to the action of police and the legal system, and there should be a renewed focus on seeing more movement in these areas. When you consider that the Nirbhaya case warranted a Fast track case, with the guilty having been caught in December, and the fast track court is still looking at witnesses, the speed of proceedings in a fast track case need to be doubted. I am not stating whatsoever that there should be any short-circuiting of the legal processes; the accused have the right to have their day in court as per procedure, but it needs sustained investigation by the law ministry about why even a Fast Track court is still months away from coming to a decision. And yet, considering that the law minister is more bothered by interfering in CBI investigations, you would wonder whether such reviews and such improvements can ever take place.
One of the biggest problems can be seen in the actions of the police. One the day when the controversy about the rape of the girl in East Delhi burst into the public frame, there were many children seen missing with no trace of them. Even in the current case, the police took their time to file an FIR, tried to best do a second rate investigation, tried to prevent the family from pursuing the matter or approaching the media, and so on. And this is in the national capital. If you read the articles that appear in the media that talk about what happens in rural areas, you have a huge number of cases where the police refuse to interfere, or where they take the side of the accused, and in some cases, the shame or the sheer horror at what they are facing forces the victim to take their own lives. And yet, do you ever hear any Government functionaries or politicians talking about this reform of the police ? Such a reform will take time, will take a lot of continuous effort, and will have a dangerous result for politicians. If you try to reform the police in this manner, they will reform in other areas well, and this will make it more difficult for politicians to continue their system of mis-governance. And that is a risk that politicians are not willing to take.
The other problem is the sorry state of the judicial processes. Cases can take years, and will multiple levels of courts, the final judgment can happen god knows when. Who can forget the case of Sonali, who was sprayed with acid and brought to a pitiable physical condition. This happened in 2003, and even though some of the accused were sentenced, they were granted bail by the High court and have been out for 6 years now, with the case not having moved further. Such a gross miscarriage of justice is what people should be protesting against, and if the Government was serious, it would do concrete steps to ensure that the judicial system moves faster. That will be true justice, not pious but useless statements by the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi about how they are concerned. If ever there is a quick and effective police action and quick judgments, that will do a lot to prevent the happening of such heinous crimes, else we will keep on reading about them.




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