CRIME on the OFFENCE JUSTICE on the DEFENCE
India, no doubt, is a great country. It has a great system of criminal jurisprudence in which an individual/group has a right to commit a crime, heinous included, to run away from the scene of crime and, if caught, the right to claim he is innocent. This exactly is what we call ”choriaurseenazori”.
There are a few instances in which people in the heat of moment have committed crime, even of murder, and then they have voluntarily surrendered before police or courts confessing their crime, even before the police had actually got a whiff of it. At the same time, they have their unchallenged inherent right to resile from their confessional statements in the heat of moment and to claim innocent denying their confession.
Our law also provides alibis and chances to prove themselves juvenile, under the influence of intoxication, depression, provocation or other mitigating circumstances to prove their innocence or seek punishment lesser stringent than the extent of their crime due under the law.
Even when a case of murder is proved against a person, he can be sentenced to capital punishment only, as the Supreme Court has decreed, if the case falls in the category of ”rarest of the rare” in the opinion of the concerned learned court.
On the one hand, we all – the executive, the legislature, the judiciary, the media and the people – are one in the need for dispensing quick justice to the victims of the heinous crime of rape and on the other, our courts are showing leniency and consideration to the accused. The latest is the case in which the Supreme Court (SC) on January 29, 2013 ruled that the man who had raped his minor daughter and killed her and his wife and who had been sentenced to death, need not be sent to the gallows ”as the crime did not fall under the rarest of rare cases”. The SC further said that ”his reformation is not foreclosed in this case.”
An SC double bench set aside the death sentence, awarded by trial court and upheld by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, saying that the convict was feeling frustrated because of the attitude of his wife and children.
The history of the conduct of the convict Mohinder Singh speaks otherwise and does not inspire confidence that ”his reformation is not foreclosed”. He committed the crime while on parole from jail where he was undergoing a 12-year sentence for raping his 12-year-old daughter. In January 2005, he came out on parole and killed his wife who was a witness to the rape, and the daughter he had raped.
A father raping his daughter and killing her and his wife, a witness to the crime, needless to say, is not a daily routine but a rarest of the rare heinous crimes in India. That the convict was ”feeling frustrated because of the attitude of his wife and children” does not mitigate the intensity of his crime. On the contrary, it only shows that the father did not appear to be ashamed and repentant for the sin he committed and instead wanted his wife and daughter to be a conspirator in his crime and save him by telling a lie in the court. His conduct during his parole itself belies the hope that ”his reformation is not foreclosed in this case”.
Juvenile hardcore criminal
No less astonishing is the report that the ”most brutal” accused in the gang-rape and killing of a paramedical student Nirbhaya in New Delhi last month has been declared a ”minor” by the Juvenile Justice Board on January 29 on the basis of the date of birth on his school certificate and ordered his trial under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act. The Board also rejected the plea of the Police for bone certification test of the accused to determine his age.
This suspicion got further strengthened by a Times of India story which on February 01 quoted the mother of the accused who claims to be juvenile saying: ”I have no idea regarding either the day or date of admission. I just went to the school and told the teacher that this is my child, he is five years of age, write down his name. They started teaching him after that.” And yet our Juvenile Justice Board has blind faith in the school certificate that shows the age of the accused.
The decision based on ”school certificate” is open to question because everyone knows that in India, for various reasons, parents of children have been getting birth certificates of their children showing an age less than the actual one. The ”bone certification” would have been more scientific and reliable.
It is ironic that a person who allegedly committed one of the most heinous crimes, which even a hardened criminal would have dreaded to perform, should be dispensed Care and Protection reserved for juveniles. We need to distinguish between juvenile delinquency and juvenile crime. Juveniles have been dispensed care and protection because their crime was not heinous but could be considered a delinquency like a child playing with a knife accidently killing another child or pushing a fellow child without realizing that his act could cost a life or a child playing with fire incidentally causing a great inferno resulting in huge loss of life and property. These may be crimes but seem to have been inadvertently committed with no set motive. But that is not the case of this juvenile accused in Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder. One has to go by the enormity of the heinous crime and not by the age of the culprit.
This gives another indication of the kind of justice and the criminal jurisprudence we have. This stands in the way of justice. It fails to punish the culprit because it itself raises many ifs and buts in the smooth way of handing out punishment to the person guilty of a crime. The loopholes in the justice system only help the accused and not the innocent and the aggrieved in his quest for justice.
Justice should not only be dispensed but also appear to have been dispensed. It is absence of this scenario that is prompting people to take law into their own hands and dispense justice themselves there and then.
The writer is a Delhi based political analyst and commentator.