Those Who Burn Women Must Be Hanged Promptly

 There can be no “ifs” and there can be no “buts”. There can be no “may”. The one and the only punishment for those who burn women is that they must be hanged promptly as soon as the Supreme Court convicts them. No escape route should be left open for those who burn women!

It goes without saying that there should be no review petition for them. There should be no mercy petition for them. Our laws must be amended accordingly. It brooks no more delay.

It merits no reiteration that the alarming rise in the incidents in which women are being burnt in our country especially in UP and Bihar are most concerning and the Supreme Court must now step in. It must ensure that those who burn women are not spared from gallows under any circumstances and must be promptly hanged without fail. No one is asking for “instant justice” but they must be punished as per “due process of law” which must be speed up so that a loud and clear message goes out to one and all that, “Be you ever so high the law is above you.”

It is a national disgrace that only one poor Dhananjoy Chatterjee has been hanged in the last 15 years and that too just on basis of circumstantial evidence alone. If Dhananjoy can be hanged in 2004 then why are the other thousands of killers and rapists of women who first rape a women, then gang rape a women turn by turn and then burn her not be hanged promptly? How can they be spared from gallows?

Why are they all not being hanged? Why this selective hanging? Is this is what is enshrined in Article 14 of our Constitution?

What message does this send? Why are the rich and the powerful easily allowed to escape from death penalty? Why can’t thousands of rapists who burn women be hanged and killed like mosquitoes? It is high time and now punishment must be inflicted equally on all criminals, rapists and those goons who burn women to death!

It is most hurting to learn that in a horrifying incident yet another woman in Bihar was set on fire allegedly after a failed rape bid by a neighbour. The accused has been arrested. Why should such demons not be hanged most promptly?

It must be informed here that the woman aged 23 was alone at home in Nazirpur village under the Ahiyapur police station limits of Muzaffarpur districts of Bihar on December 7, 2019, when the accused entered her home and tried to rape her. When she resisted, he allegedly set her on fire. She received 50% burns and was admitted to a government hospital in Muzaffarpur town as was disclosed by Vikas Rai who is Ahiyapur police station officer.

Be it noted, the doctors at the government hospital in Muzaffarpur said her condition was “very critical” and that she had been shifted to the Intensive Care Unit. The victim’s mother, who works at a primary health centre in the district, has lodged a complaint against her neighbour as the accused in the case. Her whole life has been destroyed for no fault of her! Her only fault is that she was born as women and not as men!

Should such killers and demons still not be hanged to due after trying him promptly as per due process of law? Why should we wait for women to die before convicting him? Why should such demons not be tried promptly and punished swiftly and strictly so that a loud and clear message goes that crimes against women would be heavily punished and those goons who perpetrated the dastardly crime would not be spared under any circumstances?

It must also be informed here that the victim’s mother who was totally unconsolable lamented that, “He has been harassing my daughter for the last three years…it was because of continuous harassment and threat that my daughter had stopped going to college…I had also approached the local police several times but no action was taken against him.”

Bluntly put: Why is the police so insensitive in our country? Why are guilty police cops not held accountable for their grave lapses which ultimately culminates in heinous crimes being perpetrated against women with impunity? Why is prompt action not taken against those who commit heinous crimes against women? Why police does no ensure women’s safety?

Moving on, the victim’s mother further revealed that, “She is our youngest child and was alone at home when the man entered the house…he tried to rape her but when my daughter resisted he set her on fire.” The accused who is son of a local strongman and property dealer has also been allegedly issuing threats to the family. Why should such demon not be hanged?

Should our criminal justice system still spare him so that he can further repeat such horrifying act after being encouraged that law has been unable to touch him? Why do we forget that if the Allahabad High Court had not given bail to the accused in Unnao gang rape case, they would not have come out of the jail and would not have been able to stab the women victim and set her on fire who later succumbed to her burn injuries as she was 90% burnt after saying to her brother that, “I want to live. I don’t want to die.”? Why the rape accused and those accused of heinous crimes against women granted bail so quickly by our courts?

Why should bail rules not be changed when the crime pertains to women? Why should the provisions of bail not be tightened so that the accused don’t get bail easily in cases of crimes against women? Why in cases of crimes against women is jail not made the rule and bail made the exception unlike in other cases where “Bail is the rule and jail is the exception” so that criminals think ten times before committing any act of crime against women?

Simply put, what is happening in our country? Why are we just happy after hanging one poor Dhananjoy Chatterjee in last 15 years? Why are the rapists cum murderers in other cases being spared inspite of direct evidence available against them? Why the rich and powerful criminals are being spared repeatedly?

It must also be disclosed here that the Muzaffarpur Police Superintendent Jayant Kant said that, “The main accused has been arrested and will soon be sent to judicial custody”. But this one step alone is not enough. Why should our laws not be amended to punish such accused who try to burn women and make an attempt also in this direction with mandatory death penalty? Why do we keep allowing such incidents to happen repeatedly in our country? Why there is no zero tolerance for increasing crimes against women in our country?

It must be asked in simple and straight language: Why have we become completely insensitive to crimes against women? Why there is an alarming increase in incidents of most horrifying crimes against women in our country by either burning her or gang raping her or throwing acid on her? Why should all such barbarous act of crime not be punished with mandatory death penalty?

What also must be asked here are a few more troubling questions: Why is judiciary not acting most strongly against all such most reprehensible acts of violence against an “armless and helpless” women in this regard? Why are the rights of the accused given the topmost priority? Why accused facing serious gang rape charges are allowed to come of the jail on bail and then stab and burn alive the women they had earlier gang raped as we saw most shamefully and most disgracefully in Unnao?

It must also be asked: Why don’t those in the helm of affairs of judiciary realize that if judiciary even now fails to act and swiftly and sternly punish the accused then people will completely lose their faith in our Indian judicial system which already stands corroded to a great extent and will start taking law in their own hands which will for sure lead our country to complete anarchy, lawlessness and destruction? Can we dare to afford this at this critical juncture? Why are we then not acting now? No wonder, people threw flowers at Hyderabad police for killing 4 gang rapists cum murderers accused!

How many incidents of burning women on one pretext or the other should I write to highlight that crimes against women of worst nature like burning women to death, throwing acid on her, gang raping her etc are most rapidly increasing?  Why criminals have no fear of law? Why do they feel that they can easily save themselves? It is because criminals easily get bail and just 3 rapists are hanged in last 40 years which must now compel judiciary to do some serious introspection as to why no gang rapist barring Ranga and Birla have been hanged in last more than 40 years instead of just raising question marks on the Hyderabad encounter alone!

Needless to say, it is because of the excruciatingly glacial pace at which our criminal justice system moves that these criminals, gang rapists etc can make an open mockery of law as they want, whenever they want and wherever they want as they like! Why our lawmakers have never been serious in ensuring that they are hanged for their misdeeds? Why escape routes are left open for them in our criminal justice system thus defeating the very purpose for which justice system is meant?

It is not for nothing that senior and eminent Supreme Court lawyer Subramanian Swamy who is also a famous politician minced just no words in blaming corrupt politicians for the increase in crimes of worst horrifying kind against women. It is a hard fact and an unpalatable truth which we cannot deny that 45% of our elected representatives from every party in Parliament have serious criminal cases of rape, murder etc pending against them! Can we ever even hope that such lawmakers will ever make strict laws to stop the rapidly increasing crimes against women?

No doubt, we are really nothing but “fools” if we hope so! This alone explains why only 3 persons have been hanged for rape cases in last more than 37 years! Shame on them for having utmost soft corner for criminals and giving them the privilege of mercy petition and then not deciding it in decades so that they are not hanged and shame also on us for having elected such lawmakers who never want mandatory death penalty for rapists in our country and who always want that they should not be hanged!

What a crying shame that a girl child is not safe even in the home district of Nagpur from where our incumbent CJI – Sharad Arvind Bobde hails! Just recently the body of the five-year-old daughter of a farm labourer with her head smashed was found on an agriculture farm in Linga village in Nagpur district! CJI rightly warns us of the perils of “instant justice” but it is high time and now crimes against women have to be fought on a war footing if we want that the people’s faith in judiciary stands restored!

It must be underscored that there has to be zero tolerance for all forms of violence against women and girl! The accused must be tried promptly and a fixed time limit must be set in all such cases for trial to happen and cases to be decided. It brooks no more delay now anymore!

While it is true that “Justice hurried is justice buried” but it is equally true also that “Justice delayed is justice denied”! It is good to learn that amid the outrage over the death of the Unnao rape victim by brutally stabbing and then burning her, the UP government has finally woken up and has now announced that it would set up 218 fast track courts for speedy disposal of cases of sexual crimes against women and children. The State at present has 42,389 pending cases of sexual offences against children and 25,749 pending cases of rape and by none other than UP State Law Minister – Brajesh Pathak.

He further revealed that given the high number of pending cases and to ensure their speedy disposal, 218 new fast track courts would be set up, including 144 for sexual crimes against women. He also said that, “Out of this, 144 will be regular courts and will hear only rape cases. For crimes against children, under POCSO [Protection of Children from Sexual Offences], we are going to open 74 new courts.”

He further disclosed that, “New posts of judges of the level of the Additional Sessions Judge would be created in all the 218 courts. The government had estimated a budget of Rs 75 lakh per court. The Centre would bear 60% of the costs and the State the remaining.” This is really a good step in the right direction and other States too must emulate UP in this regard!

But this alone is not enough! Our laws must be also amended accordingly as is being contemplated also as was disclosed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah who had said that IPC, CrPC and penal laws will be amended drastically as it has been continuing from the British colonial era and it is the need of the hour also! Those who burn women or throw acid on women or cause grievous hurt to women must be awarded mandatory death penalty and for this to happen our penal laws must be amended accordingly! It brooks no more delay anymore!

Sanjeev Sirohi

Due Process Of Law For Rapists Must Speed Up Now

It has been repeated ad nauseam that we all must respect law and allow the due process of law to work accordingly. It cannot be denied that “fake encounters” and “extra judicial killings” are a big threat to our Indian democracy. But the biggest threat to our criminal justice system is to justify the excruciatingly glacial pace with which our courts function under the garb of “due process of law”! It is the victims families who bear the maximum brunt because of this which under no circumstances can ever be justified on any ground whatsoever! This cannot be left unattended and it is high time now that the due process of law for rapists must speed up now!

Is it due process of law that thousands of Judges post are lying vacant in trial courts due to which inordinate delay in delivering justice happens? Is it due process of law that an astonishing 38% of sanctioned posts for High Court Judges – 410 of 1,079 posts are lying vacant? Is it due process of law that thousands of Judges post are lying vacant in trial courts? Is it due process of law that we earlier saw how even posts of Supreme Court Judges are lying vacant?

Is it due process of law that witnesses are threatened to turn hostile by dreaded goons due to which they succumb many times out of fear? Is it due process of law that those witnesses who still don’t listen to dreaded goons are liquidated brutally? Is it due process of law that witnesses who speak up against dreaded goons or who are rape victims and inspite of security needs are denied the same by the police due to which they are brutally murdered?

Is it due process of law that rape cases keep pending for many years first in the trial court, then for many years in the High Court and finally in the Supreme Court? Is it due process of law that Public Prosecutors many times skip appearance on crucial hearings due to which rape victim suffers immensely? Is it due process of law that the victim has to wait endlessly for getting justice and she is told clearly by the Judges that don’t expect instant justice and she can get justice after decades of fighting the legal battle in court after following the due process of law?

This must change now and the judicial system must now speed up cases in serious crimes like that of rape among others. Our judicial system needs a lots of changes which will benefit the rape victim. It can be done if there is adequate political will in this regard!

We just saw how amid a chorus of voices in both Houses of Parliament endorsing the encounter killing by Telangana Police of the four accused in the gangrape and murder of a veterinary doctor in Hyderabad, there were a few voices of caution and dissent also that cut across party lines which cannot be ignored. We are a democratic country where “rule of law” prevails and we all as good citizens have to abide by it. There can be no denying or disputing it.

While condemning the Hyderabad police encounter, BJP MP Maneka Gandhi told reporters outside Parliament that, “Whatever happened was terrible for the country. You cannot take the law in your hands. They (accused) would have been hanged anyway.” I agree with Maneka Gandhi’s first two statements that whatever happened was terrible for the country and no one can take law in one’s own hands. There can be no denying it!

But I don’t agree with the third line that, “They (accused) would have been hanged anyway.” Our past experience does not inspire the unflinching confidence which Maneka has tried to demonstrate in our criminal justice system! We cannot run away from the ugly truth that confronts us on this score!

Based on my personal knowledge I will tell what I know on this count. The last time we had the great privilege to see a rapist being hanged was 15 years ago in 2004 when a poor Dhananjoy Chatterjee was hanged on circumstantial evidence alone with his petition being drafted by Tihar jail prisoners as was pointed out by senior Supreme Court advocate Colin Gonsalves which is nothing but a “miscarriage of justice” because in other similar cases like that of Priyadarshini Mattoo rape cum murder case where the evidence was direct, death penalty was not given because there were “eminent and experienced lawyers” to defend him! Similarly before 2004, it was way back in 1982 that Ranga and Birla were rightly hanged.

But can Maneka Gandhi tell me why is it that just three rapists hanged in last 37 years and why no gang rapists have been hanged ever till now at least to the best of my knowledge? Is this due process of law? Is this the right manner of imparting justice?

What about the other thousands of rapists cum murderers who escape very easily from punishment? Why have they been spared? Is it just because they were able to hire a battery of “eminent and experienced” lawyers who were able to give thousands of reasons for saving their clients from being sent to the gallows? Is this due process of law?

I have just no words of praise for Naresh Gujral who is Rajya Sabha MP of Shiromani Akali Dal and who sums up most eloquently and elegantly by saying that, “Though I feel very strongly for women’s security because I have two daughters, the due process of law is to be followed. The problem is the process of law has become very slow. But still, there has to be process of law. This way, we are walking towards anarchy. We are not savages. There were four accused and a full investigation did not take place and we do not know whether all four were involved or not. This is dangerous.”

In other words, Naresh Gujral who is a learned Rajya Sabha MP and son of former PM IK Gujral has not minced any words to make it very clear that the nub of the problem in our criminal justice system is this: “The problem is the process of law has become very slow.” Why can’t the due process of law for rapists be speed up? Who is stopping it?

It can be done provided there is political will as was very rightly acknowledged by none other than the Vice President – M Venkaiah Naidu himself. He said that, “I am not against any bill or new law, but what I always feel is political will and administrative skills to kill the social evil are needed. Change in the mindset is the need of the hour and that we should go back to the roots and culture. Looking at such incidents from the prism of religion and politics would ensure that the “cause is lost”.” Very rightly so!

Why can’t Centre display adequate political will and take the bull by the horns? Why can’t thousands of rapists be hanged by ensuring greater speed in “due process of law” which presently is moving at snail’s pace? The ball certainly lies clearly in the Centre’s court and it must now take the historic initiative in this regard just like it did on Article 370 which invited praise from many Congress and other opposition leaders also!

Having said this, it must be pointed out that on new laws, the Vice President said that, “Bringing new laws was not the solution. We brought a Bill on Nirbhaya. What happened? Was the problem solved?”

With due respect to Vice President whom I adore, I must tell him that he is right that they brought a Bill on Nirbhaya but it did not solve the problem. In the same vein, I must tell him even though it would seem unpalatable that the Bill on Nirbhaya was riddled with inconsistencies and there were too many “escape routes” which were exploited fully. Why mercy petition for rapists and terrorists have not been abolished? Why no time limit fixed for deciding mercy petition?

Why mandatory death penalty not inserted in Bill on Nirbhaya? Why Judges were armed with “discretion bombs” in form of “may” in the new Sections inserted by the 2018 amendment which now must be defused by removing “may” and punishing those who commit rape as in Nirbhaya case with mandatory death penalty? Was it done earlier? Certainly not!

Why even for repeated offenders of rape there is no mandatory death penalty? Why “escape route” in form of “life imprisonment” still open in the Bill on Nirbhaya? Why should rapists get a chance again ever to commit rape again and still not get death penalty compulsorily?

Why no time limit was fixed for trial court, High Court and also Supreme Court to decide the case? Why was it allowed to linger on for so long? Why minimum punishment for gang rape was fixed at 20 years?

Why no mandatory death penalty was fixed for gang rape? Why maximum punishment was fixed only at life and not death? Why time limit not fixed for filing review and mercy petition and also for deciding them?

Whose interest did all this serve by leaving it totally untouched? It goes without saying that it was the accused rapist who gained the most due to all this just like we saw earlier prior to bringing of a Bill on Nirbhaya. Can the Vice President deny this? Certainly not! But certainly Vice President is right in advocating that minor rapists whop know how to rape must be punished just like other adult!

I must also admire what Trinamool Congress Leader in the Rajya Sabha – Derek O’ Brien said about this. He very rightly said that, “The problem needs a solution without politics. West Bengal has 48 fast track courts of which 46 are for dealing with cases of violence against women. I strongly believe it’s a social evil. We need to solve this without politics. Quick justice is the need of the hour, but we need the rule of law. This is a very emotional issue, a sensitive issue.”

More importantly, selective hanging of rapists as we saw in case of poor Dhananjoy Chatterjee must stop once and for all. All rapists irrespective of their background must be hanged and killed promptly just like mosquitoes! No discrimination based on economic and social status should be done on this score!

Also, those who are poor like Dhananjoy Chatterjee must be given the best lawyer so that “due process of law” is actually implemented on ground and it is not the prisoners of Tihar jail who draft his petition which ostensibly had to be rejected as it was poorly drafted! What a shame that Dhananjoy Chatterjee’s application was drafted by Tihar jail inmates as was pointed out by senior Supreme Court advocate Colin Gonsalves which is nothing but the supreme rather worst travesty of justice as he was hanged on circumstantial evidence alone whereas in other similar cases the accused rapist were not given death penalty! This nothing but abuse of “due process of law”!

This should never be allowed under any circumstances to happen! Why should rich rapists be allowed to walk away even after raping, committing murder and committing gang rape? To walk the talk, no rapist irrespective of his economic status should ever be spared under any circumstances and this is when we can then say that “due process of law” has been followed!

Most importantly, the due process of law for rapist must be speed up. The time limit for completing trial in trial courts as well as time for deciding cases in High Courts and Supreme Court must be fixed and should be accorded the topmost priority as it brooks no inordinate delay! Centre and also Supreme Court must act in tandem to ensure this.

To sum up, Julio Ribeiro who is a retired IPS officer and who was Mumbai Police Commissioner, DGP Gujarat and DGP Punjab and whom I hold in highest esteem very rightly says that, “The Telangana police unit which shot dead the four suspects in the veterinary lady doctor’s rape-cum-murder offence were likely carrying out a mandate entrusted to it by their own leaders who, in turn, will have received instructions from political superiors. The public baying for blood is a symptom of a puzzled and ill-informed society. Until the system of judicial process is put back on the rails, these short-cuts will continue. How does the government – with the judiciary, the Bar and the police, all components of the judicial process – correct all these flaws in the system? For starters, the court must hold daily hearings in such cases without any interruption. No adjournments should ever be given. If lawyers are busy with other cases, they must take steps to send their juniors to attend those other cases instead. All stakeholders in the judicial process must sit across the table and take a decision to speed up the trials of rape and murder cases, at least.”

He further adds that, “When I was a young student of law, those accused of heinous crimes like murder or rape were tried swiftly and punished or set free, as the evidence on record dictated, within a year. The average time taken was eight or nine months, during which time the accused were in the custody of jailors. The hearings were held daily, and no adjournments were asked for or given. The public prosecutor and the lawyer of the accused were invariably present in court to rise in their seats when the presiding judge entered at the appointed hour of the morning. The witnesses were kept ready outside the court and would be ushered inside the courtroom when his or her name was called by the judge’s clerk. There was great precision and solemnity to this whole process. Sadly, this has disappeared now with advocates for the prosecution or the defence seeking adjournments, often on flimsy grounds. Sadder still, they are able to obtain it without any difficulty. The entire atmosphere has been transformed into one witnessed routinely in the courts of the lower judiciary. Delays in the disposal of trials of those accused who are charged with murder and rape, or other heinous crimes, has warped the judicial system. If those who dare to commit such crimes feel that there is laxity within the system, where the chances available to suborn witnesses are enhanced, then the threat of law catching up with offender retreats. An atmosphere of lawlessness creeps in. It is exactly this atmosphere of lawlessness that presently prevails. The middle class, who form the bulk of the opinion makers in any country, put pressure – subtle or overt – on the governments of the day to preserve their sense of security in anyway possible. Since the judicial system does not operate as smoothly as it used to in the past, popularly elected governments, in turn, put pressure on the police forces to use other methods to solve the problem.”

It is high time now and both the judiciary and the Centre must take the suggestions of Julio Reibero who has a vast experience of police service most seriously and implement his commendable suggestions! Rape laws must be earnestly expedited and all laws which affect women must be speed up so that women gets justice as per due process of law and not by encounters! Only then will people start respecting judiciary in the true sense and people’s unflinching faith which earlier was there shall stand restored once again!

Sanjeev Sirohi

Human Rights Of Women Must Also Be Respected

It is most unfortunate and most disgraceful that in India where women is worshipped as Durga, Kali, Gauri etc and where we all show utmost respect to our sister and mother, we don’t care to ensure that those men who without being brainwashed in Pakistan by Pakistani Army or ISI or terror leaders like Hafiz Saeed or Syed Salaluddin or Masood Azhar or anyone else and without being trained in any hostile foreign country perpetrate the worst kind of crimes against women which under no circumstances can ever be justified by anyone. Why when rapists gang rape a women turn by turn and then stab her and then set her ablaze still why in our country are our lawmakers always bothered only and only about the human rights of men alone? Why are such rapists and gang rapists not killed like mosquitoes?

Why should any leniency be shown towards such demons?  Why is it that in last 15 years just one poor Dhananjoy Chatterjee is hanged on circumstantial evidence alone in 2004 and whose petition was drafted by prisoners of Tihar jail as was pointed by earlier by senior Supreme Court advocate Colin Gonsalves as he could not hire a lawyer even though every year we keep hearing that more than 32,000 to 33,000 rape incidents keep happening? Why is it that from 1982 to 2004 only Ranga and Birla are hanged for rape cum murder and who certainly deserved no mercy?

But what about other rapists cum murderers? Why were they also not hanged for similar crimes? Why the rich and the affluent are able to escape punishment just because they are able to hire a battery of “eminent and experienced” lawyers to offer thousands of reasons for sparing their client from being sent to the gallows?

Why are our lawmakers not closing all the escape routes in the form of “discretion bomb” in our IPC which many times mostly saves a rapist from being sent to the gallows? Why there is no mandatory death penalty for rape and gang rape? Why even for repeated offenders we see that there is no mandatory death penalty?

Why are rape trials and trials of other crimes perpetrated against women not conducted most expeditiously? Why do we see inordinate delay in the completion of rape trials and trials of other crimes pertaining to women? Should we be proud of it? Certainly not!

It is heartening to note that while urging for quick disposal of rape cases, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on December 8 said that he would write to all Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of the High Courts to complete investigation in cases of rape and those registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act in two months. He also said that the trial of such cases should also be completed within six months. Inordinate delay in completing rape cases has certainly brought disrepute to our legal system and to our judiciary and so what our Union Law Minister has just recently stated is good to read and it must now be earnestly implemented in totality! It brooks no more delay.

While noting that incidents of rape and crimes against women are “unfortunate and highly condemnable”, Ravi Shankar Prasad asserted quite unequivocally that perpetrators of such “heinous” crimes will be punished expeditiously through the judicial process. He said that, “I am going to write letters to all the chief ministers urging them to complete the investigation within two months in rape and Pocso cases.” This is certainly a commendable and courageous step which must be appreciated unequivocally!

Not stopping here, Ravi Shankar Prasad further added that, “I will also write to the Chief Justices of all the High Courts to dispose of expeditiously all cases relating to rape and Pocso pending in the Fast Track Courts.” He also disclosed that he has also requested the Chief Justice of India to ensure that there is a mechanism for speedy disposal of such cases. His comments assume huge significance as they came in the backdrop of nation-wide outrage and uproar over the alleged gang rape cum murder cases at Hyderabad and Unnao.

While mentioning that 704 Fast Track Courts (FTCs) are currently working across the country, Ravi Shankar Prasad further revealed that 1,023 new FTCs are going to be constituted to try cases of Pocso and rape offences, besides other crimes against women. All such FTCs must be constituted at the earliest. It brooks no more delay now!

It is most concerning that there is an alarming increase in the incidents of rape, gang rape, throwing of acid on women, and many other crimes perpetrated on women. The main reason behind such a meteoric upsurge is that criminals feel that they can get away by doing anything in India as the criminal justice system functions at an excruciatingly glacial pace which only further punished women and accused easily gets bail! Can this be ever justified by any sane person?

We all know that the Unnao rape victim who was gang raped earlier in March and after complaining to police the gang rapists were arrested. But they were released after Allahabad High Court granted them bail. What did it culminate into?

As we all know the gang rapists ensured that they waylaid the rape victim while she was on her way to attend court hearing at Raebareli to testify against the criminals. Why were the gang rapists given bail at the first instance? Why were the rights of accused given precedence over the rights of the women?

Not stopping here, why did the police not provide adequate security to the rape victim? Why were the criminals allowed to easily set her ablaze and stab her? Should no policemen be held accountable in this regard?

Why are such policemen just suspended? Why are they not dismissed from service and why are they not held accountable for the death of the Unnao gangrape victim? Why is there so much of leniency towards those police cops who should have jolly well ensured that the gangrape victim was not left alone and especially when she was going to attend court hearing and testify herself in gang rape case why was she not provided full security?

It is good to learn that just a day after the Chief Justice of India Sharad Bobde said that justice can never be instant and loses its character when it becomes revenge we also got to read what our Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said that, “There cannot be instant justice, but there cannot be constant delays in justice delivery either, else people become restive.” Moreover, how can we afford to ignore the time tested dictum that “Justice delayed is justice denied”? There can be no denying that even the Chief Justice of India – Sharad Bobde is most concerned to see how rapidly crimes against women are increasing in our country and he fully realizes the invaluable importance of combating such crimes on a war footing!

We get to read everyday so many news of even minors being most brutally raped, murdered with her head smashed and what not. But how many times do we read that such rapists, gang rapists and murderers are hanged? Why always we see that the rights of the accused takes precedence over the rights of the women victim? This has to certainly change now if we really want that the people’s faith in our judiciary stands intact!

Why should throwing of acid on women not be punished with mandatory death penalty? How can throwing of acid on women be justified on any ground? How can any punishment less than death penalty or at the least life term without any remission which means imprisonment for the whole life not be awarded on all those who throw acid on women or hurt her in grievous manner?

Why are woman’s right to safety and her right to life not accorded the highest priority in India? Should we not feel ashamed to see that even those who throw acid on women escape very easily after spending at the most just few years in prison? Why should dowry death not be punished with mandatory death penalty? Why are so many escape routes left open for criminals to escape easily and with just a light punishment even after committing the most horrifying crimes against women?

Why is it that under our penal laws there is no mandatory life imprisonment also for gang rape as stipulated in Section 376D of the IPC? Why the punishment for gang rape as stipulated in Section 376D of the IPC is “shall not be less than twenty years but which may extend to life”? Why this “discretion bomb” in form of “may” is inserted in Section 376D dealing with gang rape?

Should this “discretion bomb” not be defused promptly by removing it and providing for “mandatory death penalty” considering the irrefutable fact that gang rape incidents are increasing alarmingly in our country followed by even gang burning of gang rape victims as we saw most recently in Unnao and earlier in Hyderabad with a 26-year-old veterinary doctor? Can gang rape be justified under any circumstances? Why then do we see that there is no mandatory death penalty for such offences?

Why different punishment prescribed for gang rape on woman under 16 years of age as prescribed in Section 376DA and that on woman under 12 years of age as prescribed under Section 376DB of IPC? Why only life imprisonment under Section 376DA and not death? Why option of life and death in Section 376DB of IPC? Why not mandatory death penalty?

Why should minors who rape and gang rape not be punished with death? Why should they at least not be punished with mandatory life term? Why should they be allowed to escape easily after spending some time in reformatory home as we saw in Nirbhaya gang rape cum murder case where the maximum brutality was committed by the minor?

What message are we sending to the world? That in India you can get away by doing anything just because you are a minor! Why should our law makers not listen to the invaluable advice of Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu in this regard who said that there should be no benefit given to minors when they commit such heinous crimes and underscored that political will is needed to implement it?

Why does India figure even far below Pakistan and Bangladesh in happiness index ranking at an abysmally low 140? It is because in India just two rapists are hanged from 1982 to 2003 and from 2004 to 2019 just one rapist is hanged on circumstantial evidence alone! Is this what is fair and can this be justified in the guise of “due process of law”?

Why should our outdated colonial laws like IPC, Evidence Act and CrPC not be changed drastically to meet the present circumstances? Why should human rights of women not be accorded the topmost priority? Why when incidents of rape, gang rape by 4 men or 14 men or even more followed by stabbing and followed by setting her ablaze not be followed by gang hanging?

How many incidents of gang rape are followed by gang hanging? Why our rape laws ensure that gang rapists are never hanged? Should we not be ashamed of this?

Why judiciary never ensures that gang rapists are gang hanged? Why we are happy just after seeing that one poor Dhananjoy Chatterjee is hanged on circumstantial evidence alone? If gang rapists who first gang rape and then set the women ablaze after stabbing her also not deserve death penalty then this death penalty must be kicked out of India right now!

Today that is December 10 is “Human Rights Day”! We must always accept that even “woman” is “human” and not just “men” alone! Therefore, our law makers must ensure that human rights of “women” are accorded the top priority and those who dare to violate them are dealt with swiftly and sternly in accordance with law which must be now amended urgently to ensure that no criminal is able to mock at women and yet escape lightly just by using his “money and muscle power”!

Sanjeev Sirohi

Speedy Capital Punishment For Rapists Must Be Ensured

        “The deteriorating situation of women safety in the entire country, especially in Uttar Pradesh, is a cause of grave concern. It is shocking that just within six months of the reporting of the case, the accused was allowed to come out on bail. The girl has suffered tremendously for raising her voice against a brutal crime inflicted on her. The root cause for crimes against women is the complete absence of fear of certain and swift punishment in the minds of the criminals.”

–        Delhi Commission for Women Chief Swati Maliwal who is on indefinite hunger strike demanding speedy capital punishment for rapists.

Maliwal very rightly demands capital punishment for rapists within six months of their conviction. I will certainly not term capital punishment for rapists as “revenge” but will rather term it as “justice” for which the victim and her family runs from pillar to post and faces all sorts of inconveniences, threats and what not! But it must be uniformly imposed on all rapists and it is not once in 15 years that a poor rapist is hanged on circumstantial evidence alone as he was so poor that his petition was drafted by prisoners of Tihar jail as was pointed out by senior Supreme Court advocate Colin Gonsalves while in similar other cases the accused are not hanged just because they are affluent and are able to hire a battery of “eminent and experienced lawyers” who can argue most forcefully on their behalf! This injustice must stop! Why can’t thousands and thousands of rapists be hanged just like Dhananjoy Chatterjee was hanged in 2004? Why this selective hanging of rapists? Before Dhananjoy, it was Ranga and Birla who were hanged in 1982 as there was definite proof against them and there can be no sympathy for such rapists cum murderers but what about the other rapists? Why are they spared? Is this justice? Is this equality? What sort of equality is this?

It is being written in newspapers that the Union Home Ministry has recommended rejection of mercy plea of one of the convicts in the December 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape case to President Ram Nath Kovind. The President’s Secretariat is likely to decide on the mercy petition before December 16, said people aware of the matter. Vinay Sharma who is one of the convicts facing death sentence for the rape and murder of a 23-year-old paramedic student, had filed the mercy petition before the President. As per the law, the death penalty of other co-accused cannot be executed unless the government takes a decision on Sharma’s plea. Three others – Pawan Gupta, Akshay Thakur and Mukesh Singh – did not file any mercy plea while the fifth accused Ram Singh had allegedly committed suicide in Tihar jail in March 2013. Officials said Sharma’s mercy plea has been pending for more than four months.

The moot question is: Why does it take so long to decide on mercy petition? Why can’t mercy petition be decided in just few hours or few days or few weeks? Why does it take decades as we saw in case of killers of former PM Rajiv Gandhi in which case even in decades it was not decided due to which the killers get the benefit?

Bluntly put:  Why so much of inordinate and unacceptable delay in deciding mercy petition? Why can’t a time frame be fixed in this regard? Why should the parents and relatives of victim keep waiting indefinitely for mercy petition to be decided?

Does it not make a complete mockery of our entire criminal justice system? Why no attention is paid to this all-important issue by our law makers? Should we be proud of it?

Why is it that in Nirbhaya’s case it was only after the case of gangrape and murder of a 26-year-old veterinary doctor in Hyderabad that the Delhi government expedited his appeal? Why earlier the Delhi government was just sitting over the appeal? Why Delhi government did not took the all-important decision of deciding mercy petition swiftly?

Whose interest was this inordinate delay serving? Could it not have been decided in time? It merits no description as we all know the ostensible answer.

Why it took so long for Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal to send the file rejecting the mercy plea to the Home Ministry just recently? Why only interest of accused is safeguarded while deciding mercy petition and that of victim is blatantly, brutely and brazenly disregarded? Should we be proud of it? Why for decades the mercy petition of killers of former PM late Rajiv Gandhi was not decided? What image does this project of India in front of the world? That India does not have the courage to punish the killers of its own former PM late Rajiv Gandhi!

Why can’t even President decide on mercy petition as in case of Nirbhaya within few days? Why Delhi Lt Governor took an agonizingly long time of many months to decide on mercy petition? Why does it take so long to be decided?

Why the mental agony suffered by parents and victims families due to this inordinate delay in deciding mercy petition not taken into account? Why is mercy petition not abolished for heinous crimes like rape and terror cases? Why at least some time frame not fixed?

It cannot be denied that the President himself just recently while voicing sharply his serious concern on alarming rise in cases of crime against women had minced just no words in saying plainly that, “Women’s safety is a very serious issue. Incidents of demonic attacks on girls shake the conscience of the country. It is the responsibility of every parent to instill among boys the feeling of respect for women.”

I have the highest respect for President and I fully agree with what he said about women’s safety being a serious issue and also on instilling in boys the feeling of respect for women. But I humbly beg to differ with him on just one aspect. Just recently while speaking on cases where minor girls are raped, President Ram Nath Kovind had said that, “In this context, several things are coming up. Such convicts have been given the right of mercy petition by the Constitution. I have said that there should be reconsideration on this…In cases under Pocso (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, they be deprived of the right of mercy petition. They do not need any such right.”

With great pain I have to ask: Why only minor girls? Why those who rape even major women not be deprived of the right to mercy petition? Why should there be any discrimination of any kind between minor and major?

It cannot be overstated that a rape is a rape which under no circumstances can be ever justified! Those who indulge in it certainly deserve no mercy! Whether the victim is minor or major should just no matter at all! With full humility I must say that the President must reconsider his stand on this!

The Vice President of India M Venkaiah Naidu very rightly said that those minors who know how to rape should be punished just like others. They should not be allowed to escape easily which sets a very wrong precedent as we see most unfortunately in our country! Why should the minor not be at least sentenced to life who plays with the life of the women in the most brutal manner as we saw in Nirbhaya’s case that it was the minor boy who perpetrated the maximum brutality on Nirbhaya? Why should they be allowed to come out of reform home within two or three years as we see most unfortunately right now?

V Narayansamy who is Puducherry Chief Minister while hailing the killing of all 4 accused of gang rape and murder of Hyderabad’s 26-year-old veterinary doctor said, “This punishment (encounter killing) must be accepted as punishment by the Lord. Criminals must learn a lesson from this incident.” He is not alone in feeling so. There is a national rejoice over the killing of these 4 rape accused which is something unprecedented and it is for first time in my life that I have seen so even though some have sounded caution and restraint on this as this would only encourage “extrajudicial killings”!

Former Police Commissioner of Mumbai MN Singh wondered where the rule of law was. He minced no words in saying that, “This incident and the subsequent encounter deaths of the accused is a sad commentary on the criminal justice delivery system in India. People seem to have lost faith in the system because it doesn’t seem to be delivering justice and people want those involved in such heinous crimes to be punished expeditiously and sternly, which is not happening.”

On the 2012 Nirbhaya gangrape case, MN Singh said that, “The case is seven years old and has been lost in procedures. It is frustrating that people are celebrating when the accused are killed in encounters. They feel it brings justice to the system and deters criminals. People are losing faith because the system is so procedure-oriented and so prone to delay it doesn’t seem to be functional.”

How can the Supreme Court and our lawmakers take all this lying down? Why should a definite time frame not be fixed for deciding rape cases, gangrape cases and terror cases not just in trial court but also in High Court and Supreme Court too? Similarly why should a definite time frame not be fixed for deciding review petition and mercy petition till they are not abolished altogether?

Former Director General of Police Prakash Singh while lamenting at the Hyderabad encounter said that, “It just goes to show people’s eroding faith in the country’s criminal justice system. Look at the Nirbhaya case, it’s been seven years and despite the fast track court and media hype, the system has not hanged them (the accused) because the mercy petition is pending.”

To put it simple and straight: Does this not make a complete mockery of our criminal justice system and severely erodes the faith of people even in Supreme Court? Why is mercy petition not decided at the earliest? If mercy petition can’t be abolished as many human rights lawyers would argue then why can’t a definite time frame be fixed for deciding it? Certainly no one will object to this! Only adequate political will is needed as was pointed out by the Vice President Venkaiah Naidu!

We just cannot overlook what Julio Ribeiro who is former Mumbai Police Commissioner and Punjab DGP said while condemning the encounter that, “The judicial process system is not working. That is why these short-cuts are adopted under pressure from the public and politicians.” Ribeiro is a man of vast experience in police service and so what he says not only deserves a food for thought but the Supreme Court must also seriously introspect on this and try to complete such serious criminal cases of rape and gangrape well in time!

It must also be pointed out here that SS Virk who served as DGP of Maharashtra and Punjab said quite bluntly and most rightly that, “In the Nirbhaya case, strong legal action was taken against the accused. They were all sentenced to death but have not been hanged so far. The legal system loses its impact in such cases. When our criminal justice system becomes weak and ineffective, the public expects strong action. Then even if the action is not strictly legal, people welcome it. We have to fast-track our system, make it more effective.”

Senior Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam said, “Encounter killing of all 4 accused of # Hydrabad Rape-Case may seem like unlawful but it was the need of the hour. I congratulate # hydrabad police to instill sense of security in the women of our country. # Human Rights activists may not agree but a strong message had to be put out.” However, I personally very strongly feel that if they had been made to face trial in court of law and then sent to gallows, the happiness would have been much more. But the excruciatingly glacial pace with which our judicial system functions is certainly a matter of deepest concern for all of us!

It cannot be overlooked that just recently even the Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on the solemn occasion of inauguration of a new building of the Rajasthan High Court in Jodhpur made a fervent appeal saying that, “I would urge the CJI and other senior judge that now there must be a mechanism to monitor the disposal of these cases so that India’s stature as a proud country governed by rule of law must be restored at the earliest.” Prasad also assured government funding for it which must be appreciated!

No doubt, Ravi Shankar Prasad has a point when he says that, “In the law relating to violence against women, we have already laid down capital punishment and other severe punishment including completion of trial in two months’ time.” But it also cannot be denied that capital punishment has not been made mandatory in our rape laws even for repeated offenders nor for gang rape on women under twelve years of age. All the discretion bombs” in the form of “may” and providing alternative of “life” in our rape laws need to be defused promptly if we really want to send a strong and stern message to all rapists that any misadventure by them would culminate in their being lined up for being hanged! Just cosmetic steps meant for public consumption won’t do! The fear of “swift and strict” punishment need to be ingrained in rapists which can be possible only if our rape laws are amended drastically so as to close all escape routes for rapists and gang rapists!

No doubt, Ravi Shankar has a point when he says there were 704 fast track courts for such offences and others. But it also cannot be denied that 15 states and Union Territories have failed to set up fast-track special courts (FTSC) for speedy rape trials, ignoring repeated reminders from the Centre. These states have not responded to the Centre’s proposal to start FTSCs to fast-track the trial of sexual assault cases, including those registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act. It is quite glaring to note that both Telangana and Uttar Pradesh where rape incidents have sparked huge public outrage did not take adequate steps to designate special courts. Telangana constituted its first FTC on December 4 after the rape and murder of the 26-year-old veterinary doctor in Hyderabad. Earlier reminders were sent to the states on five occasions – September 5, October 15, October 22, November 5 and November 20. This is what is most shocking and reflects the callous attitude of the states on such an important issue. This alone explains why senior Supreme Court advocate VV Girti, who assisted the top court in the case resulting in the November order relating to fast track courts for Pocso cases, said the states had abdicated their duty by not setting up FTSCs in a time-bound manner. Giri further added that, “One needs a political will to set up FTSCs and not drag the matter. Besides, the state must also appoint a special prosecutor to conduct the trial on behalf of the prosecuting agency. The more the case gets prolonged, chances of tampering by the accused are also high.”

Smriti Irani who is Union Minister for Women and Children Development says that, “There are talks for enacting a provision of stricter punishment for rapists. The government has already come out with the provision of death penalty. Nothing can be more severe than handing capital punishment (for rapists).” She must read the rape laws enacted in IPC even after the 2018 amendments carefully. “Escape routes” in the form of “discretion bombs” are there not just for child rapists but even for repeated offenders. All these “escape routes’ must be fully closed and “discretion bombs” must be promptly defused by making death penalty mandatory with no option of life term! Only then will rapists think thousand times before even attempting to commit rape!

However, it is good to learn from Smriti Irani that funds are being utilized for setting up 1023 fast track courts in the country for speedy disposal of rape cases. It is also good to learn from her that a national database of more than 7 lakh offenders found guilty of rape is readied to keep an eye on them. I would rather say that, “Why should all these 7 lakh offenders found guilty of rape not be hanged? Why hang just one poor Dhanajoy Chatterjee in 15 years?

It cannot be denied that Smriti Rani rightly said that society should come forward to provide legal aid to rape survivors. She also rightly said that respect for women should begin from families as they are the centres for “nurturing moral values”. Strict laws alone even though imperative are not enough to check crimes against women! It merits no reiteration that the whole attitude of society must change hugely towards women and girl child and only then can we hope that crime against women will subside to a great extent in coming years!

Sanjeev Sirohi

Why No Death Penalty For Gang Rape In India?

“Brother, please save me, I don’t want to die. I want to live. Those who have done this to me, I want to see them getting a death sentence.”

These were the most emotional last words of Unnao gang rape victim who was brutally gang raped in March and when police allowed those gang rapists to be released on bail then they decided to burn her while she was on her way to attend the court hearing pertaining to this gang rape case as they were hundred percent convinced that the judiciary of India does not hang gang rapists and it is only once in 15 years that a poor Dhananjoy Chatterjee who could not afford fees to hire lawyers and whose petition was drafted by Tihar jail prisoners is hanged and so the chances of very easily escaping from strict punishment are quite bright! Every Indian will get moved to read what this Unnao rape victim said before dying! What was her fault? That she was a women?

Why are rapists released on bail for some time as we saw in case of Unnao gang rape case? Why no security is provided to the victim who was raped? Why the life and safety of victim is not cared for by police as we saw most unfortunately in Unnao which resulted in accused burning her 90% which led to her death later? Why should the strictest action not be taken against all those police cops who ensured that the accused were out on bail and who ensured that gang rape victim got no security?

Should we be proud of our legal justice system which operates at an excruciatingly glacial pace and makes sure that those who commit rape and gangrape coupled with murdering the rape victim by either setting them ablaze as has nowadays become the latest fashion or in some other manner in some cases? All the Judges of Supreme Court, ex Judges, ex-CJIs, legal giants like K Parasaran, Soli J Sorabjee, Kapil Sibal, Harish Salve, Mukul Rohatgi, etc must ponder over it and think of ways by which the waning public faith in our judicial system is restored! If the public faith is destroyed then people will start taking law in their own hands to deliver “instant justice” which can never be good for our country!

It is most shocking that the incidents of not just rape but even gang rape followed by setting ablaze the victim is increasing very rapidly in our country as we saw most recently in Unnao, Hyderabad and many other cities but still we don’t get to read gang hanging! Are gang rapists immune from death penalty? Why is it that under our penal laws there is no mandatory death penalty for gang rape?

Why is it that under our penal laws there is no mandatory life imprisonment also for gang rape as stipulated in Section 376D of the IPC? Why the punishment for gang rape as stipulated in Section 376D of the IPC is “shall not be less than twenty years but which may extend to life”? Why this “discretion bomb” in form of “may” is inserted in Section 376D dealing with gang rape?

Should this “discretion bomb” not be defused promptly by removing it and providing for “mandatory death penalty” considering the irrefutable fact that gang rape incidents are increasing alarmingly in our country followed by even gang burning of gang rape victims as we saw most recently in Unnao and earlier in Hyderabad with a 26-year-old veterinary doctor? Can gang rape be justified under any circumstances? Why then do we see that there is no mandatory death penalty for such offences?

Why different punishment prescribed for gang rape on woman under 16 years of age as prescribed in Section 376DA and that on woman under 12 years of age as prescribed under Section 376DB of IPC? Why only life imprisonment under Section 376DA and not death? Why option of life and death in Section 376DB of IPC? Why not mandatory death penalty?

Why even for repeated offenders there is no mandatory death penalty and why the option of life term is added simultaneously in Section 376E of IPC?  All these escape routes must be closed now forever so that rapists are never able to take advantage of the loopholes in our legal system anymore now! But are our politicians, lawmakers and Centre ready to do this or will they be happy with just face saving exercise and lip service? Only time will tell!

Why is it that about 15 to 16 years ago a poor rapist named Dhananjoy Chatterjee was hanged for rape-cum-murder of a Class XI girl in 2004 and that too on circumstantial evidence alone but no gang rapists are hanged ever? How many times have gang rapists been hanged in our country? Why are they not hanged?

Why gang rapists who even murder their victim as we saw in Nirbhaya case are not hanged till now? Should we keep feeling proud that just one poor Dhananjoy Chatterjee whose petition was drafted by prisoners of Tihar jail as was pointed out by senior Supreme Court advocate Colin Gonsalves was hanged about 15 years back in 2004? Should we not feel ashamed that many thousands of rapists cum killers escape death penalty by exploiting the legal loopholes in their favour?

Should we feel proud that since then not a single rapist has been hanged? Should we feel proud that even though thousands and thousands of rape incidents keep happening all across our country but yet we don’t see any hanging since 2004 when Dhananjoy was last hanged? Should our judiciary, lawmakers, Parliament and Centre feel very proud on this?

Why just recently we saw how people threw flowers on those policemen in Hyderabad who killed those 4 gang rapists when they attacked them as is being alleged and people started celebrating and many politicians started hailing it? Why is it that people are losing faith in the ability of our judiciary to deliver justice in time? Is it not a matter of utmost concern for all of us that encounter killings is being glorified as people believe that the legal system has been designed in such a manner that it ensures that rapists and gang rapists are not hanged for many decades?

Why is it that Arvind Kejriwal who is Chief Minister of Delhi while expressing concern over people’s loss of faith in the criminal justice system  openly says that, “People across the country are agitated over reports of horrible rape and murder incidents happening across the country that have come to light of late – whether it is Hyderabad or Unnao [where a rape victim was burnt earlier this week]. That’s a reason why people are expressing happiness and satisfaction over the police encounter in Hyderabad?” Why Kejriwal further says that, “It is also something to be worried about, the way people have lost their faith in the criminal justice system. This demands introspection and all governments must come forward and work together strengthening the criminal justice system and investigating agencies?” We all must seriously introspect on this!

Why is it that even after the killers of Nirbhaya who had been convicted by the Supreme Court and even after five years of death penalty being convicted by the Delhi High Court have not been hanged top death till now? Why their mercy petition keeps hanging? Is this the real beauty of our judicial system for which we should feel proud?

Why even Supreme Court does not say anything on it? Why even in terror cases like the killing of former PM late Rajiv Gandhi, killing of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, mercy petition keeps pending for decades? Should we be proud of this and justify it in the name of “due process”?

The Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu very rightly said that,  “What happens even after punishment is given to convicts. We all are witness… appeal, mercy (petition)… can anybody think of having mercy on such people? This kind of violation of dignity of women cannot go on unchallenged. What is required is not a new bill; what is required is political will, administrative skill and then change of mindset and then go for the kill of the social evil.” He also rightly said that minors who know how to rape should not be given any benefit and must be punished just like others! Rightly so!

Why should a definite time not be set for completing rape cases? Why should a definite time not be set for deciding rape cases in lower courts, High Court as well as the Supreme Court also? Why should review petition not be abolished or at least time limit set for deciding it?

Why should mercy petition for heinous crimes like gang rapes and terror cases not be abolished or at least a time limit be set up for deciding it? Why Centre repeatedly ignores such demand made by prominent persons in this regard? Whose interest is served in doing so? Should we be proud of it? Why is it that it takes decades or many years to decide a mercy petition? Why can’t it be decided within few days as pointed out by former Attorney General Soli J Sorabjee?

It is good to note that even our President Ram Nath Kovind rightly pointed out that incidents of demonic attacks on women have shaken the conscience of the country. He rightly said that women safety is a very serious issue and a lot of work has been done on this but much remains to be done. He also advocated that those convicted under the POCSO Act should be deprived of their right to mercy petition as they do not need any such right. Here I would beg to differ with the President most humbly and add that there should be no discrimination of POCSO and others and all the rapists and all the terrorists deserve no mercy petition under any circumstances and even if it is still not abolished it must be decided within a short span of time say a few days or weeks and not in many decades which only gives a potential tool to our adversaries to take potshots at the manner in which anyone can get away even after killing the former PM of India as we saw in case of late Rajiv Gandhi where mercy petition was not decided even after decades!

Why can’t strict and speedy justice be provided to people? Why should the 45% of lawmakers who have been elected to Parliament and who are facing themselves serious charges of rape and murder not be debarred permanently from entering politics until their name is cleared of all charges by the top court itself? Why no law has been enacted in this regard?

Why do we expect that such lawmakers who are themselves facing rape charges will support laws that mandates compulsory death penalty for all rape and terror cases? Are we not foolish? What they will favour is that just a single rapist like the poor Dhananjoy Chatterjee is hanged on the basis of circumstantial evidence alone once in 15 years and no rapists or gang rapists are hanged all these years even after they set the victim ablaze!

They will advise us that law will take its own course! They will advise us to be patient and have faith in India’s judicial system! It is high time and now the Supreme Court too must speak out most strongly against all the inadequacies in our criminal justice system due to which people’s faith in it is getting steadily dwindled as is being pointed out repeatedly in different newschannels, different newspapers and different magazines which is certainly not a healthy sign for a democratic country like India! Parliament too must seriously debate on it and should give this most sensitive issue of woman’s safety and of according nothing but death penalty to those perpetrate the most horrifying crime against women  the topmost priority instead of just debating trivial issues like that of onion or tomato or radish! Let’s hope so!

Sanjeev Sirohi

Why Only One Dhananjoy Chatterjee Hanged Till Now?

                                     Let me begin by first and foremost saying that, “A rape is a rape and under no circumstances can ever be justified! Even if a woman roams nude or is habituated to sex, this can be no ground to justify rape”! Even Supreme Court has time and again reiterated this!  Yet it is the single biggest misfortune of India that in last 15 to 16 years, only one poor rapist named Dhananjoy Chatterjee was hanged for rape cum murder of a Class XI girl and that too on circumstantial evidence alone and still he was not given the benefit of doubt! Why this zero tolerance as shown in Dhananjoy Chatterjee’s case not shown in other cases also? Why should we be not ashamed of it?

While lamenting about this, senior and eminent Supreme Court advocate Colin Gonsalves very rightly pointed out that his petition was drafted by prisoners of Tihar jail and we cannot dispute that this was rightly termed as “miscarriage of justice! Why in many other similar cases like that of Priyadarshini Mattoo murder case where a law student studying in LLB who was raped and murdered by her senior was the convict not hanged similarly?

Just because the convict was affluent and powerful! This is just one case I am citing. There are many more such cases where we see that the rich and powerful very easily escape death penalty by hiring a battery of eminent and experienced lawyers and escape with far lesser punishment! All this happens right under the nose of the Supreme Court and still we see nothing changes in last so many years! This is what I find most worrying!

What is even more deplorable is that our legal system proceeds on an excruciatingly glacial pace for which no one else but our lawmakers are directly responsible! Who are these lawmakers? Those who are elected to Parliament and 45% of them are facing criminal cases including that of rape case! Why should these lawmakers not be barred from entering Parliament until they are finally exonerated not by just lower court but by the top court? How can we expect such lawmakers to make tough laws?

This alone explains why we have all this review petition, curative petition, mercy petition etc which ensures that cases are not decided in time and by the time cases are decided finally the family of victims lose all hope and break down completely! Should we be proud of this? Why there is no mandatory death penalty for rape cases? Who is protecting them?

The Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu very rightly said that,  “What happens even after punishment is given (to convicts). We all are witness…appeal, mercy (petition)… can anybody think of having mercy on such people? This kind of violation of dignity of women cannot go on unchallenged. What is required is not a new bill; what is required is political will, administrative skill and then change of mindset and then go for the kill of the social evil.”  He has very rightly expressed his utmost unhappiness on the niggardly and glacial pace with which our justice system moves most excruciatingly which completely destroys the morale of the parents and relatives of victims which under no circumstances can ever be justified by anyone! The Vice President has very rightly and eruditely suggested a rethink on the practice of allowing convicts in such heinous crimes to go in for mercy appeals because the death sentence of convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya case, which saw major protests and tougher legislation, were still to be carried out. He also very rightly suggested that photographs of those guilty of crimes against women should be published to instill social stigma and fear in them!

Police encounters in which undertrials are killed cannot be justified. But we saw how just recently in early morning hours of December 6, 2019 when the police killed all the four rape accused in Hyderabad gangrape-cum-murder, there was a national rejoicing as we saw for ourselves in different newschannels and even MPs and Chief Ministers as well as former Chief Ministers welcomed this and a huge crowd of people started throwing flowers on those policemen who killed them! This is mainly because we rarely see rapist being hanged and our legal system proceeds so slowly that many people now have lost faith in the capability of our judicial system to deliver justice in time! This is most dangerous for our country and for this not  just Supreme Court but even Parliament which comprises of our lawmakers and many of whom are themselves facing serious crime charges must introspect honestly and make tough laws in this regard including barring all those MPs who are under the scanner!

Why should a civilized society have any soft corner for such “dreaded goons” who indulge in gangrape? Why do our courts display leniency towards such dastardly acts of crime and why mandatory death penalty is not awarded to such “dreaded goons”? Why those committing such dastardly acts are not awarded mandatory death penalty in all such cases where either a child is raped or gang rape is omitted accompanied with murder?

Why in our IPC punishment for gangrape is classified according to age? Why are “minors” who are less than 18 years of age allowed to get away most easily by just spending 3 years at the most in a child reform house? Why should any form of leniency be shown even for “minors” who “brutally vandalise” the very dignity and wellbeing of a female without any fault of her?

Why should those rapists who know how to gangrape be let off just by citing their age factor? How can Centre justify it? How can Parliament justify it? How can any Court justify it?

Why are rapists released for some time on bail? Why the life and safety of victim is not cared for by the police? Why do we see that rapists after coming out of the jail many times corner the girl and then killed her by either burning her as we saw most recently in Unaao in UP where the women was raped in March and then just recently while she was going to a court in Rai Bareli in a rape case was most brutally attacked by 5 men who had earlier raped her and was burnt 90 percent? Still our Parliament will keep dwelling on whether to award death penalty to such rapists or not!

Why women does not feel safe anywhere in India? It is because our politicians, Judges, lawmakers feel most happy and proud to note that in last 15 to 16 years just one poor Dhananjoy Chatterjee is hanged for rape cum murder and do just nothing to ensure that others against whom there is strong evidence also unlike Dhananjoy’s case where evidence was just circumstantial are hanged similarly! Should we be proud of this and does it enhance the reputation of our country in the world?

Under the amended law for rape, no “discretion bomb” in the form of “may” should be left which has been mostly abused in favour of the rape accused and the punishment should only be death and nothing but death so that all those who rape are promptly hanged and not once in 15 or 16 years as we saw in case of Dhananjoy Chatterjee! There should be no life term, no twenty years but only death for gang rape. It is most unfortunate that even under the 2018 amended Section 376D of IPC which prescribes punishment for gang rape we see that the punishment  is not less than twenty years but which may extend to life! Why “may extend to life”? Why so much of leniency that even for gang rape we see that punishment starts from twenty years but extends only to life and here too discretionary power rests with Judge which is shameful and what is most shameful is that there is no mention of death penalty even here leave alone making it mandatory? This must change now!

Why different punishment prescribed for gang rape on woman under 16 years of age as prescribed in Section 376DA and that on woman under 12 years of age as prescribed under Section 376DB of IPC? Why only life imprisonment under Section 376DA and not death? Why option of life and death in Section 376DB of IPC?

Why even for repeated offenders there is no mandatory death penalty and why the option of life term is added simultaneously in Section 376E of IPC?  All these escape routes must be closed now forever so that rapists are never able to take advantage of the loopholes in our legal system anymore now! But are our politicians, lawmakers and Centre ready to do this or will they be happy with just face saving exercise and lip service? Only time will tell!

The past track record in cases like Nirbhaya and many others are not very inspiring but they can still be rectified! The ball is in court of Centre, lawmakers and Parliament for it is they who enact the law and it is they who ensure that rapists in Nirbhaya case like many others are not hanged even after being convicted by the Supreme Court and even after their review petition gets rejected by Supreme Court as they just sit on mercy petition and don’t decide it soon as we saw in case of killers of former PM late Rajiv Gandhi whose mercy petition kept pending for decades! Should we be proud of this?

Must act now without fail or else our democratic system will crumble and if gang hanging is not done it is people who will then do mob hanging like we are seeing also in many cases! No more excuses! No castration, no jail term, no life term and no minor excuse but only death as they deserve to be hanged at the earliest and killed like mosquitoes! No mercy for them, no review for them and no other escape route for them! Only death!

Why rape cases are not decided within few days or a month? Why sentence is not handed out promptly? Why cases keep pending for decades first in lower courts, then in high court and finally in Supreme Court?

Why can’t this be corrected by our lawmakers by amending law accordingly and setting a fixed time limit for deciding rape cases? Why is time limit not set for deciding review petition? Why is review and curative petition not abolished in heinous crimes like rape and terror?

Why mercy petition is not decided in few days or why should it not be abolished altogether for rape and terror cases? Why only the rights of the accused takes precedence over the rights of the victim? Why even our lawmakers prefer to look the other way on this all important issue as we have been seeing since last 72 years?

It is high time and now concrete steps must be taken on ground to ensure that our penal laws are amended and the most strictest punishment of death penalty be imposed uniformly on all those indulging in gang rape and there should be no “mercy petition” facility for such “dreaded goons” who display the worst form of violence against women whom we all worship in one form or the other like Durga, Gauri, Kali etc or in form of our mother and sister!

Can gangrape of any female accompanied with murder be justified under any circumstances? Can any punishment less than death penalty be ever justified in such cases of heinous crimes? If still Centre says “Yes” then it must immediately abolish death penalty for all types of crimes for it has no right to be on our penal laws if it cannot be awarded to those who indulge in gangrape or even rape accompanied with murder!

What the hell is Centre doing? How long will it keep inviting views from all on this? How long will it shy away from amending our penal laws to make it mandatory for death penalty to be imposed in all cases of rape or gangrape accompanied with murder? How long will female keep getting raped, gangraped and murdered?

Needless to say, this alone explains that why we are even below Pakistan and Bangladesh when it comes to “happiness index”! No time is spared to hang those who commit heinous crimes in Pakistan and Bangladesh. But see what is happening in our country!

Those accused in Nirbhaya gangrape cum murder case have not even been hanged till now seven years later even though Supreme Court has awarded them death penalty and their review petition have also been rejected! They are now availing the facility of “mercy petition” for which no definite time limit is specified for deciding it due to which they remain pending for many years! How can all this be justified by anyone on any ground whatsoever?

Why is gang rape in India not accompanied with gang hanging? Why should they be allowed to escape on any ground whatsoever? Why should they be allowed to escape punishment citing age as a reason? What message are we sending by exempting minors from strictest punishment?

The biggest treachery that our politicians have done with our Constitution is to ensure that heinous crimes like gang rape or rape accompanied with murder, terror crimes funded by foreign countries are not punished with mandatory death penalty and also by not abolishing ‘mercy petition’ privilege for such “dreaded goons” and terrorists!  Why our judicial and legal system saves rapists and more crucially gang rapists from being hanged? How many gang rapists have been hanged till now since 1947 till 2019? We all know the answer! We all must be terribly ashamed of it. All Supreme Court Judges and all senior and eminent lawyers whom I would term “legal giants” like Soli J Sorabjee, Harish Salve, Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi among others must introspect on this and give their expert advice to enhance the reputation of judiciary in the eyes of people and restore the waning confidence among the people which is a matter of utmost concern for all of us! We just cannot now afford to sit idle anymore!

Sanjeev Sirohi

Rape Convicts Must Be Hanged At The Earliest From Now

“What happens even after punishment is given (to convicts). We all are witness…appeal, mercy (petition)… can anybody think of having mercy on such people? This kind of violation of dignity of women cannot go on unchallenged. What is required is not a new bill; what is required is political will, administrative skill and then change of mindset and then go for the kill of the social evil.”

These are the priceless words not of me or my best friend Sageer Khan or of my advocate friends like Amit Sharma, Dheeraj Kaushik or Ajit Yadav or Parvez Alam or others but of Rajya Sabha Chairman who also happens to be the Vice President – M Venkaiah Naidu who has expressed his utmost unhappiness on the niggardly and glacial pace with which our justice system moves most excruciatingly which completely destroys the morale of the parents and relatives of victims which under no circumstances can ever be justified by anyone! The Vice President has very rightly and eruditely suggested a rethink on the practice of allowing convicts in such heinous crimes to go in for mercy appeals because the death sentence of convicts in the 2012 Nirbhaya case, which saw major protests and tougher legislation, were still to be carried out. He also very rightly suggested that photographs of those guilty of crimes against women should be published to instill social stigma and fear in them!

Why is it that rapists are not killed like mosquitoes in our country? Why when rape cases number many thousands in our country are all those thousands not hanged promptly? Why is it that lawmakers and even judiciary does not bother that only one rapist has been hanged in last 15 to 16 years who was Dhananjoy Chatterjee for rape cum murder of a Class XI girl on circumstantial evidence alone and who was so poor that senior Supreme Court lawyer Colin Gonsalves disclosed that his petition was drafted by prisoners of Tihar jail? Why in many other similar cases like that of Priyadarshini Mattoo murder case do we see that inspite of “clear and categorical” proof the rapist does not get death penalty and escapes with far lighter punishment just because some very eminent and experienced lawyers take up their case as the rapist hails either from a very wealthy family or holds key position like that of IAS or IPS etc? Why has Supreme Court allowed all this to happen right under its very nose? Supreme Court as well as Centre and Parliament has lot of explaining to do on this!

As we all know, the gruesome, cowardly and dastardly act of gang rape and cold blooded murder of 27 year old government veterinary doctor in Hyderabad has left the whole country shocking and seething but as usual yet once again the common person is feeling totally helpless as our Government in Centre does nothing to ensure that the real culprits are sent to gallows as early as possible! What we instead see is that politicians cutting across party lines light candles, light lamp and say strongly that they stand fully with the victim and their family! All this reprehensible sham must end now!

Why do we overlook what Meenakshi Lekhi who is New Delhi MP said that often people who participated in candle marches (protests against such crimes) were the ones who also protested against death sentence to the accused. She also very rightly pointed out that, “This should be made available to the public for them to know what is being said. I also feel that physical training should be made compulsory for girls in all schools.”

Why should a civilized society have any soft corner for such “dreaded goons” who indulge in gangrape? Why do our courts display leniency towards such dastardly acts of crime and why mandatory death penalty is not awarded to such “dreaded goons”? Why those committing such dastardly acts are not awarded mandatory death penalty in all such cases where either a child is raped or gang rape is omitted accompanied with murder?

Why in our IPC punishment for gangrape is classified according to age? Why are “minors” who are less than 18 years of age allowed to get away most easily by just spending 3 years at the most in a child reform house? Why should any form of leniency be shown even for “minors” who “brutally vandalise” the very dignity and wellbeing of a female without any fault of her?

Why should those rapists who know how to gangrape be let off just by citing their age factor? How can Centre justify it? How can Parliament justify it? How can any Court justify it?

Why are rapists released for some time on bail? Why the life and safety of victim is not cared for by the police? Why do we see that rapists after coming out of the jail many times corner the girl and then killed her by either burning her as we saw most recently in Unaao in UP where the women was raped in March and then just recently while she was going to a court in Rai Bareli in a rape case was most brutally attacked by 5 men who had earlier raped her and was burnt 90 percent? Still our Parliament will keep dwelling on whether to award death penalty to such rapists or not!

Why women does not feel safe anywhere in India? It is because our politicians, Judges, lawmakers feel most happy and proud to note that in last 15 to 16 years just one poor Dhananjoy Chatterjee is hanged for rape cum murder and do just nothing to ensure that others against whom there is strong evidence also unlike Dhananjoy’s case where evidence was just circumstantial are hanged similarly! Should we be proud of this and does it enhance the reputation of our country in the world?

Jaya Bachchan who is Samajwadi Party MP could not really control her emotions while speaking in Parliament and she burst her anger by saying that, “I know it is a little harsh, but I think these kind of people need to be brought out in public and lynched.” I cannot but cry on reading what Jaya Bachchan has written because she is an isolated case and the majority of MPs are just not prepared to even ensure that mandatory death penalty law be enacted for all rapists and not just this they are just happy to purchase time by setting up Committees and make some few minor changes! This alone explains why Vice President Venkaiah Naidu underscored the importance of political will and to go for the kill!

But a big question mark hangs on this and we have to wait and watch as we have been seeing since last 15 to 16 years that only one Dhananjoy was hanged! Even the rapists of Nirbhaya after being convicted by Supreme Court and their review petition being rejected are still not being hanged and Nirbhaya’s mother keeps crying and lamenting about this but in our country more prominence is given to price of onions which leaders from different parties are raising right now! Mob lynching certainly cannot be permitted in a democratic country like ours but when Supreme Court convicts rapist they must be sentenced to death and should never be allowed to come out of jail under any circumstances as this severely jeopardizes the very safety of rape victim as we saw most recently in Unnao!

Cricketer Harbhajan Singh sought PM Modi’s attention and wrote that, “Shame on all of us we keep letting these things happen again and again but nothing changes. Why can’t we make strict policy against such criminals and hang them in front of whole town to set the examples 4 others # Need ur attention Narendra Modi Sir.” Another former cricketer VVS Laxman who hails from Hyderabad where the 26 year old veterinary doctor was gangraped turn by turn and then set on fire by 4 men said rightly that, “It is time to punish and give no respite to the culprits who perform such inhuman and horrendous crime. Hoping for a swift action from Narendra Modi Ji and the Indian Govt.” Virat Kohli who is Indian skipper wrote: “What happened in Hyderabad is absolutely shameful. It’s high time we as a society take charge and put an end to these inhuman tragedies.”

But the moot question is: Will Centre act? Will it wake up from its deep slumber? Will it take steps to amend laws accordingly so that no escape route is left for those “dreaded goons” who indulge in rape or gangrape accompanied with murder?

There can be just no excuse for rape unlike murder where there are certain exceptions like “grave and sudden provocation” among others. A rape is a rape and must be punished with death once proved beyond doubt! Even if a woman roams nude then that also cannot be an excuse under any circumstances to justify rape! The mentality and psyche of police, politicians and society as a whole must undergo a huge change in this regard!

Under the amended law for rape, no “discretion bomb” in the form of “may” should be left which has been mostly abused in favour of the rape accused and the punishment should only be death and nothing but death so that all those who rape are promptly hanged and not once in 15 or 16 years as we saw in case of Dhananjoy Chatterjee! There should be no life term, no twenty years but only death for gang rape. It is most unfortunate that even under the 2018 amended Section 376D of IPC which prescribes punishment for gang rape we see that the punishment  is not less than twenty years but which may extend to life! Why “may extend to life”? Why so much of leniency that even for gang rape we see that punishment starts from twenty years but extends only to life and here too discretionary power rests with Judge which is shameful and what is most shameful is that there is no mention of death penalty even here leave alone making it mandatory? This must change now!

Why different punishment prescribed for gang rape on woman under 16 years of age as prescribed in Section 376DA and that on woman under 12 years of age as prescribed under Section 376DB of IPC? Why only life imprisonment under Section 376DA and not death? Why option of life and death in Section 376DB of IPC?

Why even for repeated offenders there is no mandatory death penalty and why the option of life term is added simultaneously in Section 376E of IPC?  All these escape routes must be closed now forever so that rapists are never able to take advantage of the loopholes in our legal system anymore now! But are our politicians, lawmakers and Centre ready to do this or will they be happy with just face saving exercise and lip service? Only time will tell!

The past track record in cases like Nirbhaya and many others are not very inspiring but they can still be rectified! The ball is in court of Centre, lawmakers and Parliament for it is they who enact the law and it is they who ensure that rapists in Nirbhaya case like many others are not hanged even after being convicted by the Supreme Court and even after their review petition gets rejected by Supreme Court as they just sit on mercy petition and don’t decide it soon as we saw in case of killers of former PM late Rajiv Gandhi whose mercy petition kept pending for decades! Should we be proud of this?

Must act now without fail or else our democratic system will crumble and if gang hanging is not done it is people who will then do mob hanging like we are seeing also in many cases! No more excuses! No castration, no jail term, no life term and no minor excuse but only death as they deserve to be hanged at the earliest and killed like mosquitoes! No mercy for them, no review for them and no other escape route for them! Only death!

Sanjeev Sirohi

Only And Only Death Penalty For Rapists

 

I must acknowledge right at the outset that I have till now consistently opposed death penalty except for terror cases. I also must acknowledge that this was mainly due to what my best friend Sageer Khan said to me way back in 1993-94 that, “Defend a rapist or a dacoit or a robber or a murderer but never ever in life defend a terrorist. I say so because a rapist or a dacoit or a robber or a murderer never goes to Pakistan or any other foreign country to get the best possible training on how best to destroy India. A rapist or a dacoit or a robber or a murderer are a threat to just one or few individuals but terrorists are a threat to not just one or few individuals but to the very existence of our entire nation as a whole.”

   But the alarming increase in the repeated gruesome, horrifying and dastardly act of raping not just women but also girls and that too of very small age has certainly now shaken me to the hilt. I too now feel like many others that rapists are in fact more dangerous than terrorists because without going to Pakistan, without being trained by Pakistani army or ISI or heads of dreaded terror outfits they do what even terrorists may shudder to do – first gang rape a women, then throw acid on her, then burn her before finally dumping her!

No doubt, the brutal rape cum murder of a 26-year-old veterinary doctor in Hyderabad has certainly shaken our entire nation to the hilt and I must confess that I too am no exception. Those “dreaded goons” who rape and kill women most mercilessly must be hanged to death and under no circumstances should they be ever spared on any ground whatsoever! Tolerance for rapists has only served to further increase the number of rape incidents in our country which has generated huge fear among women and girls of all age in our country as no one now feels save! For this we cannot blame Pakistan or ISI or Pakistani Army because those who do it are those who never attended terror camps in Pakistan nor ever even crossed over to Pakistan nor were they brainwashed still they dare to do the worst crime which may even shock big terror leaders like Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salaluddin who are head of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen respectively! They are worse than even terrorists because without being trained and without being brainwashed they do what is most horrifying!

I have always believed since my childhood days that female must be respected and loved not just like male but even more because it is in India and India alone where female is worshipped as Devi and Goddess as for instance Gauri, Durga, Kali etc. Why the hell then do we tolerate rape on female whom we consider as divine? Why our politicians who are also law makers not ready to amend rape laws and punish rapists only and only with death?

We all know that now there is a national uproar on this and even our Defence Minister Rajnath Singh while expressing outrage over the rape and murder of a 26-year-old veterinarian in Hyderabad has made it clear that Centre is ready to strengthen rape law and make more stringent provisions in law. But just being ready is not enough! Centre has to act decisively now without wasting any more time and carry out repeated surgical strikes on rapists by not allowing any elbowroom and punishing rapists with only and only death penalty! Once it is proved that a man has raped a woman then under no circumstances should he be spared by awarding just few years in jail or even life term!

It must be disclosed here that the reason why earlier I opposed death penalty was because I noticed that in India it is “selectively” awarded only to those who are poor as for instance in case of Dhananjoy Chatterjee who was sentenced to death on circumstantial evidence for raping and killing a Class XI girl. Why is it that similar punishment is not inflicted on those who came from a rich and affluent background and who too commit such heinous crime and clearly get caught also and still most shamefully are not given death penalty just because top lawyers defend them? This has certainly given a bad name to the judiciary also and it must own up its “moral responsibility” on this for failing to award death penalty to sons of rich families or holding high posts like IAS, IPS etc when they commit similar crimes like that of Dhananjoy Chatterjee!

What is most despicable is that despite clear cut proof available against them unlike Dhananjoy where the evidence was only circumstantial and still are not just spared from gallows but even from life term and apply for coming out of jail after spending few years in prison! This “dirtiest discrimination” just because the rich and the powerful are able to hire a battery of eminent and experienced lawyers must end now forever in our country if we really respect our Constitution which teaches us equality as envisaged in Article 14 but which is violated with impunity for which lawyers and judges also must own up “moral responsibility” now! This all must end now forever if we really want that rape incidents be effectively controlled in our country!

It is most heartening to note that House members in Lok Sabha cutting across party lines, not only demanded the hanging of the accused in the Hyderabad rape cum murder case but also argued to have the death penalty as the “only punishment” for the offence of rape! But are they really serious in this? Do they really want that what they say should translate into action? If yes, then we all must be happy but we must be patient enough to observe that how much of what is said really turns into action on the ground!

It is a national tragedy that India celebrates pompously only when a poor rapist like Dhananjoy Chatterjee is hanged on circumstantial evidence alone leaving his helpless old parents and wife to fend for themselves as he was unable to hire good lawyers or even an ordinary lawyer and his petition was drafted by prisoners of Tihar jail as was pointed out by senior Supreme Court lawyer Colin Gonsalves which is nothing but a “miscarriage of justice”! He was hanged about 15 to 16 years back but what a national disgrace that all other rapists in our country many of whom even murder the victim and yet are having a free lunch and not being hanged inspite of raping, gangraping, throwing acid on women, burning her etc and after spending few years in jail come out and once again do what they feel like! This dubious, degrading and worst double standards in implementing rape laws in our country must end once and for all!

It is high time and now all those who have committed rape cum murder even in the past but were not given death penalty must be hanged and should not be spared under any circumstances! Only then will a loud, clear and firm message go to one and all that, “Be you ever so high, the law is above you.” Sadly, till now we don’t see this happening in our country which is most unfortunate. Let’s hope that now Centre will resolve to act firmly on this and act accordingly!

I am most happy to note that Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy, who spoke much after Rajnath Singh reiterated that the government was ready to amend the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to ensure faster justice in cases like the Hyderabad rape and murder. But it must be added here that it is high time now and this “lip service” must translate into “actual service” by actually amending rape laws accordingly as it is the most inhuman crime. Rajnath Singh who is also the Deputy Leader of the Lok Sabha also very rightly and commendably said that, “There can’t be a more inhuman crime than this. I have no words to condemn the heinous crime and the entire country has been shamed by the incident. We are ready to have toughest provisions in laws to give punishment to those involved in such ghastly incidents. Let the suggestions from the House come and I leave it to you Speaker Sir to give us directions.” Work in this direction must be done most expeditiously so that the culprits no more continue enjoy life even after destroying the victim’s life in the worst possible manner!

There can be just no excuse for rape unlike murder where there are certain exceptions like “grave and sudden provocation” among others. Even if a woman roams nude then that also cannot be an excuse under any circumstances to justify rape! The mentality and psyche of police, politicians and society as a whole must undergo a huge change in this regard!

Under the amended law for rape, no “discretion bomb” in the form of “may” should be left which has been mostly abused in favour of the rape accused and the punishment should only be death and nothing but death so that all those who rape are promptly hanged and not once in 15 or 16 years as we saw in case of Dhananjoy Chatterjee! There should be no life term, no twenty years but only death for gang rape. It is most unfortunate that even under Section 376D of IPC which prescribes punishment for gang rape we see that the punishment  is not less than twenty years but which may extend to life! Why “may extend to life”? Why so much of leniency that even for gang rape we see that punishment starts from twenty years but extends only to life and here too discretionary power rests with Judge which is shameful and what is most shameful is that there is no mention of death penalty even here leave alone making it mandatory? This must change now!

Why different punishment prescribed for gang rape on woman under 16 years of age as prescribed in Section 376DA and that on woman under 12 years of age as prescribed under Section 376DB of IPC? Why only life imprisonment under Section 376DA and not death? Why option of life and death in Section 376DB of IPC? Why even for repeated offenders there is no mandatory death penalty and why the option of life term is added simultaneously in Section 376E of IPC?  All these escape routes must be closed now forever so that rapists are never able to take advantage of the loopholes in our legal system anymore now!

I wholeheartedly welcome the laudable initiative announced most recently which is being splashed in different news channels also that Punjab State Government has decided to provide police protection to needy women who work in night hours from 9 pm to 6 am. All State Governments must follow this historic and commendable initiative taken by Captain Amarinder Singh who is Chief  Minister of Punjab in this regard! This is most necessary along with other steps to ensure women’s security and safety!

What a disgrace that Swami Nityanand who was accused of rape not only managed to escape easily from India but also purchased an island near Ecuador and declared it a “Hindu Rashtra” and named it “Kailasa” as is being shown in newschannels! Why was he not arrested promptly by the police? Was it under some political pressure as happens also actually many times?

We see how even another Swami Chinmayanand who is former Union Cabinet Minister too is facing serious rape charges! Is this the reason why politicians speak most vocally against rape terming it as most inhuman but simultaneously also ensure that death penalty is not imposed mandatorily in all rape cases? The very integrity of Indian politicians has come under scanner as many of them are themselves facing rape charges and it is high time that such politicians are now promptly banned from contesting any elections until they are finally cleared not just by trial court or High Court but also by Supreme Court!

On a concluding note, this most sensitive issue of women’s safety must be tackled on a war footing! It brooks no more delay anymore! There should be zero tolerance not just against rape but also against all forms of violence against women like throwing of acid which too must be punished with death! Only and only then can we hope that some fear will prevail in men’s mind! Death penalty must be carried out at the earliest!

The Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu very rightly questioned that why mercy was extended to rapist and why minors who knew how to rape were accorded lenient treatment by just sending them to juvenile home for 3 years instead of hanging them so that no one dare to ever commit such heinous crime again! All delaying tactics like review petition and mercy petition must end for rape cases and terror cases. What Swati Maliwal who is Chairperson of Delhi Commission for Women has demanded that such cases must be decided within six months must also be implemented.

Also, policemen who refuse to lodge FIR in rape cases must be not just suspended for a brief period but should be dismissed from service and strictest action must be taken against all guilty policemen who don’t cooperate with victims in not just rape cases but also all other cases of crime against women! Only then can we expect that crime against women are checked to some extent which is the need of the hour also right now! It merits no reiteration that from now onwards boys too must be taught right from childhood days to respect girls and women and right values must be taught to them as strict laws alone cannot be the sole panacea in such cases even though they are necessary!

Sanjeev Sirohi

Section 207 CrPC: Magistrate Cannot Withhold Any Document Submitted Along With Police Report Except When It Is Voluminous: SC

                                        At the outset, we need to pay attention to what has been stated so explicitly by the Apex Court in this latest, landmark and laudable judgment titled P. Gopalkrishnan @ Dileep Vs State of Kerala and Anr. In Criminal Appeal No. 1794 of 2019 (Arising out of SLP(Cri) No. 10189/2018 delivered on November 29, 2019 that a Magistrate cannot withhold any “document” submitted by the investigating officer along with the police report except when it is voluminous. Further, in case of voluminous documents, the accused can be permitted to take inspection of the concerned document either personally or through his pleader in Court. There is nothing wrong in doing so!

                                            To put things in perspective, the Bench of Apex Court hearing this case was considering Kerala film actor Dileep’s plea for handing over copy of the visuals of the alleged sexual crime committed on a Kerala actress in February 2017. It was held that the contents of a memory card in relation to a crime amount to a ‘document’ and not a ‘material object’. Very rightly so!

                              To start with, this latest, landmark and laudable judgment authored by Justice AM Khanwilkar for himself and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari of Supreme Court sets the ball rolling by after granting leave in para 1 by noting in para 2 that, “The conundrum in this appeal is: whether the contents of a memory card/pen-drive being electronic record as predicated in Section 2(1)(t) of the Information and Technology Act, 2000 (for short, ‘the 2000 Act’) would, thereby qualify as a “document” within the meaning of Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (for short, ‘the 1872 Act’) and Section 29 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (for short, ‘the 1860 Code’)? If so, whether it is obligatory to furnish a cloned copy of the contents of such memory card/pen-drive to the accused facing prosecution for an alleged offence of rape and related offences since the same is appended to the police report submitted to the Magistrate and the prosecution proposes to rely upon it against the accused, in terms of Section 207 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (for short, ‘the 1973 Code’)? The next question is: whether it is open to the Court to decline the request of the accused to furnish a cloned copy of the contents of the subject memory card/pen-drive in the form of video footage/clipping concerning the alleged incident/occurrence of rape on the ground that it would impinge upon the privacy, dignity and identity of the victim involved in the stated offence(s) and moreso because of the possibility of misuse of such cloned copy by the accused (which may attract other independent offences under the 2000 Act and the 1860 Code?”

                                 Be it noted, para 3 then observes that, “The appellant has been arrayed as accused No. 8 in connection with offence registered as First Information Report (FIR)/Crime Case No. 297/2017 dated 18.2.2017 punishable under Sections 342, 366, 376, 506(1), 120B and 34 of the 1860 Code and Sections 66E and 67A of the 2000 Act, concerning the alleged incident/occurrence at around 2030 hrs. to 2300 hrs. on 17.2.2017, as reported by the victim.”

                                 As it turned out, para 4 then illustrates that, “For considering the questions arising in this appeal, suffice it to observe that the investigating officer attached to the Nedumbassery Police Station, Ernakulam, Kerala, after recording statements of the concerned witnesses and collecting the relevant evidence, filed police reports under Section 173 of the 1973 Code before the Judicial First Class Magistrate, Angamaly, First police report on 17.4.2017 and the second on 22.11.2017. When the appellant was supplied a copy of the second police report on 15.12.2017, all documents noted in the said report, on which the prosecution proposed to rely, were not supplied to the appellant, namely, (i) electronic record (contents of memory card); (ii) Forensic Science Laboratory (for short, ‘the FSL’) reports and the findings attached thereto in C.D./D.V.D.; (iii) medical reports; C.C.T.V. footages and (iv) Call data records of accused and various witnesses etc.”

                                           To put things in perspective, para 5 then envisages that, “It is noted by the concerned Magistrate that the visuals copied and documented by the forensic experts during the forensic examination of the memory card were allowed to be perused by the appellant’s counsel in the presence of the regular cadre Assistant Public Prosecutor of the Court, in the Court itself. After watching the said visuals, some doubts cropped up, which propelled the appellant to file a formal application before the Judicial First Class Magistrate, Angamaly for a direction to the prosecution to furnish a cloned copy of the contents of memory card containing the video and audio footage/clipping, in the same format as obtained in the memory card, alongwith the transcript of the human voices, both male and female recorded in it.”

                                     It cannot be lost on us that it is observed in para 6 that, “The Magistrate vide order dated 7.2.2018, rejected the said application, essentially on the ground that acceding to the request of the appellant would be impinging upon the esteem, decency, chastity, dignity and reputation of the victim and also against public interest.”

                                        It also cannot be lost on us that it is then envisaged in para 7 that, “Aggrieved by the above decision, the appellant carried the matter to the High Court of Kerala at Ernakulam (for short, ‘the High Court’) by way of Cri.M.C. No. 1663/2018. The learned single Judge of the High Court dismissed the said petition and confirmed the order of the Magistrate rejecting the stated application filed by the appellant. The High Court, however, after analyzing the decisions and the relevant provisions cited before it, eventually concluded that the seized memory card was only the medium on which the alleged incident was recorded and hence that itself is the product of the crime. Further, it being a material object and not documentary evidence, is excluded from the purview of Section 207 of the 1973 Code.”

                                       To say the least, it is then pointed out in para 8 that, “The appellant being dissatisfied, has assailed the reasons which found favour with the trial Court, as well as the High Court. The appellant broadly contends that the prosecution case is founded on the forensic report which suggests that eight video recordings were retrieved from the memory card and that the video files were found to be recorded on 17.2.2017 between 22:30:55 hrs. and 22:48:40 hrs. The same were transferred to the stated memory card on 18.2.2017 between 09:18 hrs and 09:20 hrs. Be it noted that the original video recording was allegedly done by accused No. 1 on his personal mobile phone, which has not been produced by the investigating agency. However, the memory card on which the offending video recording was copied on 18.2.2017 was allegedly handed over by an Advocate claiming that the accused No. 1 had given it to him. He had presented the memory card before the Court on 20.2.2017, which was sent for forensic examination at State FSL, Thiruvananthapuram. After forensic examination, the same was returned alongwith FSL report DD No. 91/2017 dated 3.3.2017 and DD No. 115/2017 dated 7.4.2017. A pen-drive containing the data/visuals retrieved from the memory card, was also enclosed with the report sent by the State FSL.”

                                  More importantly, it is then stated in para 9 that, “Be that as it may, the prosecution was obviously relying on the contents of the memory card which have been copied on the pen-drive by the State FSL during the analysis thereof and has been so adverted to in the police report. The contents of the memory card, which are replicated in the pen-drive created by the State FSL would be nothing but a “document” within the meaning of the 1973 Code and the provisions of the 1872 Act. And since the prosecution was relying on the same and proposes to use it against the accused/appellant, it was incumbent to furnish a cloned copy of the contents thereof to the accused/appellant, not only in terms of Section 207 read with Section 173(5) of the 1973 Code, but also to uphold the right of the accused to a fair trial guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The trial Court rejected the request of the appellant on the ground that it would affect the privacy and dignity of the victim, whereas, the High Court proceeded on the basis that the memory card is a material object and not a “document”. It is well known that a cloned copy is not a photo copy, but is a mirror image of the original, and the accused has the right to have the same to present his defence effectively. In the alternative, it is submitted, that the Court could have imposed appropriate conditions while issuing direction to the prosecution to furnish a cloned copy of the contents of memory card to the accused/appellant.”

                                           Most importantly, it is also rightly underscored in para 32 that, “It is crystal clear that all documents including “electronic record” produced for the inspection of the Court alongwith the police report and which prosecution proposes to use against the accused must be furnished to the accused as per the mandate of Section 207 of the 1973 Code. The concomitant is that the contents of the memory card/pen-drive must be furnished to the accused, which can be done in the form of cloned copy of the memory card/pen-drive. It is cardinal that a person tried for such a serious offence should be furnished with all the material and evidence in advance, on which the prosecution proposes to rely against him during the trial. Any other view would not only impinge upon the statutory mandate contained in the 1973 Code but also the right of an accused to a fair trial enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

                                           Equally important if not more is what is then stated in para 41 which postulates that, “We are conscious of the fact that Section 207 of the 1973 Code permits withholding of document(s) by the Magistrate only if it is voluminous and for no other reason. If it is an “electronic record”, certainly the ground predicated in the second proviso in Section 207, of being voluminous, ordinarily, cannot be invoked and will be unavailable. We are also conscious of the dictum in the case of Superintendent and Remembrancer of Legal Affairs, West Bengal vs. Satyen Bhowmick & Ors. (1981) 2 SCC 109, wherein this Court has restated the cardinal principle that accused is entitled to have copies of the statements and documents accompanying the police report, which the prosecution may use against him during the trial.”

                                 Making the picture more clear on this, it is then pointed out in para 42 that, “Nevertheless, the Court cannot be oblivious to the nature of offence and the principle underlying the amendment to Section 327 of the 1973 Code, in particular sub-Section (2) thereof and insertion of Section 228A of the 1860 Code, for securing the privacy of the victim and her identity. Thus understood, the Court is obliged to evolve a mechanism to enable the accused to reassure himself about the genuineness and credibility of the contents of the memory card/pen-drive from an independent agency referred to above, so as to effectively defend himself during the trial. Thus, balancing the rights of both parties is imperative, as has been held in Asha Ranjan (supra) and Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (supra). The Court is duty bound to issue suitable directions. Even the High Court, in exercise of inherent power under Section 482 of the 1973 Code, is competent to issue suitable directions to meet the ends of justice.”

                                   What’s more, it is then added in para 43 that, “If the accused or his lawyer himself, additionally, intends to inspect the contents of the memory card/pen-drive in question, he can request the Magistrate to provide him inspection in Court, if necessary, even for more than once alongwith his lawyer and I.T. expert to enable him to effectively defend himself during the trial. If such an application is filed, the Magistrate must consider the same appropriately and exercise judicious discretion with objectivity while ensuring that it is not an attempt by the accused to protract the trial. While allowing the accused and his lawyer or authorized I.T. expert, all care must be taken that they do not carry any devices much less electronic devices, including mobile phone which may have the capability of copying or transferring the electronic record thereof or mutating the contents of the memory card/pen-drive in any manner. Such multipronged approach may subserve the ends of justice and also effectuate the right of accused to a fair trial guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.”

                                               In a nutshell, it is then rightly held in para 44 that, “In conclusion, we hold that the contents of the memory card/pen drive being electronic record must be regarded as a document. If the prosecution is relying on the same, ordinarily, the accused must be given a cloned copy thereof to enable him/her to present an effective defence during the trial. However, in cases involving issues such as of privacy of the complainant/witness or his/her identity, the Court may be justified in providing only inspection thereof to the accused and his/her lawyer or expert for presenting effective defence during the trial. The court may issue suitable directions to balance the interests of both sides.” Very rightly so!

Sanjeev Sirohi

No Mercy Petition And No Life Term Ever For Gang Rape

                              As we all know, the gruesome, cowardly and dastardly act of gang rape and cold blooded murder of 27 year old government veterinary doctor in Hyderabad has left the whole country shocking and seething but as usual yet once again the common person is feeling totally helpless as our Government in Centre does nothing to ensure that the real culprits are sent to gallows as early as possible! What we instead see is that politicians cutting across party lines light candles, light lamp and say strongly that they stand fully with the victim and their family! All this reprehensible sham must end now! It is high time and now concrete steps must be taken on ground to ensure that our penal laws are amended and the most strictest punishment of death penalty be imposed uniformly on all those indulging in gang rape and there should be no “mercy petition” facility for such “dreaded goons” who display the worst form of violence against women whom we all worship in one form or the other like Durga, Gauri, Kali etc or in form of our mother and sister!

Let me now ask few pointed questions which keep troubling my mind time and again. Why should a civilized society have any soft corner for such “dreaded goons” who indulge in gangrape? Why do our courts display leniency towards such dastardly acts of crime and why mandatory death penalty is not awarded to such “dreaded goons”? Why those committing such dastardly acts are not awarded mandatory death penalty in all such cases where either a child is raped or gang rape is omitted accompanied with murder?

Why in our IPC punishment for gangrape is classified according to age? Why are “minors” who are less than 18 years of age allowed to get away most easily by just spending 3 years at the most in a child reform house? Why should any form of leniency be shown even for “minors” who “brutally vandalise” the very dignity and wellbeing of a female without any fault of her?

Why should those rapists who know how to gangrape be let off just by citing their age factor? How can Centre justify it? How can Parliament justify it? How can any Court justify it?

It goes without saying that age under no circumstances can ever be an excuse for anyone to mercilessly indulge in gangrape and still escape any serious punishment being meted out to them ever! Those minors who gangrape have just no right to stay alive. Yet we see that time and again they escape just because they enjoy the supreme blessings of our penal laws like the IPC!

While condemning the grisly incident, film actor Akshay Kumar recalled the “gut wrenching Nirbhaya case” in a tweet. He very rightly wrote while speaking from his heart in simple and straight language that, “We seem to be losing it as a society. It has been 7 years to the gut-wrenching # Nirbhaya case and our moral fabric continues to be in pieces. We need stricter laws. This needs to STOP.”

Another actor Farhan Akhtar too pointed out how “what those men did is another dark reminder of how unsafe we’ve allowed our society to become by not delivering swift and telling justice in these cases!” He also rightly added that, “And what is going to be done about the minor allegedly involved if found guilty? For what it’s worth, I feel that if you’re old enough to knowingly commit a crime this brutal, you’re old enough to face real consequences.”

But what a crying shame that Centre and our lawmakers sitting in Parliament many of whom are themselves facing serious crime cases like that of rape and murder are calling the shots and till date in last more than 72 years have never allowed for a law that provides for mandatory death penalty for such heinous crimes like gangrape and worst of all even for gangrape accompanied with brutal murder! Should we call this “a matured and responsible democracy”? Should we be proud of this and hail them?

Can gangrape of any female accompanied with murder be justified under any circumstances? Can any punishment less than death penalty be ever justified in such cases of heinous crimes? If still Centre says “Yes” then it must immediately abolish death penalty for all types of crimes for it has no right to be on our penal laws if it cannot be awarded to those who indulge in gangrape or even rape accompanied with murder!

What the hell is Centre doing? How long will it keep inviting views from all on this? How long will it shy away from amending our penal laws to make it mandatory for death penalty to be imposed in all cases of rape or gangrape accompanied with murder? How long will female keep getting raped, gangraped and murdered?

Needless to say, this alone explains that why we are even below Pakistan and Bangladesh when it comes to “happiness index”! No time is spared to hang those who commit heinous crimes in Pakistan and Bangladesh. But see what is happening in our country!

Those accused in Nirbhaya gangrape cum murder case have not even been hanged till now seven years later even though Supreme Court has awarded them death penalty and their review petition have also been rejected! They are now availing the facility of “mercy petition” for which no definite time limit is specified for deciding it due to which they remain pending for many years! How can all this be justified by anyone on any ground whatsoever?

To put things in perspective, the victim had left her scooty at a toll plaza and went to work in a cab, like she would every day. When she returned to the toll plaza, she found that her tyre was punctured. The police of Hyderabad suspect that the perpetrators deliberately punctured the tyre, following which they won her confidence in the pretext of offering help and setting her tyre right. The unidentified men took her to the adjacent service road, raped her brutally turn by turn and then finally set her body ablaze at a location 25 km away!

No doubt, the gruesome nature of the crime has once again brought back chilling memories of the Nirbhaya incident that took place in Delhi on 16 December 2012, that shook the collective conscience of the entire nation as a whole! Richa Chadha lamented that, “Her only crime was she trusted these men who promised to fix her scooty. Perpetrators are (to be) given the harshest punishment, they don’t belong  in society. They won her trust and then brutalized her. Treated her like a thing, not a human being.”

Shabana Azmi too lamented saying, “The horror! The brutality! Perpetrators must be brought to book. I grieve for her family and for what is happening to some elements in our society.” Why inspite of so many incidents of horrifying gangrape has Centre failed to act so far? Rahul Preet Singh wrote, “I don’t even know how to react about the incident. It’s high time we as a nation instill fear in people’s minds so that no one dares to even think about committing a crime so horrific.”

But the moot question is: Will Centre act? Will it wake up from its deep slumber? Will it take steps to amend laws accordingly so that no escape route is left for those “dreaded goons” who indulge in rape or gangrape accompanied with murder?

Swara Bhasker while condemning the beastly crime said, “Numbed and shocked that as a society we continue to display our brutality! Instead of our humanity uniting us across religious and creed divisions, it seems our monstrosity unites us! Shame!!!” Vijay Deverak very rightly pointed out that, “We should take responsibility of our men/boys at home, our friends and in our surroundings. Stand up to any wrong behavior, correct them and make them understand. And those who don’t behave like humans don’t deserve human rights. Give them what they deserve.”

Why is gang rape in India not accompanied with gang hanging? Why should they be allowed to escape on any ground whatsoever? Why should they be allowed to escape punishment citing age as a reason? What message are we sending by exempting minors from strictest punishment?

The biggest treachery that our politicians have done with our Constitution is to ensure that heinous crimes like gang rape or rape accompanied with murder, terror crimes funded by foreign countries are not punished with mandatory death penalty and also by not abolishing ‘mercy petition’ privilege for such “dreaded goons”! Why is it that we get to hear only once in last 15 or 16 years that one Dhananjoy Chatterjee is hanged for rape cum murder even though the evidence was circumstantial and his mercy petition was drafted by prisoners of Tihar jail as he had no money to engage good lawyer or even an ordinary lawyer? Why are men who come from rich and affluent section not hanged similarly?

No wonder that senior Supreme Court advocate Colin Gonsalves had slammed Dhananjoy’s hanging as “miscarriage of justice” because he felt that in other similar cases of circumstantial evidence death penalty was not given! Still we saw that sweets were distributed when Dhananjoy Chatterjee was hanged! Why is law not applicable equally to all in such heinous crimes?

Why our judicial and legal system saves rapists and more crucially gang rapists from being hanged? How many gang rapists have been hanged till now since 1947 till 2019? We all know the answer!

How can India be peaceful, progressive and prosperous as long as woman, girls and even babies are not safe from rape and gang rape accompanied with murder? How can India proudly assert to the world that we had the guts to hang a poor rapist named Dhananjoy Chatterjee on basis of circumstantial evidence alone about 15 to 16 years back but we don’t have the wherewithal to ensure hanging of gang rapists and those rapists who come from a rich background? How can India claim that, “No matter how high you are, the law is above you” even as not a single rapist or gang rapist hailing from a rich background has been hanged till now for the worst crimes committed by them?

How can minor be given a “free license” to rape as we see in India and still escaper death penalty or even life term or even 25 years term or even 20 years term or even 14 year term or even 7 year term or even 5 year term as they can be punished only upto a maximum of 3 years in a reform juvenile home? How can this be ever justified under any circumstances by any sane person? Yet our Union Law Ministers till now have most strangely justified it ever since it was enacted!

Even the accountability of police in such cases of heinous crimes must be fixed. NCW chief Rekha Sharma was furious at this whole episode and pulled back no punches to point out explicitly that, “A team of women’s panel visited the family who told them that the police played a ‘negative role’ in the case. The family members also said the police even alleged she had eloped with someone. Nothing can be more outrageous and further from truth than this! The NCW, in its report, said prima facie it observed that police officials delayed taking action in this case. NCW member Shyamala Kundar said she recommended action against policemen, after inquiry who allegedly did not respond on time to the family’s complaint. She found fault with the policemen who allegedly told the victim’s sister who had gone to lodge a complaint, that the case did not fall under their jurisdiction! How can this be justified under any circumstances? Should the erring policemen not be awarded stringent punishment in all such cases?

It is an established fact that gang rapists have no fear of law and they feel that they can get away most easily by hiring good lawyers, ensuring that cases keep pending for several years first in lower courts, then in high courts and finally in Supreme Court! Not just this even after the case is decided then file review petition and even after the review petition is rejected then file mercy petition and which keeps pending first with the Governor in case of States and Lt Governor in case of Union Territory as in NCT of Delhi and then again keep pending with the President which has made a huge mockery of our entire legal system as it takes a very long time to get it decided finally! Those who are juveniles are even more privileged and escape most lightly with just about three year jail term! This is the real dirtiest part of our penal laws and still despite so many cases involving juveniles, no attempt is made to amend these most reprehensible provisions! Should we be proud of this? We should be most ashamed of this! I am completely taken aback to see how there is no mandatory death penalty in such cases!

It cannot be ignored that even the family members of the four men accused of raping and murdering the 27-year-old veterinary doctor on the outskirts of Hyderabad have also said that they would not challenge if the court gives capital punishment to their sons. They in fact demanded that, “Hang them or set them on fire”. But what a national disgrace that still our politicians, lawmakers, Parliament, Central governments and respective State governments have done just nothing to ensure that rapists and gang rapists are hanged at the earliest! Shyamala, mother of one of the accused C Chennakeshavulu said, “Let him be hanged or set on fire like what they have done to the doctor.”

We all have read recently that Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that Centre was contemplating changes in colonial penal law like IPC but it still remains to be seen that how much is done and how quickly it is done to assuage the hurt feelings of all those who are extremely pained on the growing incidents of gangrape happening so frequently with alarming regularity in our country! Lawyers not defending gang-rape accused in lower courts is no solution. The solution is to inflict mandatory death penalty in the least possible time and not giving gang rapists the mercy petition facility or even review petition facility. Even if given these facilities, it must be ensured that they are decided at the earliest and gang rapists are hanged at the earliest! Is Centre, Parliament and our lawmakers prepared for this? If yes, then no time should be wasted in acting on this right now!

Nothing less than mandatory death penalty should be awarded to those indulging in such barbaric crime in all such cases where rape  or gang rape is accompanied with death! We need to now adopt a “zero tolerance policy” approach towards rapists and gang rapists. No mercy of any kind should be shown towards them!

Only then will a loud, clear and strong message go to all rapists that they cannot go scot free even after raping or gang-raping a woman and then killing her also! To hell with Article 370, to hell with uniform civil code, to hell with triple talaq and to hell with all other things if women are not safe in our country and the perpetrators of heinous crime like rape cum murder or gangrape cum murder are not punished with mandatory death penalty for which law needs to be amended right now itself! Similarly rape or gang rape of minor must be mandatorily punished with death penalty for which law must be amended accordingly!

It merits no reiteration that States must work more actively to provide relief to victims and their families. It is tragic that 11 states have not used even one rupee of the Nirbhaya fund which they get to be spent on them! This must change now! As Delhi government has rejected the mercy petition of those charged with Nirbhaya rape and murder, the President must also decide it promptly and the sentence must be executed immediately! It brooks no delay anymore! No nation can progress where women are not safe! To protect them all those involved in rape-cum-murder or gangrape-cum-murder in our country or rape with minors must be hanged immediately! Only then will death penalty act as a strong deterrent for which it was really introduced in our penal laws!

Sanjeev Sirohi