By Sanjeev Sirohi*
The 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 at the 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, It is high time concrete steps are 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!
*Advocate based in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh