By Sanjeev Sirohi*
I have till now opposed death penalty except for terror cases. 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.”
He added, “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 raping not just women but also girls, and that too of very small age, has shaken me to the hilt. Now I 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 rape-cum-murder of a 26-year-old veterinary doctor in Hyderabad has certainly shaken our entire nation to the hilt. Those “dreaded goons” who rape and kill women most mercilessly must be hanged to death. 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 females 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 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. The 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.
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!
This “dirtiest discrimination”, just because the rich and the powerful are able to hire a battery of eminent and experienced lawyers. must end forever in our country if we really respect our Constitution which teaches us equality as envisaged in Article 14, which is violated with impunity, for which lawyers and judges also must own up moral responsibility.
House members in the 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?
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 all other rapists in our country, many of whom even murder the victim and yet are having a free lunch. They are not being hanged in spite 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.
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!
Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy, who spoke 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 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 said, “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!
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 welcome the initiative that the 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.
It is 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!
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu has 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!
*Advocate, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh