December 24, 2012

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Justice delayed, is justice denied?

- Vipul Maheshwari, Advocate [ Supreme Court of India ]


"15th December, 2012, at around 10 pm, a young student of medicine was “gangraped” by six men in a moving bus. This is not the first ‘incident’ of this kind in the recent past. Delhi has reported an astonishing figure of more than 500 rape cases in the calendar year, 2012."

This is by far the worst crime statistic in the country, which is not far behind in its record of the same. It has been statistically proven that in India, a rape attempt is made every 54 minutes. This picture can be seen as nothing but humanely disgusting to think of ourselves as the largest democracy in the world!

This particular case that took place just a few days back has called for mass attention of both the media and the citizens of the country who are extensively voicing their opinions. The youth especially, has been using the platform of social networking across the internet to start various campaigns for justice. The question (and a very legitimate one at that) being asked by a majority of people is, “How will this all help?” With multiple crimes against women being reported every single day, they show no signs of change. It is perhaps why Delhi is being termed as the Rape Capital. People are blaming other states for their infiltration of employment-seeking youth in Delhi, who allegedly are involved in so many cases.

Others are calling it an issue of the human mind which tends to drive such criminals. But what is the real cause? Even so, the issue must be raised, what is the real solution? One can try increasing Police vigilance across the city and the country, but will that really curb the issue? What can be safely said is that, the only way to deal with this “epidemic” is to deal with the mindsets of these criminals who think that they can commit the crime and get away with minimal or no discourse of the law. Let us look at the legal framework and how it supposedly punishes criminals. Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code addresses the punishment for rape. According to the section, the rapist should be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than 7 years but which may extend to life or for a term extending up to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine unless the woman raped is his own wife, and is not under 12 years of age, in which case, he shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 2 years with fine or with both.

In modern day society, one always tends to think, is this adequate? With cases of rape that have been pending for decades altogether, with regular and ample delays of courts in deciding and convicting criminals, it seems to be a shame of the justice system of our country which takes years to convict a person and bring justice to victims who deserve it the most.

If we for once, step out of the cases of sexual assault; the Kasab issue which has plagued the nation for over 3 years now. This was a man who was caught declaring war on the nation. He killed over 170 people and it took our justice system over 2 years to convict him. To convict a certified terrorist, it has taken over 3 years and crores of rupees that were spent on his supposed safety and well being. It is this mentality that gives alleged criminals the courage to commit a crime. Be it rape, murder, extortion, robbery, assault or theft. The people take it for granted that they would be able to escape or better yet, bribe out the police officials.

It is thus, why we need to focus on ways of betterment of the laws that could act as strong deterrents. The law needs to act for the very reason that it was made- To prevent crime and protect the people. As we can see by recent precedent, the law itself seems lawless.

The present case in the spotlight did not only involve rape but also, a certain level or actions that can only be considered brutal and anti-human. The torture aimed towards the victim was so heinous, that describing it would stun one’s mind. It is the same reason, that we need a part of the law that would separately deal with such crimes. It needs to order the harshest of punishments that can be justified in law and morality. Some people say that Capital Punishment would be the ideal solution to this crime. Can killing the criminal truly provide a sense of justice to the victim? It’s terrifying to see daily and even hourly reports on news websites about some crime or another. It has become just another word in our dictionary. It has become a way of life; such is the sad state of affairs.

The Government’s decision on setting up fast-track courts for rape cases was considered a welcome decision. The fact that the law makers need to wrap up such convictions at the earliest possible moment needs to be executed. This will not allow time for any such discrepancies to settle in, which could eventually cause the courts to adjourn the case. Convictions after months or years of the crime can be considered unfair to both the victim, as well as the accused.

A lot of critics have also presented the argument that such a harsh accusation can also be misused against innocent people. Due to any unforeseen reasons, the accused might have been blamed wrongly or any deliberate accusation might have taken place. In order to curb the bulk of issues that come along with any crime, our society needs new laws.

Instead of amending the present laws (the process which could take rather long) we need separate sections which could deal and harshly punish these wrong-doings. The addition needs to be the harshest possible penalty that must be given for crimes of such inhumanity. The death penalty could act as one of the biggest deterrent to such a crime. Along with the same we need our court system to act swiftly in convicting the guilty. We hope for a 30-day period for trials at the courts and any further appeals to the High Court and Supreme Court must also be cleared within 30 subsequent days. This implies that, within a maximum of 90 days, the accused must get convicted and justice must be delivered by the highest Court of law. One must also deal with harsher laws and actively communicate the same to the general public who might be unaware of their rights under the law.

The issue that our society is dealing with today has been termed as a complete failure of our legal system. Taking retrospective will never work as compared to preventive action. The law-makers of our system need to change the mindsets of people who are bound to commit such heinous crimes in the future. Massive change is the need of the hour and nothing may succeed if there is no base. We need these actions for a better and safer society. It is the place which is our home, we need to protect it.

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