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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

Fix justice system for rape victims

Satya Prakash, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 21, 2012
First Published: 01:25 IST(21/12/2012) | Last Updated: 02:42 IST(21/12/2012)

Only three things can deter potential rapists, say legal experts: Time-bound investigation, fast-track trial and harsher punishment.

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“The case of the 23-year-old who was gangraped on Sunday demands prompt investigation, quick prosecution and swift justice. And, of course, the culprit should be given the maximum punishment prescribed under the law," said former Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police Prakash Singh. Singh, who fought a case in the Supreme Court for police reforms, said, "The whole process should be over in three months."

Senior advocate Aman Lekhi said the police should carefully examine and preserve forensic evidence which was vital for nailing the culprits. He also highlighted the need for gender sensitisation among police officials and judges. Demanding expeditious disposal of the case, Lekhi suggested reforms in rape trials. "This gangrape should set a precedent for trial in other rape cases," he said.

But prevention is better than cure, feels Vikas Singh, a senior advocate and former solicitor general of India. He suggested a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system, starting with police investigation. "Unless enforcement agencies do not do their job properly, things won't improve. One of the accused in this case was a habitual offender, but he was roaming free on the streets till he committed this ghastly crime."

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Many are demanding death penalty for rapists. Last year, Delhi additional sessions judge Kamini Lau had suggested "surgical castration or chemical castration of rapists, particularly in cases involving rape of minors, serial offenders and child molesters or as a condition for probation, or as an alternative sentence in case of plea bargaining". She had lamented that the legislature was yet to explore the possibility of permitting alternative sentences of surgical castration or chemical castration of rapists.

But knee-jerk reactions to crime are not the solution, Singh cautioned. He said the current provisions with regard to punishment for rapists were enough. "Current laws are sufficient enough to take care of all kinds of offences, especially when there is proper implementation of these laws by all stakeholders," he said.

On Tuesday, National Human Rights Commission Chairman Justice KG Balakrishnan had also cautioned against death penalty for rapists, saying it could expose a victim to greater risk as the tormentor/s might try to kill her.

Lekhi said the absence of traffic police officials on the road at the time of the gangrape should also be probed.

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