The fury and outrage that followed the December 16 gang rape shook the nation out of its slumber.
Protestors participate in a candlelight vigil in the memory of the 23-year-old Delhi gang-rape victim. (HT photo)
Overnight, women's safety became 'the issue'. The investigation into the 16/12 gang rape case was handled swiftly by the Delhi Police, which relied heavily on forensic and medical evidence.
But had the police control room (PCR) van acted on the complaint of robbery made to it earlier with regard to the same accused, the rape could have been averted.
Despite being fast-tracked, the case took nine months to conclude. This was in sharp contrast to the trial of a German rape victim I represented before a court at Alwar in Rajasthan in 2006. The trial had concluded in just seven days.
I am of the considered view that rape cases can easily conclude in two months since the only witness whose examination (recording of testimony) could take some time is the survivor herself. The other witnesses being formal ones, the recording of their testimonies can conclude within few hours.
Word of caution on new rape law
But the amendment in rape laws after 16/12 gang rape case has changed the definition of rape by bringing within its ambit other acts of sexual assault. Hence corroboration by medical and forensic evidence, injury marks on the victim's body have become irrelevant. These were earlier given weight during trial.
Given the fact that rape is a heinous crime rampant in our society, the amended law now treats women's testimony as the final truth. It is setting in motion a dangerous trend where an accused is unequivocally indefensible and irrevocably convicted regardless of what the truth might have been.
In a sense it is sexist, escapist and far removed from what law and justice are all about. The accused man can't get the hell out of it regardless of whether he is innocent or guilty. The society and lawmakers need to think about it.
(Shilpi Jain is a Supreme Court lawyer. She represented a German rape survivor in a court at Alwar, Rajasthan, in 2006. The trial had concluded in seven days.)