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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

Delhi gangrape: sentence should do justice

Kiran Bedi, Hindustan Times   September 11, 2013
First Published: 21:21 IST(11/9/2013) | Last Updated: 09:28 IST(12/9/2013)

Jyoti (victim's real name) is not an isolated case of suffering but a sordid saga of women in India, of suffering in silence over the centuries. The brutality committed on the brave heart is perceived to be crime against civilised society.
The judgement of the fast-track court will be delivered in the afternoon of Friday, the 13th September.

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The case had foolproof evidence, all that an investigator, prosecutor and the court would need to do justice. The statement of the victim, recorded before a magistrate and that later became a dying declaration, was the most credible evidence. Then there was the graphic eyewitness account of her friend, who was on the bus with her and was himself a victim of cruelty. He battled to save Jyoti from being run over by the bus driven by the rapists, and he stood by his testimony.

Rarest of the rare
The demand for death penalty and treating this case as rarest of rare is because of the horrendous nature of the crime, hitherto unheard of. India has been surveyed to be one of the five most unsafe places for women. We are in the company of Afghanistan. (Canada is the safest). India is also the least punishing country, of delayed trials and huge backlogs in courts.

The Delhi gangrape made headlines worldwide. So will its judgement. Any misplaced compassion in this case will reaffirm the prevailing perception. The case has impacted tourism, investment, and the number of girls coming to Delhi for higher education.

Defence had full opportunity to plead its case. Somehow, it managed some adjournments, but for which, the trial could have finished even earlier. It was a swift trial that didn't skip any credible evidence. It was behind closed doors; and wasn't a public trial.

Aligned criminal justice system
Capital punishment is an expectation but, by any chance, if the sentence is of imprisonment for life, meaning till death, without paroles etc., then these beasts could well spend the rest of their lives inside unventilated kitchens. I am relieved to see for the first time an "aligned criminal justice system", where the pressures of public, press, politicians, police, prosecution and judiciary worked in alignment, each in the pursuit of justice.

The press kept up the pressure by following up the case in restrained yet effective way; the public kept it up by keeping the administration on its toes to perform and deliver; the politicians were compelled to appoint Justice Verma Committee and strengthen the law; police investigation ensured amazing efficiency in making quick arrests, recovery of records, recording of statements, effective use of forensic technology and proper collation of evidence.

The prosecution went about its work with diligence and thoroughness without fear or favour, while the court did not digress by defence tactics and tantrums. It proves one thing for certain: the adage that where there is a will, there is a way. All key players of the criminal justice system had the will to see that justice was done. Each organ of the system, without interfering in other's work, delivered with commitment not seen before.

Each organ contributed to the others success by doing own duty the best way, without finding reasons for delay. The forensic department, usually the slowest to submit reports, also delivered, and the system used Skype and other technology to get evidence from Singapore to cut delay.

Good lessons from past
In the past, there was a good practice of all organs of the criminal justice system working in tandem for expeditious and sound justice. All worked in a manner that removed bottlenecks. The district sessions judge, district magistrate, superintendent of police, chief prosecutor, sat together periodically to review trends in trials, lacunas in investigation that caused acquittals, witness issues, and other concerns.  It helped the cause of justice without stepping into other's jurisdiction.

We need to begin with what we have and identify what we need to do better. Working in isolation, without coordinating and synergising our efforts and resources, is not criminal justice system. Now we know what went right and why, so let there be no more excuses.

kiranbedi2005@yahoo.co.in 
 

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