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Panel of women lawyers to fight rape cases in Maharashtra for free

Harmony Brigade will write to state government and PMO, seeking castration of rape convicts

mumbai Updated: Apr 22, 2018 10:46 IST
Farhan Shaikh
Farhan Shaikh
Hindustan Times
The panel, working pro bono, will also aid investigating agencies so that crucial evidence is not lost(Pic for representation)

In the wake of rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu’s Kathua district, which has generated a heated debate for implementation of harsher punishment for such heinous crimes, senior advocate Rizwan Merchant announced a panel of women lawyers who will take up rape cases across Maharashtra. The group will also approach the state and write to the Prime Minister’s Office to consider ‘castration’ as a punishment for those found guilty of rape.

Merchant announced ‘Harmony Brigade’ while addressing a congregation organised by Harmony Foundation, a social organisation, of schoolchildren at St Xavier’s College. Sharing the news in the presence of retired Bombay high court judge Abhay Thipsay, former Mumbai police chief MN Singh and others, Merchant said the panel, working pro bono, will also aid investigating agencies so that crucial evidence is not lost.

“The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) is the same as it was in 1984, save some changes in the procedures. The FSL lacks infrastructure to perform important tests on time,” he added.

He also said the group will write to the PMO and the state, suggesting options of surgical or chemical castration, which is legal in a few countries, for those found guilty of rape.

“Reduction in time taken to complete the judicial process and expediting cases in fast track courts is the need of the hour, Merchant said.

Talking about death penalty, Thipsay said deterrence has its own limitations.

“The actual deterrence is the certainty of being caught and not just the extent of punishment. Even after the amendment, to increase punishment to death, the NCRB data shows the cases [crime against women and children] have increased.”

While Singh maintained that he is against “cruel punishments, be it castration or death”, he said if the law recognises the punishment and court awards the same to the convict, we must respect the decision. Singh, however, called out the political class for turning rape cases into a slugfest.

“India has become a sick society. The political class has become a threat to civil society as they engage in communalism. Only a few are secular in beliefs and their deeds,” Singh said.

Speaking at the event, Trisha Shetty, social activist and founder of She Says, a women’s rights organisation, put the onus on those in the government and urged citizens to take a stand and question those in power. She said death penalty is not the solution in cases where the perpetrator is related to the survivor, as fear of losing their relative to death may prevent action.

The students also shared their views, calling for a change in ‘rape-culture’ and a need to educate and empower women.

First Published: Apr 21, 2018 09:41 IST