Today in New Delhi, India
Oct 20, 2018-Saturday
-°C
New Delhi
  • Humidity
    -
  • Wind
    -

Your space: Death penalty for child rapists is necessary

Many people believe that power of any kind can buy protection and exemption from the law of the land.People from influential families believe they are above the law. The reality is that almost all highly connected people and their progeny get away scot-free or with ridiculously lenient punishments.

pune Updated: Apr 30, 2018 15:05 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Your space,Death penalty
India’s cabinet has approved the introduction of the death penalty for those who rape children on April 21, amid uproar over a series of high-profile cases.(AFP/Getty Images)

This is in response to “Will death penalty for rape of children help reduce crime?” by Moushumi Das Gupta and “Child rapists should not get death penalty” by Ishita Manek in the 26 April edition. There was another article by the well known activist Supreme Court lawyer Flavia Agnes.

Legal experts and believers in abolishing the death penalty do so because the thinking across the western world is swinging towards not having the death penalty and that is based on the belief that in spite of death penalty, crimes warranting the penalty have not stopped.

But then this argument holds good for every type of punishment. Lenient punishments for theft, scams etc., and attempts of rehabilitation have not stopped such crimes. So, can we stop all punishments? No.

The death penalty once executed is irreversible and nothing can be done, if later evidence proves otherwise. To cater to such a possibility, which is admittedly rare, imprisonment till death without any parole or any kind of freedom, could be an alternative.

Such thinking has some virtue in societies that are largely law abiding to the extent that a driver will respect traffic rules even at 3 in the morning and even if there are no vehicles on the road. Those are societies that respect a law just because it is a law in force.

On the other hand, we are a society where people break the law with impunity. By and large, we follow a law only under the fear of punishment.

Many people believe that power of any kind can buy protection and exemption from the law of the land.People from influential families believe they are above the law. The reality is that almost all highly connected people and their progeny get away scot-free or with ridiculously lenient punishments.

In the case of rape, there is one more factor. Most Indian men are misogynist and chauvinists and this is further compounded by the lopsided social practice of blaming the woman for the man’s lust and stigma over admitting to be the victim of rape.

Reformation and rehabilitation, not revenge is a laudable principle in handling criminals. It works very well in case of petty criminals who took to crime due to lack of skills and opportunities. They learn skills, earn a little money and come out of jail to lead a normal life, devoid of crime. It does not work with hardened professional criminals, ideology driven criminals, culturally indoctrinated criminals and intelligent criminals who believe they can beat the system. For these groups, crime is the way of life.

With hardly any exceptions, rapists and acid throwers come out of jail after being given lenient punishments and go straight to their former victims to take revenge for sending them to jail. Our jails do not carry out psychological tests on prisoners to ascertain whether they can be reformed or not.

Ms Agnes’ apprehension is that when rape is from within the family, which is frequent, the family will not report fearing the death of one of its own members, thus negating the purpose of the law, which is to punish the rapist. Exceptions must not guide the drafting of a law.

In spite of whatever shortcomings the new law may have for eminent jurists, policemen and anti-death protagonists, I fully support the law. The law failed in not prescribing a maximum time limit for the closure of the case - like 60 working days, to counter the delaying tactics of defence counsel - and penalties for witnesses turning hostile. Witnesses turning hostile under pressure, fear or inducement is a reality in our system and the law must address this menace adequately.

Further, technical mistakes, badly drawn up charge sheets, inadequate/inefficient or deliberate collection of evidence must not result in the dismissal of cases. The presiding judge must be empowered to get the corrections made and get evidence collected, to give a fair deal to the victim.

DVR Rao

First Published: Apr 29, 2018 15:21 IST