The brutal rape of Laadli, the brilliant young physiotherapist in Delhi last month and her death agitated not only Delhi residents but the whole nation very violently. The public anger continues to simmer, but the political, social and judicial leadership of the nation continues to hide behind outdated laws like the rape law and the juvenile justice law. The government was prompt in doing what it is generally prompt about and set up two committees to examine the existing laws and recommend the course of action. The committee under the Chairmanship of the former Chief Justice of India simply repeated what was already in public domain. It knew of the barbarity of the gang rape and the collective as well as individual responsibilities of each one of the rapists. Does it then make a difference if one or more of the rapists are juvenile or the law does not provide death penalty. It fails to answer the question if a juvenile is allowed to commit brutal rape after rape only because he is a juvenile, as defined in the laws, which were framed when the world was not connected by the web nor the global village existed! Those were the times when childhood used to be a phase of life, in fact the best part considered by poets. Today children are not allowed even 3 years of childhood! There are pre-schools, pre-nursery schools, play schools etc which rob the children of the innocence. The result is that they are possession of knowledge about everything very early in life. They have so much of exposure to crime, porn, vulgarity and violence that they are more than adults under the age of 16 years. Political patronage and crime syndicates entice the vulnerable persons to train them to commit unlawful activities, including rape. There is no going back in the world of crime. There are no juveniles, they are deadly criminals in the world of crime. Hence juveniles have forfeited their privileges of leniency in crime. For the time being, those committing rape or murder, should be treated like adults and given adult punishment. Leniency by courts is only so long as the victims are “others” and not one of the members of the family of the political, social or legal stalwarts or leaders!
Those carrying campaign against death penalty belong to the category of people who pick up soft issues only as a populist measure. They talk of marital rape but underplay gang rape; they demand heaviest penalties for drug mafia but underplay the enormity of a brutal murder.If murders take place even without a slight provocation, as is happening in India or the USA, there is ample justification for death penalty. In the name of democracy, all kinds of criminal elements have come to bully children, women and the aged and such inhumanity cannot be shown any human mercy. This is no human rights consideration but error of judgement. If one human being violates the human rights of others, especially rights to life, liberty, dignity and person, society cannot simply watch helplessly. Such acts are criminal and deserve severe punishment to the perpetrator.Kindness is not to be mistook for weakness. Why should the average man and woman live in perpetual fear of the murderer and the rapist? The Justice Verma Committee set up by the government of Dr Manmohan Singh failed to address these serious issues and got bogged down in the opinion against death penalty or the rape laws not providing death penalty. The President of India can issue an Ordinance to provide for death penalty for rape and murder and include persons above the age of 14 years as adult criminals by taking them out of the purview of the Juvenile Justice Act. The law is out of sync with times. The old generation of legal luminaries need to learn from sociologists the developing trends in criminality among persons as young as 12 years of age, because they are children only biologically but otherwise they are adults indulging successfully in the adult activities. One unintended fall out of democracy and liberal economic regime is the criminalisation of society in general and children in particular. The luminaries were expected to look beyond the extant laws and traverse unchartered territories to provide a satisfactory answer to the growing problem of gang rapes. The Committees set up on the subject, be it the Justice Verma Committee or the Lustice Mehra Committee should not end up searching “precedents” from the British Rule days, as the government of India suffers from a strange syndrome of precedents. They are very comfortable whenever they find any precedent to dispose of any case from the old files on the subject! New India has to face these new challenges. We can’t promote rapes and murders in the name of juvenile justice or inappropriate opion against death penalty. It is necessary for the government to understand our needs ourselves; rather than seeking help of others every time. If the Indian leadership doesn’t understand its own needs, how others ever understand it?
The government will do well to break from the past, think anew, be innovative and come out with a new law that helps children remain free from the world of crime and acts a deterrent for crimes of rape and murder. It does not brook delay. Already a precious month has been lost. Unless the governments acts fast and decisive, it shall have only itself to blame for the widening trust deficit with the people. The government has still enough time to retrieve its image if it proves its sincerity before the budget session of the parliament is convened next month. People will take the law into their own hands if the government humiliates them in the name of the recommendations of these committees, which have not cared to get the benefit of specialists from the field of sociology, psychology, ethics,social behaviour etc. The Justice Verma Committee will be well advised to revisit its disappointing recommendations, which are neither here nor there, even though they are being aggressively marketed through the print and electronic media. The country is not interested in hollow rhetoric each time they suffer, be it the Mumbai 26/11 or the daily rapes being committed in India or the savage gang rape of 16th December in Delhi.