Is justice done in rape case?


That the Juvenile Justice Board has awarded a three-year punishment to the minor convict in Nirbhaya gang rape case is unfortunate. But given the...

That the Juvenile Justice Board has awarded a three-year punishment to the minor convict in Nirbhaya gang rape case is unfortunate. But given the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, the Board could not have awarded a higher sentence even if it had wanted, as public opinion wanted, and though the convict deserved it. Additionally, the verdict must be deemed too little too late for having come eight months after the rape and murder of 23-year-old paramedical student in a moving bus in Delhi on December 16 last.

The girl died on December 29 while undergoing treatment in Singapore. The juvenile, a key accused, was found guilty but let off with three years’ punishment because he was just a little over 17 years of age when he committed the ghastly act. At least in this case the law has proved to be an ass; ironically, that stands proved by the prosecution which called the minor “the most brutal face of the six” and who was yet allowed to get away with a three-year term; even that not in a regular jail but in a remand home, all because he was lucky by a few months!

If one is a minor and, therefore, exempt from the punishment that would be visited on majors in corresponding circumstances, how come he was not too young to have raped the girl and then “ripped out her internal organs with a rod”? The argument that the social background of the juvenile had made him vulnerable and, therefore, the Juvenile Justice Act was right in awarding a maximum punishment of three years in a remand home will not hold.
The rape, and consequent death, of Nirbhaya could by no species of courtesy be treated as part of juvenile delinquency; and to bring in extraneous factors like the social background of the accused can all easily prove to be the thin end of the wedge before other criminals start arguing that they too deserve light punishment because they come from a poor social background.
Poverty is no excuse for perversity; and punishment should always be commensurate with the enormity of the crime. That is what is happening in several countries, which probably update their laws in conformity with the spirit of changing times while India continues to swear by ancient and outdated laws.
For instance, the spirit of the present times would seem to suggest that the age limit for the minor should be 16 years rather than 18 years; yet India holds fast to 18 years as though it is some magical number right out of the scriptures. Of course, revenge is not a way of righting the wrongs of law and justice but nobody who understands human nature would fault the brother of Nirbhaya for saying that he will someday avenge the death. All this is, however, not to say that errant juveniles as a rule should be treated on par with adults, but the special circumstances of this case would seem to justify such equation. Also, one can understand the anguish of the father of Nirbhaya who said that it is perhaps “a crime to be born a woman in this country”.
If that belief spreads, India might well become another medieval society which killed newborn girls. Not that, as it is, girls are, by and large, treated at par with boys in India. Even women pray to be blessed with a boy rather than with a girl! If in such a social climate and familial fixation the law is not able to convince society that it is equal for both boys and girls, rapes and gang rapes will continue to take place, and with impunity at that!
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