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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2835

New India of Rape-a- Day and Trigger Happy Cops

By Tushar Charan (Syndicate Features):

Of late the sensibilities of the viewers and readers across India seems to have been relentlessly assaulted by excessive news of sexual crimes against women of all ages, from elderly matrons to young ones and even toddlers. Talk about ‘New India’ has been shamed universally by the poor safety record of women. Official statistics say country reports nearly 1000 rape cases every day. The actual number may be undoubtedly much higher.

Two instances of brutal rape reported in quick succession, from Unnao (UP) and Hyderabad (Telangana) have exposed the ugly side of our patriarchal society where neither the family nor even the law deters the male from obnoxious treatment of women. These cases presented a worrisome commentary about the lack of respect for the law among the custodians of law and order and infirmities in the judicial system.

A woman in Unnao dies in a Delhi hospital after battling with 90 per cent burn injuries caused by her alleged rapists. The rapists were given plenty of time to cover their ground as the police had refused to register an FIR for four days. But it probably did not surprise the people of Unnao which had earlier reported a rape case involving a high-profile politician and the police appeared too reluctant to apprehend.

In Hyderabad the news of the killing of a gang of four, accused of raping a veterinary doctor, following a police ‘encounter’ reportedly sent a wave of joy, including in the family of the victim. They thought that ‘justice’ had been done quickly enough for their satisfaction.

From ordinary folks to politicians and celebrities from the world of entertainment and sport, there was no end of expression of ‘happiness’ over the ‘encounter’ killing. The policemen who had allegedly killed the four men were showered with rose petals and lifted up in the air. Who says the police are dreaded and disliked by the citizens?

But there were dissenting voices too, against both the police action as well as the usual delay by the police in apprehending the criminals. It was also recalled that often the criminals get away without being punished. Those who have taken a dim view of the ‘jubilation’ at the killing of four alleged rapists in Hyderabad concede that deplorable as it may have been the ‘celebrations’ reflected an alarming sense of lack of trust and dissatisfaction with the way the wheels of justice move in the country.

On the other hand, those who lauded Hyderabad police action point to a stark fact in their support: The accused in the ‘Nirbhaya’ rape case were awarded the death sentence but they have been able to escape execution for the past seven years. The country had never been angrier than it was when the ‘Nirbhaya’ case happened in December 2012. Under public pressure the rape law was made more stringent to include the death sentence for rape. The trial of rape cases was expected to be expeditious.

What the Hyderabad police did was called into question by many in the civil society as well as by legal and human rights activists. A number of questions were raised but not satisfactorily answered. Some of these questions like the men being taken out at 3 or 4 a.m. to ‘recreate’ the scene of the crime may be answered by pointing to the need to finish an essential police exercise before dawn to avoid the traffic rush.

But what many may find difficult to accept is that the killing of the four resulted from an ‘encounter’. The police say that the four men died when the police had to fire in self defence. The four men had reportedly snatched the weapons from the police and were trying to escape.

It will be hard to believe that four men with weapons in their hands did not shoot at the police party and hence none of the cops received any injury. The ‘encounter killing’ explanation is questionable because the manner in which the four men were killed does not justify to be called ‘encounter’. When an armed police team goes in search of a criminal or a gang of criminals on the run or hiding it can result in an ‘encounter’ if the criminals resort to unprovoked firing. Here the four men were actually being taken, rather ‘escorted’, by the police.

The truth about the ‘encounter’ will have to await an inquiry. But past experience does not suggest that the inquiry will make any change either in the police fondness for ‘encounters’ or the speedy and fair justice that the families of the victim rightly expect.

Provisions of strict form of punishment are meaningless if in the first instance there is no certainty that justice will be done. It is almost an accepted fact that should a rape case involve an influential person, a politician in particular, the chances of that person being punished are minimum. In fact, trouble starts at the very start when the police either refuse to register the FIR or do it after a considerable delay. The victim is pressurized to withdraw the case. It sound like a perversity of justice when a VIP accused is out on bail while the victim is sent to jail.

The judicial process needs to be reformed to make it difficult for the rape cases to be dragged on for years with the help of the device of adjournments. Lawyers are able to get adjournments on what may be called flimsy grounds such as their inability to attend the case since they have to attend to a case in another court.

If a lawyer has to appear in two different cases simultaneously his or her priority should be the court trying the rape case. He or she can ask a junior to attend to the other case. However, this is what a layman would suggest.

Surely, experts can suggest and find better and solid ways to make justice look fair and expeditious to allay the fear and misgivings in the minds of rape victims and their families—and stop ‘jungle raj’ in India.

- Asian Tribune -

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