“Rape, is the most heinous form of murder. A murder victim dies just once. A rape victim dies every day till she is alive.”
These lines were told to me by a Psychology student who was working first-hand among Rape victims for her Doctoral thesis about 20 years back. I used to be a Broadcast Journalist them, hosting a daily TV show. She narrated and put me across victims after victims, who were simply off the radar. Not just there was no police case, but the fact that in most cases the victim’s families did not go to Police at all, rather hid the information, so that the victim could lead a “normal” life. And the “normal” life included, continue getting raped, in some cases by close relative. In one particular case, hold your breath, even a Father raping his own daughter. My understanding from that research was: not even 1% of Rape & molestation cases actually get reported to Police or Media in India.
A rape case to get reported in police or media, has to be so extreme in every damn proportion, that the “System” is eventually forced to report it finally. And then the routine trial starts. Some, actually very rare of them, like Nirbhaya or Bilkis Bano, actually reach up to HC or SC and actually get justice. Even in those cases, we do get a very valid question: was the justice served or justice denied?
In the wake of the recent Nirbhaya rape case verdict by the Supreme Court and capital punishment being awarded to the convicts, I agree with the Supreme Court.
In my personal view, a rapist is a rapist and must be awarded capital punishment. As one of the rape victims explained leading her life like a “Zinda Lash”, a living corpse. While in death, life ends so does trauma but a rape victim has to suffer all her life. So for such heinous crimes, court must award Capital Punishment. In the Bilkis Bano judgement, I wish the culprits were given same punishment.
I want to argue 3 points. Firstly, in my personal opinion, any rape case should be punished with capital punishment without any distinction. But I understand those people who are in principle against capital punishment. As courts have also noted out earlier, life imprisonment shouldn’t mean 14 years jail term after which those who don’t deserve to be part of the society come out to live in open, inflicting fear among everyone, making society prone to more crime. There is a need to change our criminal justice system to redefine meaning and implementation of capital punishment. A person once convicted for life imprisonment should stay inside the jail for his entire life. Such people shouldn’t be granted parole.
Secondly, it is extremely sad to see so-called-juvenile rapist-murderers walking free without any punishment. Instead, person who is capable of such heinous crime is being given a sewing machine, new name and new city to start a new life. There are multiple questions to be asked. Why is Juvenile Justice Board not allowing a bone test to determine real age of the criminal? When there are scientific methods are available to determine the age of the person, why is it not being used? And this is not a one off case; even earlier in case of Medical Student Rape Case, rapist got away with a fake age certificate while everyone was of the suspicion that rapist was an adult. Even in that case, Juvenile Justice Board did not allow for bone test and rapists went Scot-free in the society. Why has no one filled PIL against Juvenile Board to know why don’t they allow age determination through scientific methods even in such heinous crimes? Juvenile Board must be put on the docks, they should explain their position in court. Even court has noted that if someone is capable of such heinous crime, person is also capable of facing the punishment. A law may not be implemented retrospectively but why not allow for age determination where we know that the Criminal have misused the loopholes in the law? Why not reveal the name and photograph of such criminals so that others can safeguard themselves from them?
Some argue that Rapist-Murderers are Psycho-lunatics . Then why is a rapist being sent back to the society? It is understandable that such lunatic person is sent to mental asylum. But sending him for rehabilitation; allowing him a new life, new name and a swing machine puts entire society in danger. And then there are documentaries like the BBC’s India’s Daughter which tries to normalize it by trying to portrait a rapist as a normal person who can paint well. Even in that video, person blames women for the rape and says that rape happens due to women venturing out late at night alone and women wearing short dresses. How can such a person be considered normal ? If not jail cells, then such person should be inside cells in some lunatic asylum. Those who know the Nirbhaya case know that the so-called-juvenile was the most brutal, the main rape accused. He was the one who inserted an iron-rod into her vagina so hard that it pierced through her internal organs, which eventually caused the death. Just thinking of this would send shiver down the spine to anyone. And allowing such a Psycho to go free cannot be accepted. It is simply unacceptable. Juvenile Board has many questions to answer which they must do on the floor of the Supreme Court.
Thirdly, this whataboutery about Bikil Bano and the religion of the victim must end. I totally support my good friend Asaduddin Owaisi when he argued that in case of Bilkis Bano, CBI should appeal in SC and ask for death penalty rather than life-sentence as awarded by the HC. A rape victim is a rape victim. There is no Hindu-victim or a Muslim-victim. Similarly, a rapist is a rapist. There is no Hindu-rapist or a Muslim-rapist. I am always of the view that all rape culprits should be awarded the death penalty. But blaming Courts to be communal is totally unfair. In my twitter mentions, many people were writing that I am asking for capital punishment for the so-called-juvenile Rapist in Nirbhaya’s case, just because he happens to be a Muslim. Then why I am celebrating the verdict on remaining 4 who are Hindu? Why am I asking for capital punishment even for the Bilkis Bano case where all the culprits are Hindu ? Giving communal angle to everything is simply shifting focus away from the main issue. Most ironically, this whataboutery on communal lines was started by many Senior Journalists, who happen to be champions of secular cause. This is not helping anyone. Not the society, and certainly not the victims.
So far, the Justice has been denied to the victims. In case of Nirbhaya, the Justice will not be done, till the case of the main murderer is reopened and retried along with the Bone-test to determine the true age of that beast. Juvenile Justice Board should be held responsible for that murder of Justice. The new #NirbhayaLaw passed by the Parliament in 2015 works on the Doctrine that “If you are adult enough to Rape, you are adult enough for the punishment”. The Justice would be served only when that most gruesome Rapist-murderer of Nirbhaya is tried again for his real age by bone-testing and taken to gallows along with the rest of the culprits. As far as the case of Bilkis Bano is concerned, the HC has already given verdict. All that CBI has to do is to file an appeal in SC to convert those life-sentences to death-sentence. They must do that in order to get justice to Bilkis Bano.
In conclusion, Juvenile Board must allow scientific age determination for all juvenile rapist-murderers, so that no one gets away with a fake age certificate. Time has come to redefine meaning of Life Imprisonment; a life imprisonment should be for life, not for 14 years. And we must stop giving communal angle to rape cases, the courts must be kept away from these communal and political blame games. Last but not the least, as per the law, the death sentence is given only in “Rarest of the rare crimes”. As per me, every Rape-Murder fits that category. By default.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.