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Can ‘instant justice’ curb crimes against women?
Opinion

Can ‘instant justice’ curb crimes against women?

Hari Jaisingh

Hari Jaisingh

It is a known fact that the country has been witnessing one rape case every 15 minutes. Amidst horrifying facts of crimes against girls and women, all that we have been hearing is our politicians’ big talks, no action.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slogan “Beti Bachao, Beti Parhao” has definitely created public awareness about the protection of girls and their welfare. We have also heard a chorus of anger and impassioned voices in Parliament amid nationwide shock over the horrific and murder of a young veterinarian doctor in Hyderabad.

Against the backdrop of these heinous crimes, SP MP Jaya Bachchan said in the Rajya Sabha: “What has the government done? How has justice been done for the victims?”

Most MPs in both Houses of Parliament expressed their fury and called for concrete actions. All that we were told by Union Minister Rajnath Singh in the Lok Sabha was that the Central government was, “open to every suggestion to curb such heinous crimes”.

In fact, both state and Central government authorities should have been ready with a detailed plan for social, legal and political reforms for justice on an emergency basis. But, no one is bothered about these matters except for a momentary period.
Just recall the 2012 Nirbhaya rape case. Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi has been fighting for justice for the past seven years. But, despite the Supreme Court’s upholding of the death penalty for all convicts, nothing has happened till today. This speaks poorly of our system of governance and the rulers at the helm.

Meanwhile, Chief Justice of India S A Bobde propounded a traditional theory on November 7 in Jodhpur that “justice can never be instant” since it “loses its character and becomes revenge”.  A senior Telangana minister Talasani Srinivas Yadav, who holds the veterinary Animal Husbandry portfolio in the K Chandrashekhar Rao-led state government, has said that the encounter is a “message for the entire country”.

Statistics on this count are alarming. Have we become a sick society? Mine will be an emphatic, Yes. What else can explain yet another public outrage on December 7 in New Delhi and other parts of the country seeking stronger measures against growing rapes of women.

A day after the death of a 23-year old woman from Unnao who was set on fire by five men, including two who were accused of raping her, the victim’s father has demanded justice “like the Hyderabad encounter”.

The point is: why this clamour for “instant justice”? This is simply because the system has failed to protect women and the conviction rate in rape cases is low. It was 31.8 per cent in 2017. What is more, even after the conviction, it takes quite some time to execute the sentence.

Take the case of Nirbhaya of Delhi. It was on December 6, 2012 that this paramedical student was raped and brutally assaulted by six men in a private bus. On December 29 she died.

On July 2013, a fast-track court started proceedings against the five accused. The fast-track court awarded death to all four accused. Amidst the due process of law, the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty on May 5, 2016. Can you imagine Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi continues to fight for speedy execution of the death penalty. Why is it so? This is all due to our faulty system of criminal justice. What a pity!

No sensible person would dispute Chief Justice Bobde’s traditional theory of “instant justice”. I, however, expected him to provide a comprehensive answer to crimes against women.

In this context, I must say that Union Law Minister Ravi Shanker Prasad has rightly stated that in view of the people’s “crying for justice”, India’s judiciary needs to rise to the occasion”.

He said” “We have to restore on a very urgent basis the confidence of the people by fast-tracking of these cases so that India’s stature as a proud country governed by rule of law be restored at the earliest”.

To endorse Prasad’s stand does not mean that I overlook multi-dimensional failures of our political and social sectors of governance.

On the political front, ‘we see the absence of political will on the part of our leaders. They believe more in slogan mongering rather than going deeper into the system of governance and addressing the core issues of governance by bringing about the much-needed reforms process, especially in areas which jeopardize women’s safety, honour and dignity.

Even Prime Minister Modi has not done much in this regard, though he has asked the police to ensure safety of women. However, without police reforms and proper orientation of the police mind, things cannot improve. PM Modi talks big. He also means well, but without a concrete plan of action to curb growing crimes against women. We have to reverse the on-going poor state of affairs.

The problem with us is the blurring of our conscience and judgment which has apparently led to “a degree of debasement”. Since more and more people are now in the business of only “nourishing” themselves, we see increasing brutalization of society at all levels. Cold-blooded murders, the merciless killings of innocent persons, rapes, police excesses or police indifference are all parts of the growing sickness of the system of governance.

To err is, of course, human. But to persist in wrong doings is devilish. Here what is equally disquieting is the shameless way the wrongs are defended.

The people do surely favour a strong-willed Centre, committed to tackling the country’s basic problems. Even functioning of Parliament leaves one disturbed. Hardly any seriousness is seen among MPs while discussing critical issues facing the nation. How can we expect improvement in governance if the elected representatives do not care to do their homework?

In fact, several important decisions are taken in a vacuum of no-debate and non-information and hence this regime of ignorance and non-performance. Small wonder that everything gets conveniently distorted to suit the convenience of the powers-that-be. This goes on merrily in different segments of our national life. Even the functioning of the judiciary itself calls for major reforms on a priority basis. The state of our justice system has to be seen in sharp contrast to professional and dignified conduct of even lower courts in the US.

I must state that only by overhauling the existing order and adopting a responsive politico-administrative and judicial system can the people’s faith in the country’s democratic system be restored. We deserve better governance for the safety, honour and dignity of our children and women.

Amidst the gloomy setting, I often wonder if Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland) and Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels) had lived to make an Indian journey in this age, would they not have been stumped for words for the bizarre goings-on in Indian society!

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The facts and views expressed in the article are those of the writer.