From the Nirbhaya case in 2012 to Hyderabad rape-murder of a 26-year-old vet in 2019, nothing much has changed when it comes to the horrific and brutal acts that shake the core of the nation. MUSBA HASHMI brings you the ugly truth about why there is no let up despite the amendments to the criminal law
December 16, 2012, is a date India is not likely to forget any time soon. It was a cold night and most Delhiites were home under blankets watching the day’s news on their TV. Elsewhere, 23-year-old physiotherapy intern was lying on the road naked with blood oozing out of her private parts and her intestines pulled out. She was found half-dead by a passerby. The night shook the nation especially the Capital. Candlelight marches took place across the country demanding justice for Nirbhaya, a name given to the girl by the media— she was fearless. On December 29 she succumbed to her injuries in a Singapore hospital. Her last words: “Maa, I want to live.”
Cut to 2020. More than seven years later, the High Court sentenced the four convicts — Pawan Gupta, Akshay Kumar Singh, Vinay Sharma and Mukesh Singh have been awarded a death sentence. While the date of sentencing was announced for 7 am on January 22, 2020, by the Supreme Court, the hanging has now been set for February 1, 2020, at 6 am. This comes after the mercy plea filed by Mukesh was rejected by the President Ram Nath Kovind.
Meanwhile, Pawan has moved the Supreme Court challenging the High Court’s order dismissing his claim of being a juvenile at the time of the commission of the offence in December 2012.
There were two more involved. Ram Singh and a juvenile. While the juvenile was given a three-year sentence in a reform facility and walked free on December 20, 2015, Ram Singh died during the trial period. A report of 2017, said that the juvenile had been sent to the southern coast and was working as a cook.Nothing much has changed since the fateful night of 2012.
A case in point is the rape and murder of a 26-year-old veterinary doctor from Hyderabad. On November 28, 2019, the girl was on her way back home from her clinic. It was a normal day for her until she found out that her two-wheeler, which she used to park near a toll plaza, was punctured. She sensed danger and called her younger sister. It was then when two people approached for help. After 15 minutes of her call to her sister, her phone was switched off. The next day her brutally burnt body was found near an underpass around 23 km south of the toll plaza.
The police arrested four men — Mohd Arif, Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen Kumar and Chintakunta Chenna Keshavulu based on the evidence gathered from CCTV cameras and from the girl’s mobile phone. Within 24 hours the police solved the case and all the four accused were shot dead.
This is not it. An eight-year-old girl from Rasana village near Kathua, J&K was abducted, gang-raped and murdered. The girl was kidnapped on January 10, 2018 and her body was found seven days later. Sanji Ram was found to be the main accused in the case. He is the priest of the family temple, where the incident allegedly took place. His son Vishal and nephew, a juvenile, were also accused in the case. The others who have been accused are Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar, who are police officers; Tilak Raj, a head constable and Arvind Dutta, a sub-inspector.
On 10 June 2019, six of the seven defendants were found guilty, and Sanji Ram’s son, Vishal was acquitted due to lack of evidence. Sanji Ram, Deepak Khajuria and Pravesh Kumar were sentenced to life imprisonment for 25 years, along with a fine of `1 lakh. The other three accused — Tilak Raj, Anand Dutta and Surender Verma were sentenced to five years in jail for destroying crucial evidence in the case. The eighth accused, Sanji Ram’s juvenile nephew, was tried at a juvenile court.
Another horrendous case that shook the nation is the Unnao rape. On June 4, 2017, a 17-year-old girl was gangraped by Kuldeep Sengar, a UP MLA, his brother and aides. On December 16, 2019, Sengar was convicted for the rape and was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Delhi court.
“It’s been years since people are talking about protecting girls, but no one is actually doing anything concrete. As Nirbhaya’s parents or for that matter the common man, one can only give one’s opinion. The media should question the ones in power what are they doing to protect our girls,” Badrinath Singh, Nirbhaya’s father says with a heavy voice. He tells you that people come and given speeches for a couple of days and then the whole issue is overshadowed by thousands of other issues with no solution to the issue for which the speech was given.
“We are in a state where we can only raise our voice, give suggestions for the betterment and ask for justice but apart from that we don’t have any power. No one listens to us. It is the duty of the Government to see why rapes are on a high and why there is no fear in the perpetrators. The Government should be at the answering end in such cases,” Singh opines.
Seven years back, when Nirbhaya was brutalised, there was a lot of talk of coming up with new rules and regulations and amendments to the existing laws but nothing much has happened or changed.After Kathua rape case, The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2018 came into action which states that a culprit can be given a maximum punishment of death penalty in case of raping a girl below the age of 12. While the minimum punishment is imprisonment for 20 years which was earlier up to 10 years.
“The law doesn’t state what happens if the culprit is a minor. Also we have protected the girls below age 12 but what about the rest. Do they don’t have the right to live a safe life?” he asks.
Back then, Nirbhaya fund came into action to extend help to the rape survivors. “Unfortunately, not a single penny has been utilised to help the survivors. There are no improvements in the court conditions whatsoever. We have been fighting for so long but there are no major changes that we have seen during this period,” he says.
Throughout this long fight of theirs the get justice for their daughter, Singh and his wife, Asha Devi, have stood firm through thick and thin. Not even for a second did they feel demotivated or tired — their belief that their daughter will get justice has only grown over the years despite the recent setback.
“We abide by the rule of satya thak sakta hai par kabhi haar nahin sakta. This mantra has kept us going all this while,” Singh tells you.Unlike the other rape survivors or their families, Nirbhaya’s parents never had to go through even a slightest change of behaviour from the society.
“We were never treated any differently. The reason is clear. We didn’t commit most common mistake which many make. Humney kabhi samaaj se aankhein nahin churaayin. Jab aap khud samaaj se aankhein churaaoge to samaaj ko mauka milega aap se bhed-bhaav karne ka. Humne woh mauka kisi ko nahin diya. And why should we. It was not at all our daughter’s fault; she was the innocent here,” he tells you.
Anuja Kapur, advocate and criminal psychologist that since there were several lacunae in the system and the laws such heinous crimes haven’t seen a decrease. “There are several reasons why there is no let-up. We have to ask several questions. Why don’t we execute the criminal on time? Why do we have a lacuna? A lucana that is not time-bound. Why there is a misuse of the law? People use the law to misuse it. Some talk about the human rights of the perpetrators. What about the rights of a mother who has been fighting for seven years? What about the rights of the Unnao rape survivor? Why has a death penalty not been given? One should not dilute the law unnecessarily. If one wants to make a law with rape as a deterrent with a death penalty, it should be on a fast track,” Kapur tells you.
She questions those who say that perpetrators can be reformed hence they should be given a life sentence. “Those who say this, are they criminal psychologists? Who is going to find out if the perpetrator is a sociopath or a psychopath? Also, one has to understand that life imprisonment means until the end of the criminal’s life and not 14 or 20 years. If a death sentence can’t be given, it should be without parole because they are out on parole and commit the same crime again,” Kapur opines.
She also tells you that the amendment itself that has been made by Justice Verma Committee to the Criminal Law has no purpose. “They have created a rape law that now only looks as rarest of rare case. What does this mean? How does one put a characteristic to it? There are so many kinds of rape. We have single rape, gangrape and oral. This has diluted the law hence it is no longer a deterrent. Any law is a deterrent when there is a fast conviction where the time frame starts from the time an FIR is filed,” Kapur says. She tells you that there is a profile of people who commit such crimes.
“It requires one to decode the criminal mind. We have to first talk about the background that such people come from. If they come from a criminal background, they are most likely to in their parents’ footsteps. There is a reason why the drinking age has been set at 25. Second, is the prefrontal cortex that plays a role. Those with a high level of activity are considered to be geniuses. These are also people who have no remorse and are not emotional. A psychopath can’t be reformed. A sociopath can be reformed. Hence, the laws should be made in a manner that will incorporate all aspects. if you see the US justice system, the suspect there is a culprit until proven guilty. In India, it is just the opposite; here the suspect is innocent until proven guilty. Nature, nurture and environment play a big part,” Kapur says.
She shows you a horrific face of the society where the reason for the rise in gangrapes and then murders is because the perpetrator is getting his minute of fame.“He is getting footage. Criminals are getting their fame. They like the fact that they have taken advantage of the lacunae in the law. From living a life of anonymity, they are now known all over the world, they feel glorified. There is negative psychology at play here. Even if one talks about these people sitting at home, they are getting footage,” Kapur says.
She tells you that there is a need to bring in positive psychology. “Not that it will bring about a change overnight. But it will step in the right direction,” she says.
Advocate Pooja Sareen, who recently led the #NirbhayaDishaMe protest in Delhi to highlight the increasing crimes against women says that there has been a considerate increase in cases of rapes and sexual assault from 2016 to 2019.
“According to a Government data, more than 32,500 cases of rape were registered in 2017, almost 90 a day. The Indian courts disposed of only around 18,300 cases, leaving more than 12,800 cases pending at the end of 2017. The need of the hour is to adjudicate and attend to all pending rape cases. This should be done on priority. There should be strict timelines, which should be followed and adhered to in rape cases. Justice delayed is justice denied and Nirbhaya’s case, with one convict moving on to the Supreme Court yet remains open, like thoudands of other cases across various states,” she says.
She adds that the only solution to this can be made through fast track courts. “There are no fast track courts to hear rape cases in India. Therefore, a competent forum should be made to dispose off such sensitive cases on priority,” she says.
Heinous face of 2019
- In February, a 19-year-old girl from Bihar was allegedly gang-raped by 6 men in front of her father.
- In March, a 12-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly raped and then beheaded by her 3 brothers and uncle in Madhya Pradesh's Sagar district.
- In March, a 16-year-old girl was in Uttar Pradesh’s Shamli district when she had gone out to relieve herself. She was found unconscious at accused’s house.
- In April, a nine-year-old girl was raped and killed in Vile Parle, Mumbai.
- In May, a married woman was gang-raped by three men in Bikaner when she went to collect firewood.
- In May, a four-year-old girl was raped in a private school in Punjab.
- In May, a 17-year-old deaf and dumb girl was allegedly raped by 3 men in Rampur who also filmed the act.
- In May, a three-year-old girl was raped in Bandipora, J&K during the holy month of Ramzan after the accused lured her with a candy.
- In May, a woman in UP was repeatedly raped for days after she was sold off by her father.
- In May, a 16-year-old girl was kidnapped, confined and raped by three men in Noida for 51 days.
- In May, a woman was raped, beaten, videotaped and blackmailed in Alwar when she went out with her husband for shopping.
- In June, a four-year-old girl was raped in Aligarh after the accused lured her with `10 note and took her to a secluded spot.
- In June, a 16-year-old girl was gangraped for 5 days in Andhra Pradesh.
- In June, a 11-year-old girl was raped and murdered in Unnao and her body was found lying in an orchard.
- In June, a 3-year-old girl was allegedly raped by her 11-year-old neighbour in Dehradun when the girl's parents were not at home.
- In June, a 13-year-old girl was raped by two men at her home in Shahjahanpur when her parents had gone out to purchase medicines.
- In June, three sex workers were allegedly raped by 9 men at a farm house in Noida.
- In June, a nine-month-old girl was raped in Telangana after the man took her to a secluded place in the wee hours.
- In June, a minor girl was raped inside her residence in Kolkata when her parents were not at home.
- In June, a 43-year-old mentally challenged woman was raped by a social worker in Mumbai.
- In June, a 15-year-old girl was raped by her father in Jajpur district of Odisha.
- In June, an air hostess was allegedly raped by her colleague after she passed out while having drinks with him.
- In June, a six-year-old girl was raped and murdered by a drunk teenager in a Hyderabad village after she went missing while playing Holi.