On 13 September, the Additional Sessions Judge Yogesh Khanna of Saket Court, Delhi sentenced all the four found guilty of Delhi Gang Rape to death. Now, out of the six, four has been sentenced to death, one was found hanging in Tihar Jail in March, 2013 and the last has been sent to juvenile home for three years, the maximum under Indian Juvenile law.
Soon after the verdict, many began celebrating, assuming that ‘Justice’ has been served and that their ‘struggles’ had bore fruit. Their egos were satisfied..!!!
On the other hand there were a few, who saw through and understood that justice had in fact not been served. They did not celebrate and rightfully realized that there is something more to it than only providing ‘justice’. And they dared to ask a few questions. Will the death penalty to the four, like the court and media claimed, serve as a warning to the others and deter such crimes in the future? Or will Delhi suddenly become safer for women? These are a few questions that remain unanswered.
The December 16, 2012 gang rape garnered instant mass response and created a firestorm of a protest in India, like no other incident in the recent past. In fact, the protests continued till today and people aggressively called for death sentence for the guilty. Thus, the verdict for sure serves the spirit of vengeance among the people, but does nothing concrete to stop the crime itself. It in fact brutalizes the state, the law and the society in itself. Any civilized society should not be comfortable with the idea of death penalty. And the verdict just does that. Moreover, it has never been proven that death penalty serve as a deterrent to any crime. It is the surety of the sentence which holds more importance in deterring such crimes rather than the severity of it. And India has a very dismal record with sentencing the guilty. The very court (Saket court, Delhi) where the verdict was given, had acquitted 20 out of 23 rape cases due to lack of ‘concrete evidence’.
The Saket court declared the Delhi case as ‘rarest of the rare’ and justified its judgement by mentioning that it is being done to send out strong signals towards the potential others. There is nothing rare in the Delhi case. For every December 16, there are others like Khairlanji, Mumbai Rape case etc. The only thing rare, perhaps, in the whole Delhi rape was the mass outrage. Every day, thousands are raped in India; many reported and many just go unreported. In 2012 itself, about 2500 rape case were reported in Delhi itself. Such has been the number of cases that people today have developed a ‘yeh to roz ka hai (it’s a everyday phenomenon) attitude towards it. But the society never felt responsible. Today’s verdict does the same. It lets the society off the hook. It takes the attention out of the root problem itself and patriarchy, misogyny and discrimination continues unabated. Further, it also takes the focus out of the inability of India’s criminal justice system in dealing with such crimes.
Also one cannot ignore the political timing of the verdict. India goes to elections in 2014 and today’s verdict seems more like a preparation towards assuring themselves more voters. Since the last couple of months, after president Mukherjee has taken over, there has been three death sentences already; all of them under public ire. Both Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru were hanged within a few months of each other. According to a report in The Hindu, 18 other death-row prisoners are next in line, having had their “mercy pleas” rejected by the President. For this instance, the president has already issued an anticipatory refusal to mercy petition, which means there will be 4 more hangings, adding to the tally. This kind of development can put any civilized society into shame and should not be encouraged. Rather efforts should be made to bring forth an egalitarian society, increasing freedom and respect towards each other.
Hanging people would not bring any solution…!!!