Originally Published 2013-01-18 00:00:00 Published on Jan 18, 2013
It is the responsibility of people like film producers, club owners and other entertainment organisers to ensure that the shows or films do not carry vulgar contents which tend to excite the base instincts of men and encourage them to resort to violence for sex.
Atrocities against women: A serious threat to society
Gang-rapes in India are getting quite frequent. Then there are other forms of attacks on young women which call for serious notice. There are crimes like throwing acid on young women as revenge attacks. Notwithstanding the restrictions on the sale of acids, the perpetrators manage to get hold of acids which, when thrown on unsuspecting victims, result in serious damage and disfigurement of the victims. Very often the future of the victim is taken away. Perpetrators of such attacks also deserve the maximum punishment permissible under the law.

The Union Home Minister appealed to all the parties to send their recommendations to a committee headed by the Home Secretary to examine the various suggestions and draft recommendations. The Government of India had also requested a former Chief Justice of India, J.S. Verma, to head a judicial committee and submit a report within a month, suggesting amendments to criminal law to deal with such attacks on women.

Political parties have come out with various suggestions regarding the amendment of laws. The BJP demanded holding of a special session of Parliament to draft new laws. While the demand for a special session has not been conceded, the various suggestions regarding the amendment of law, imposition of several forms of punishment, etc, have been forwarded to the concerned committees.

Let us briefly go into the ways and means of preventing such crimes before they happen. The police has the greatest responsibility as it has the capacity to prevent such crimes as much as possible. Take the recent case of gang-rape. If only the Delhi Police patrols had been more active that night, the unauthorised bus in which the crime was perpetrated could have been intercepted, particularly since it had tinted glasses which are against the standing orders of the government and Delhi Police. It was not stopped at any point of time when it plied on Delhi streets that night. Apart from mainly checking for buses with tinted glasses, there should be special police patrols throughout nights for making surprise checks not only on buses but also other forms of transport.

The other important steps to be taken by the Delhi Police included registration of cases promptly on receiving complaints of harassment or attacks on women. The Delhi administration has since introduced a special telephone number '181', for reporting attacks and other problems of women. The police has also announced that they would be posting Home Guards on all buses plying during the nights. The Delhi Police should also periodically hold classes for girls in schools and colleges, and educate them on various do's and don'ts.

Apart from the police, there are other entities that should also ensure that attacks on women do not take place. They are civil society as a whole, the judiciary and senior constitutional authorities.

It is the responsibility of people like film producers, club owners and other entertainment organisers to ensure that the shows or films do not carry vulgar contents which tend to excite the base instincts of men and encourage them to resort to violence for sex. Organisers of functions in clubs and those holding periodical rave parties, drawing a large number of men and women into participating in them, leading to near orgies, should all be condemned and stopped.

Turning to the judiciary, the Chief Justice of India had recently condemned the habits of courts in giving frequent adjournments on lame excuses put forth by advocates. There should be a sense of responsibility on the part of the judges to ensure that such heinous cases are disposed of expeditiously.

The Chief Justice of India, Justice Altamas Kabir, had recently inaugurated six fast track courts. Speaking on the occasion, the CJI said quite correctly that the due process of law would not be ignored for the sake of expeditious disposal of such cases.

As regards the sentence for the accused in the rape cases, there have been several suggestions ranging from chemical castration to award of the death sentence. Talking about chemical castration, retired Supreme Court judge V.K. Krishna Iyer has pointed out that such punishments would be unconstitutional. Even on the suggestion of the death sentence, there are different views. The eminent lawyer, Ram Jethmalani, has said life imprisonment would be a better choice than the death sentence. However, cases like the one in which the Delhi woman was cruelly ravished and attacked by six persons or more, resulting in her death in spite of her being airlifted to Singapore and given the best treatment there, were not mere rapes. The crime was rightly classified as a murder in the charge-sheet filed by the Delhi Police.

Now comes the role of the juvenile accused who, in fact, played a major role in the gang-rape case. He was the one who enticed the victim into the bus, stating that she would be dropped near her house and he also participated in the gang-rape.

It has been reported that in the meeting held by the Home Minister and attended by the Chief Secretaries and the DGPs for examining the various suggestions for amendment to the existing criminal laws dealing with rapes and gang-rapes, the Chief Secretary and the DGP of the UP government put forth a suggestion that only those who are under 16 years of age should be treated as juveniles. These suggestions were accepted.

Newspapers carried a report that the Supreme Court had awarded the death sentence in the case of a five-year-old girl who was raped and killed in 2001 in Meerut, UP. The accused in this case had admitted the crime and the Meerut court awarded the death sentence to the accused person. The Allahabad High Court, however, set aside the conviction saying that it was based on circumstantial evidence, ignoring the fact that the accused had admitted his guilt and the victim's clothes were recovered from the residence of the accused.

The case subsequently went to the Supreme Court which set aside the judgment of the Allahabad High Court and awarded the death sentence. But tragically enough, the death sentence was commuted in February 2005 by former President Pratibha Patil. It is not known on what grounds the former President set aside the death sentence awarded by the Supreme Court. More comment on the role and responsibilities of senior constitutional authorities like the President is not necessary except to hope that such instances would be rare in future.

(The writer is a former Governor of UP and West Bengal and an Advisor to Observer Research Foundation)

Courtesy : The Tribune
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