Whenever there’s a sexual assault case grabbing the primetime news headlines, following things happen :
- Media trial,
- Spotlight on similar cases from the recent past which haven’t received closure, and
- A call for castration and capital punishment as the default sentences for the accused.
Regarding pt. 3, it isn’t too hard to understand why there is clamour for such condemnation. People are tired of having to see the same kind of crimes happen again and again with seemingly no prospects of justice, either speedy or delayed. That creates a demand for punishments so severe that potential rapists may think a hundred times before even imagining committing such an act. But are these really the way forward?
Why should the victim have to suffer when it’s the perpetrator who ought to have to face the vagaries of life?
First up, capital punishment is, in my opinion, an easy way out for a person who has committed such a crime. It’ll finish his life and he’ll never have to live through the pain, trauma and humiliation that the victim is forced to. Is that fair? Why should the victim have to suffer (again) when it’s the perpetrator who ought to have to face the vagaries of life? No! I don’t think that’s good. While the current 7-year term might be kept as it is for first-time offenders, repeat offenders and history sheeters should be slapped with till-death life sentences. That would be more apt than taking them to the gallows.
Secondly, what if the accused isn’t actually guilty? What if he’s been set up? In that case, not only would the punishment be a misjudgment, it’d also mean that the real criminal still roams the street, ready to devastate another woman’s life. Now I accept that the proportion of such cases could be small, but when we are discussing fair and deserved justice, every case matters.
Thirdly, the world is moving away from capital punishment and there have long been calls for the abolition of the death penalty. If we make castration and capital punishment the default sentences now, it’d be a regressive measure.
Activists and the social media “intelligentsia” who hijack the discourse in such times eulogize Saudi Arabia for the way it deals with such “criminals.” What they don’t say, and this is pertinent here, is that Saudi Arabia is a monarchy with one of the worst human rights record in the world. The Saudi government bans a whole lot of things that we take for granted here in our country, like women not wearing loose, full-body clothes. Now I can hear you thinking, “take the specific clauses needed for castration and corporal punishment. Leave the rest.” That, my friend, is a slippery slope. Once we step on that, God only knows where we’ll end up, what with the morality police rising up time and again.
The major flaw with our criminal justice system is that justice is either not delivered, or is so late and meagre that it feels more like a travesty than a cause for celebration. The colossal backlog in our courts ensures that even the (in)famous cases don’t get a speedy trial. And that’s despite the Lok Adalats and the fast-track courts.
What we need in our country is a speedy, non-corrupt justice system that delivers on the constitution’s guarantee to every citizen of India — a Right to live his/her life with dignity. If all cases, not just of violence against women, are solved in a limited timeframe, the fear of the Long Arm Of The Law will terrorize the lawless and ensure better social conditions for everyone. When politicians, influential people and their kin too are forced to face the consequences of their actions, perhaps we wouldn’t have people asking for such extreme measures.
What’s your take on the topic? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.
Thanks for reading.