Most of India is celebrating the encounter and police action of gunning down the rape-murder accused in Hyderabad. Many feel that justice is done on time.
Nirbhaya, Kathua, Unnao and now Disha, this country many times woke up hearing the worst and most heinous of all crimes- rapes and post-rape brutal murder. In almost all of these four cases, it was brutal gang rapes followed by conscious and planned murder thereafter.
Age, education nothing mattered in any of these cases. The Kathua girl was just 8 years old who was enticed into abduction, rape and murder. Jyothi Singh who is named ‘Nirbhaya’ symbolically was a young physiotherapy student who had been a victim of blood-chilling gang rape that led to her death. ‘Disha’ who was gang-raped and killed in Hyderabad was a veterinary surgeon and the Unnao victim was 17 years old when she was brutally raped, who later after many months was blazed by the perpetrators who eventually died.
While we have several incidents of rape and rape-murder getting reported regularly, all of the four – Delhi, Unnao, Kathua and Hyderabad were nationally discussed gang rapes and murder cases that happened in the chronological order of 2012,2017,2018 and 2019. The final verdict was not delivered in any of these cases- except the Hyderabad incident where the police have reportedly taken the law into their hands by gunning down the four accused in an encounter. However, whether this encounter was a forced one or a real one is yet to be investigated.
Justice delayed is justice denied. When Hyderabad police explained that they had to kill the four accused in an early morning encounter, India responded in a jubilant mood, giving a heroic aura to the police who did it. From celebrities of various fields to the general public, many reacted immediately supporting the police act.
This is because the nation is desperate. The legal system in this country is snail trailing. While the country has strong laws to protect its women who are equal citizens, what is resentful is the delay in justice delivery. We have strong laws that define even a gaze that is uncomfortable as ‘sexual harassment’ that is punishable. The same country that passed these laws is not delivering justice on time is arming. Delayed delivery of justice doesn’t communicate anything - not to the perpetrators, not to the victim, not to the families and not to the society.
If data are to be trusted, there are around 30 million cases pending across different courts of India. The Supreme court has around 60,000 cases pending to address and conclude. India has around 1.30 Billion people in it and the judges to people ratio are only around 10: 1 million. This indicates why we delay justice delivery. We have a real situation here.
Realizing that a safe environment for women is important to reduce crimes such as rapes, the government has created ‘Nirbhaya’ fund to build women’s safety. It’s envisaged that the fund would be utilized to propel various initiations that would help women ‘fearless’. Unfortunately, only 20% of the funds released to states were used so far – showing a clear underutilization. There are discussions to increase the funds to 10,000 crores or so. But what is the point if the action stays only in paper.
Rape cases and rapes-murder cases are not ordinary issues. They should not be considered or addressed in the normal track by the judiciary. We need to have a foolproof process that addresses this issue in a time-bound manner. If we fail to do that, we would again have situations of encounters and lynching. And we would continue to celebrate such instances that are about taking law into one’s hand. Encounters are in countries that have anarchy, not for civil societies that value democracy and its judiciary.
Another critical point is about building a more responsible and civilized society. Research has proved many times that it is not the negative message people would listen to. For example the notice on a cigarette packet that says ‘smoking kills’ has a much lesser impact than educating how quitting smoking offers better possibilities in life. Clear enough for us to understand how little impact lynching and encounter killing would have on the future control of crimes.
While quick legal action on incidents should non-compromising, a larger perspective on the future control of crimes by building societies that are psychologically healthier is crucial. Working around children and families in an inclusive and collaborative manner and institutions and governments working with people would be crucial. This job is mammoth-sized and the challenge is huge. A structured approach, emphasizing social science research and data is imperative.
Finally, rape crimes are non-negotiable and justice should be immediate.