Lessons of Nribhaya Rape Case!


(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)

The ironic twists and turns in the “Nribhaya Rape Case” have been exhaustively covered in the media. To recount, a 23-year-old paramedic student Jyothi singh, referred to as Nribhaya, was gang raped and brutally assaulted on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012 inside a moving bus in south Delhi by six persons before being thrown out on the road. She died on December 29, 2012 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.

Yet another sensational case that made media headlines recently is the rape of 26-year old Veternary Doctor Priyanka Reddy in Hyderabad followed by gruesome murder and burning to obliterate traces of happening followed by the police killing the culprits attempting to escape from the scene.

As per National Crime Records Bureau in public domain, 93 women are being raped every day. Using a small sample survey, Human Rights Watch projects more than 7,200 minors – 1.6 in 100,000 minors – are raped each year in India.

Following the rejection of mercy plea of Mukesh, one of the convicts, by the President on 17 January 2020, the Delhi court has issued fresh death warrants against the four remaining convicts (one having committed suicide in Jail and the other juvenile released) to be hanged on 01 February 2020 at 6 a.m.

The case highlights 72-long years of prevarication and procrastination by various power wielders to plug all loopholes in laws or the much touted “due processes of laws”.

And, as per observers, options are available to the other convicts to further delay execution of hangings beyond 01 February 2020 by exploiting the legal loopholes available to them to individually file mercy pleas to the President.

In retrospect, the case clearly exposes “systemic failure” embodied in the Constitution and the glaring fault lines of criminal jurisprudence practiced during the past 72-years.

Who are responsible and accountable for the impasse or deadlock amounting woeful betrayal of trust and confidence in either the Constitution or laws of the land and their due processes?

Ipso facto, the law makers, the judiciary, the executive and media (four pillars) besides the civil society are to be squarely blamed for the persisting faux pas.

Will the society – hailed as a great civilization – ever learn from the lessons of “Nribhaya Rape Case”?  Or, will the power holders seek recourse to “time to relapse the society into status quo” deliberately as a ploy to hide their insensitivity and incompetence to address radical reforms to the Constitution and the criminal jurisprudence.

Indian is certainly an “Ancient Civilization – 5000 or 7000-years old.” Let me reiterate that India is a diseased civilization.  Each layer of civilization has different values, ethics and morals. Universal laws cannot stem all sorts of crime in different layers of civilization. In particular, gruesome gang rapes of minors followed by murder of victims.

Intellectuals sitting in AC-rooms, suffering from bankruptcy and hypocrisy,  fail to admit that there are many layers of civilization to include:  stone-age tribal people living in Sentinel Islands; tribal people living in remote and inaccessible mountains; rural tribal communities living in isolation in forests; rural village hamlet; urban slums; towns, cities and megapolises.

Indian human rights activists are highly idealistic in their views. They fail to realize that uniform laws will not deter culprits in different social milieu from committing heinous crimes. And, they do not believe in the classical deterrence theory – people are most likely to be dissuaded from committing a crime if the punishment is swift, certain and severe. And, fear of punishment could prevent others from committing similar crimes.

On the other hand, human rights activists invoke findings of research studies carried out based on western society to highlight exactly opposite of the classical deterrence theories.

I believe that human rights activists, particularly Indian ones, fail to realize that what may be relevant for advanced civilization is not applicable to lower rung Indian society groups on the prowl. They must admit and accept that the human rights of the victim brutally killed cannot be condoned on their rhetoric as champions of abolition of capital punishment.  Most important, even transformations in society – mindsets and environment – are responsible for such gruesome incidents.

Let me highlight that prevarication and procrastination to reform laws and rules woefully betrays phenomenal intellectual bankruptcy of all power holders and wielders. They lack foresight to anticipate impending trouble or controversy to erupt sooner than later with yet another gruesome gang rape followed by murder on a minor.

Be that as it may, for Modi and the BJP, it is a golden opportunity available to politically earn peoples appreciation and admiration.  The Bill incorporating specific time lines for disposal of rape cases of various categories, levels of adjudication restricted to two levels -“Fast Track Trail Courts” and High Court (as court of last resort or final authority) –   and mercy plea as hither to fore resting with the President, refinement of rules of filing mercy plea petitions of gang rape convicts individually and other measures to plug all loopholes to ensure speedy trail and execution of judgment.

Meanwhile, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde, too can earn encomiums by sending approved reforms specifically addressed to “Rapes” in the present criminal jurisprudence.  After all, judicial activism is a vital imperative to protect the security of Women who constitute nearly 50% of the population.

Furthermore, media and civil society must not relapse into complacency over the issue after the hanging of the 4 convicts in the ongoing “Nribhaya Rape Case”.  In fact, they must maintain the pressure on the law makers, executive and the judiciary to enact legislation and rules/due processes of law until the necessary changes is enacted and effectively implemented.

Most farcical is the performance of the “Fast Track Trail Courts” as making rounds of 7-8 years delay. Surely, the judges of such courts must be held responsible and accountable for such laxity in their performance and departmental disciplinary actions initiated against them.

That brings me to the issue to categorization of rapes. The general view of rape is a crime committed by an adult male on a female. The fault lies in such a generalized view.   Never too late to identify and define their various categories as the first step.

Five categories of rapes includes: 1) Gang rape of minor committed followed by gruesome killing of the victim and burning; 2) Rape of minor followed by gruesome killing of the victim and burning: 3) Gang rape of minor; 4) Gang rape of adult followed by gruesome killing of the victim and burning; 5) Rape of adult followed by gruesome killing of the victim and burning; 6) Rape of adult; and also 7) Rape of veterans.

Surely, gang rape committed by a group of criminals against minor and setting fire to private parts and burning the victim to death is more gruesome and the most despicable criminal act. Add to it, rapes committed by “law makers”! Surely, they must be viewed as most heinous and very deterrent punishments must be prescribed in the laws. Gang rapes and rapes committed on foreign tourists is yet another occurrence nowadays.

Ironic but true, all such cases are happening all around during the recent past and highlighted in the media.

No point for judiciary in blaming the law makers, who have among them a bunch of criminals masquerading as leaders. And, there are many law makers like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Azam Khan and Akhilesh Yadav who justify the most heinous, barbaric and gruesome criminal acts as either “mistakes of boys” or “political mischief” or “blame the dress of girls” and so on.

Had such an incident of rape take place against their wives, mothers, daughters, sisters and other dear ones, would their response against be the same in a casual manner. The answer is certainly in the negative. They would chase and murder the culprits.

Also, blame the police for the abject failure in bringing the cases before the bench. It is quite common knowledge that the police acts under the ‘fiat’ of their political masters and they dare not oppose them at the SHO level before they are shunted out.

And, it is quite common to suspend police personnel (temporary) or transfer them or order enquiry commission (to buy time for people to forget the issue) and nowadays pay a huge compensation (Rs.35 lakhs in the recent case) as if it would erase the lifelong psychological trauma that they undergo.

In sum, the lessons of “Nribhaya Rape Case” are explicit.  As a nation, one must avoid the trap of historic lesson of mankind – none learns from lessons of the past.  Rapes make all the noise in media. Media sensationalism of incidents and public outrage and furor cannot per se redress the deteriorating situation.  Political leaders appearing at the door steps of victims to gain photo opportunity does no good.

All the public outrage fails to arouse the conscience of people particularly law makers, judiciary, police forces and even society, ends in a damp squib.  No wonder, every gruesome rape fades away into background sooner than later.

Claiming to be a modern nation, it is high time to squarely address the issue of “Systemic Failures” and ensure enactment of appropriate laws and rules to deter people from committing rapes and murders besides their effective and speedy implementation.