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To hang or not to hang
By B.L. Saraf

The recent gruesome incident of rape and murder of a young girl in Delhi did, understandably, evoke a strong reaction among the countrymen/ women, irrespective of the area they belonged to. People of all ages, notably the young, cutting across sex, creed, caste and the class barriers felt genuinely outraged on the brutality and came out on the streets to express solidarity with the victim, and disgust and anger against various organs of the State responsible for protection of the citizen. The gory incident caused anguish to all sections of the society, though urban people felt more traumatised. Situation indeed is alarming. India is witnessing a steep rise in the rape and sexual assault crime graph.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau this kind of crime has grown 678 % since 1971. It is said that in 2010 a rape occurred every 30 minutes. No wonder a demand is pouring from every corner of the country that the rape trial should be expedited and the rapist be sentenced to death.

For many, the demand of death for the rapist may be justified. It is generally felt that committing rape is akin to committing a murder; the murderer kills the body and rapist destroys a soul. Supreme Court has in a number of cases held that rape is not only a physical assault it is often destructive of the whole personality of the victim. "A murderer destroys the physical body of a victim, the rapist degrades the very soul of the helpless female and inflicts psychological and physical harm in the process."

In the wake of this dastardly act a debate went on the genesis of the crime of rape, purpose for which it is committed and on the ways and means to combat it. The crime was dissected from various angles. Some said it is a misplaced show of masculine power over fair sex which goes beyond satiation of sexual lust. We heard some 'liberals' and 'progressives' on the T V Channels deriding everything of the Indian culture they could lay their thoughts on. They attributed the ills faced by the women on our ancient ethos. The chatteratti and the libertarians saw no good in our culture when it concerned females. Even some of our religious epics were not spared the unholy criticism. These so called opinionated persons could not bear a word on the decadent permissive culture emanating from the West which has spread across the globe like wild fire; engulfing not only the third world countries but also the countries of its birth. So, we have gun totting teenage boys in various parts of U S gunning down helpless school children of their own colour and creed just for fun. Sociologists and the students of Psychology will have to assess the impact of Western fads like 'live in relations', lesbianism and same sex marriages on the Indian young minds and their social behaviour; along with the consequences of disintegration of the 'Family'.

Well, all may not be good in the Indian culture but in certain matters related to moulding the behaviour of individuals towards good of the society it is far ahead of the Western culture. Take, for instance, the importance we in India attach to the 'famil' (Kutumb) and emphasise its value in upholding the societal order. It is embedded in the concept which believes in deep respect and need for care and love for each and every member of the family. It provides a great support when one is in need of it. How this concept of family has been woven into the international covenants could be best gauged by a bare look on Article 16(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that emphasises the importance of 'Family' and describes it the natural and fundamental group unit of the society which both society and the State should protect. Family, indeed, is a building block on which the edifice of a decent and cultured societal order rests.

Nothing can be farther from truth than to say that the Indian culture discriminates against women. On the contrary, our scriptures are replete with directions which ordain honour, care, love and respect for the women. Much maligned Manu Smiriti mandates that highest respect and regard must be given to women throughout their life. In unambiguous terms it says, "In a house where women are honoured, there Gods are pleased. But where they are not honoured, and are insulted, nothing done in that house yields good results." Manu Smriti Chapter 7 (111- 56) Ancient Indian Law - Justice M. Rama Jois. According to Kerry Brown, a British author, in Hinduism a women is most treasured and considered pride and power of the society.

Hang the rapist is a battle cry. Heightened passions on the gruesome outrage are understandable. But that could work only be up to a point. Beyond which the raised passions could be counter-productive. We must not lose sight of the fact that a global campaign is going on against the death penalty. Few weeks before the brutal attack on the unfortunate Delhi girl, the U N moved a resolution calling up on the member States to abolish death penalty for all kinds of crimes. Even in the country we heard loud murmurs against the hanging of Ajmal Kasab -- a proved terrorist of the foreign nationality. If some feel that a death penalty is not good for the murderer how could it be so for the rapist. We can't, at the same time, abolish it for one crime (where it exists) and introduce it as the only option, a fresh, for the other. We may recall that similar kinds of emotions were raised in the wake of Punjab and Kashmir militancy and then we got the TADA - a harsher law under those circumstances. Later on it was felt that instead of using it against the terrorists the cunning politicians and corrupt policemen and bureaucrats utilised the law for their personal ends. With the result the law got repealed. Laws related to women have a potential to be used for a purpose other than they are meant for. We have seen it and in some case even the Courts have noticed the undesirable propensity. It is a tribute to the human ingenuity which has no limits when it comes to perverting the law and moulding it to the selfish interests. Undoubtedly, there is a need for clearer and efficient laws - particularly dealing with the procedure of trial of serious crimes like rape. But care has to be taken that the new law doesn't go the TADA way, ultimately. Finally, the narrative has to change from 'hang the rapist' to bring him to justice quickly and punish him speedily, commensurate to the gravity of the crime committed. In the end, no matter how many more laws we make or add severity to the punishment the crime is there to stay. Otherwise, how can one explain the ever burgeoning crime record, world over, despite there being billions of laws on the earth, covering all matters under the sun. Society as a whole will have to ponder over.

(The author is Former Pr. District & Sessions Judge )

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News Updated at : Saturday, January 12, 2013
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