A few months back, I was travelling from Lonavala to Pune with a bunch of friends in broad daylight. We couldn’t manage to get seats and so were standing near the gates, I being closest to one side of it. Suddenly, out of nowhere, came a bunch of boys who looked old enough to go to the high school and stood really close to us, literally hanging out of the slow moving locals creating raucous. Once the train started and two or maybe three stations had passed, I realised I was being groped at. Not sure which one of them was doing this I slyly grabbed one of the fingers on my body and pinched it with my long nails. As the guy nearest to me yelled in pain and indignation at me, I slapped him hard. I was repaid that slap back by the Delhi Gang rape verdict that came out on the evening of 31st August; late by 9 months and an exact 15 days.
In the first ever verdict, of a case that mobilised the nation on a huge scale, with the middle class and the youth taking the front seat; a case that was by far the worst the country had seen and that had been reported; the courts almost failed the mass movements and the country. What they did was provide new ways of escape for hard core criminals. The verdict, which was decided on 5thof August itself, but was facing the plea by Subramanian Swamy, dishes out just three years of Reform home stay, inclusive of the moths he has already served there waiting for the decision. This is by far lesser than the least we were expecting.
Let’s talk about the plea lodged by the BJP member and former head of Janta Party, Subramanian Swamy. Swamy’s plea said that since this was one of the rarest of the rare cases,the “mental and intellectual maturity” should be considered instead of age limit of 18 years. A fair enough plea to be considered, as the highest punishment the Juvenile Justice Board could hand out was a meagre 3 years in reform home. For once, our Judiciary that dwells only on proofs was told to check for facts and understand the situation. The rape case was something unlike any other crime committed by any minor in the reform home. Why is it so difficult to understand, that maturity levels are different for different backgrounds. For a boy who has spent more than six years on the roads, after leaving his home in the village of UP when he was eleven, he was way mature than any other adult present in the bus then. Mature enough to insert the iron rods in her genitals at least.
The judiciary of India can’t take such analysis as a part of the process, agreed. But till when can we go on taking the shield of inept rules? Why can’t we change those that are almost of no use now? Or at least, put in new clauses, learning from the new cases coming up? Surely, no one in our grandfather’s time would have thought of a six month child getting raped. So, there is no mention of such rules as are needed. But, now we know what exactly are paedophiles, and so isn’t it our moral obligation that we develop laws that are effective against it? Till when will the country that has the highest percentage of youth in its population will be working to safeguard the sentiments of the 60 year old population?
The country right now is going through a lot of changes. New states are being formed, new coalitions are coming up. New bills are being passed, new comments are being made. But no new reform is on its way towards the Indian Judiciary. With the elections coming, from AAP to BJP to UPA, everyone is out to make new promises, new declarations. Why does none of the parties have protection for women and developing new, better laws against any kind of sexual abuse in its agenda? Why are incidents like the verdict on 31st going unnoticed? Why did the case of rape of the six month old child go completely untouched by the parties? Why do all the parties only have condolences and not real action plan for rape victims and their families? Maybe because to take even a small strong step one needs a backbone; something missing in the Indian Political Scenario since long now.
If we see this case, from an emotional point-of-view the culprits should’ve been hanged, seeing the graveness of the case. But, just because one of the culprits is a few months younger than the official line, him doing a sexual assault is not a big deal. At least his punishment says so. A few months or days can change the seriousness of your crime and your punishment, easily. The implication this has on a society like India, ridden with corruption and forgery, are grave and dangerous, to say the least. All one needs to do, after committing a grave and heinous crime is to somehow prove that they are juvenile. Considering we live in a country where people take “everything’s possible” a bit too seriously, it’s not really difficult. Prove yourself juvenile, and see the fun. Neither is your name disclosed, nor are you going to serve a long term. Come back and start afresh.
The police have put it, as many times and as strongly as possible, that the juvenile was the most brutal in his actions, that night. It was his mastermind to rape the girl. But thanks to his age, he is the one to walk away scot free. He is 18 and by the time he come out, will be 21. Who is to say that he shall be changed? There are more odds to the fact that once he comes out, his psyche and frustration turns him into a bigger and more dangerous beast. He would have had a taste of the judiciary and thus would be more confident in crossing its limit.
“I was already dead on December 29, when I lost my daughter. However, I gathered courage to attend the proceedings at the board thinking the minor will also be hanged“. The father said and, like so many others, has been failed by the judiciary. Truly, the judiciary lost one of its moments of glory.
“It’s a crime to be born a girl in this country,” the father of the victim stated. I, suddenly feel this statement to be true. I am not sure, suddenly, if I did the right thing while slapping the boy in the train. If my judiciary seems to think that since he is a minor and thus legitimate to get lesser punishments, surely I am no one to go otherwise. It gives me no respite that while I am writing this, the news flash across the country is of a rape in Delhi again. Neither do I have any more hope left for any kind of punishment for the other 3 accused in the same case. I am really scared now, for being a girl. Had the verdict come out differently, I would have fought with anyone who would say this. Had the verdict been different, we would have rejoiced on being the proud girls of our motherland.
Editor’s note: A fast track court awarded the death sentence to the 4 other accused on Friday, 13th,2013.
Featured image credit: Ramesh Lalwani