Mere enhancement of sentence may not help in rape cases
Posted May 2, 2011on:
Delhi additional sessions judge Kamini Lau is not the first person to suggest more stringent punishment to the rapists. The issue has agitated the minds of the politicians, judicial officers and the public at large alike from time to time. There is a spate of demands for dealing with the rapists more harshly whenever the nation’s conscience is pricked by the crime committed in a macabre manner or the victim is a minor. BJP leader Sushma Swaraj once advocated, as did others, death sentence for the crime of rape.
Judge Kamini Lau has noted with a tinge of regret that the issue has never been subjected to a serious national debate. Sentencing a man to ten years’ rigorous imprisonment for raping for four years his 15-year-old step daughter, the judge said, “A full public debate, with regard to imposition of castration (both surgical and chemical) as an alternative punishment for the offence of rape and molestation, is the need of the hour.”
Laudable though the idea of enhanced sentence is, that itself will not do in India where a feudal mindset of the people, a corrupt and inefficient police force and the colonial judicial process only aggravate the trauma of the victim rather than trying to assuage her hurt. The conviction rate in the rape cases is dismally low.
Even if the prescribed sentence is five years’ rigorous imprisonment (instead of the present ten years’) but a full-proof system is enforced to complete the hearings within a few months from the date of lodging the complaint, that will be a greater deterrent than providing for death sentence after a prolonged hearing which may last ten years. The victim is made to suffer humiliation every day of the procrastinated court hearings.
It will help if the law is amended to provide a minimum of five years’ rigorous imprisonment to the police officer(s) who refuses to register promptly the complaint of a rape victim.