In our country, despite laws that are reformative in nature, we only talk of capital punishment in the rarest of rare cases. But when we see women and children being raped, tortured and murdered, I think it’s time we considered capital punishment in these cases too. That said, the action by the Hyderabad police in shooting down the four accused (in the rape and murder of a 27- year- old veterinarian last week) is unacceptable because it was their job to bring them to justice. But they did not care for the law and have failed in their duties.
There is a thing called a police manual. They could have shot in the air, or in the leg and not killed the accused. We have the rule of law, which makes provision for capital punishment, for a reason. It can act as deterrent and create fear. But the action of the Hyderabad police will only serve to reduce fear of the law in society.
Currently , we don’t have the mechanism, system or institution for any kind of long term reform in India. In fact, although the law allows solitary confinement, none of our jails extend this kind of punishment to even those who have committed heinous crimes. I think it is important that capital punishment is considered for rape and murder as it will send a strong message and act as a deterrent. Knowing that punishment will be swift and certain, people will fear the law more and perhaps keep away from doing such crime. Research has shown that recidivism (the tendency for the perpetrator to keep committing a crime over and over again) is very high in people who rape and murder and that is why capital punishment should be introduced for these crimes.
Presently, the courts, the prosecution and the police operate in silos, when they need to converge, debate and discuss every case together. They could say they cannot spare the time and the courts believe they must be reformatory, giving the perpetrator of a crime the chance to reform.
But the question is who is to do the reforming? While you have the departments of social welfare and prisons, there is no convergence between them. There is also a women and child welfare department, but where is the convergence? Everybody does what they think should be done and follows whatever policy is in place.
But when we are talking of increasing the fear of law and deterrence, the courts have the primary responsibility along with the prosecution and the police to see that these are put in place. And it has to happen now. Which means that the politicians need to work on this immediately.
I don’t subscribe to the philosophy that a woman has to be told to keep herself safe. Instead, I believe the state should be responsible for the safety of its citizens, especially women. So, light up the streets, make public transport more available, and introduce mechanisms and systems that can respond immediately and speedily when crimes of this nature happen. You claim to have CCTV cameras everywhere. But if they are not there, please install them and enhance your monitoring and response time. As for the judiciary, it must ensure speedy, certain punishment. Because when someone knows he will be punished, he will not commit the crime. But when he knows he can get bail and be let- off, he will continue to commit the crime with impunity.
It’s a pity that we need to push parents and educational institutions to teach our children, boys and girls, to respect each other. We must impart sex education and monitor and guide children about the dangers of the Internet. And we must be open to talking, and discussing everything with children so that they will not go around experimenting and harming others.
The government also needs to have a national, state and district registry of all those people against whom there have been complaints of sexual abuse, assault, and rape. Even if the courts have convicted them, the information should be available so that organisations are careful not to hire these people and give them jobs involving interaction with children, and women which could allow them to commit these crimes again.
— Brinda Adige is a social worker and woman activist