The legislation that will enable the death penalty to be awarded to rapists of children below 12 should be welcomed.
The legislation that will enable the death penalty to be awarded to rapists of children below 12 should be welcomed. It would help satisfy the clamour for more stringent action against rapists across India, thrusting their bestiality on young and innocent children, often so shockingly young that people can barely comprehend how human beings can behave in such an uncivilised manner. It should also be pondered over whether tough legislation alone can prevent a great slide into beastly behaviour that seems to have the nation in its grip. It’s a different matter that legal processes — appeals and mercy petitions — are so prolonged that it may take ages to see anyone sentenced going to the gallows. For instance, the 2012 Nirbhaya horror that thrust the rape issue into national consciousness is yet to see an execution, though the perpetrators have been sentenced to death.
The horror stories of sedation, gangrape, torture and murder of inmates of a children’s home in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur cast light on a ghastly incident that is searing the national conscience. All the responses to such animal behaviour are so routinely pedantic. A CBI inquiry was ordered, but there there’s still no show of accountability. Neither have heads rolled nor ministerial resignations heard of. And this response has come from the government of “Mr Shushashan Babu” or “Mr Good Governance” Nitish Kumar. No CM can be blamed for what happens in a children’s shelter, but he must be seen to act more punctiliously in ordering investigations and calling for heads to roll in the departments that are in charge of institutions like children’s homes, whose inmates are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
It’s our view that jail for life with no parole would be punishment stringent enough to warn off anyone contemplating such horrendous acts. But there’s no harm in the death penalty provisio, provided that the system acts within a reasonable timeframe to show that we mean business in reining in mass rapists. The fact that more than 1.33 lakh rape cases are pending in the courts is sufficient evidence to show how serious we are in tackling this growing menace. The situation is so grim that it has inspired a Madras high court judge to lament that a country known for its spirituality has now become a land of rapists. And he speaks from a city in which a horror story of this nature recently popped up in the sustained gangrape of a minor child in an apartment complex for months on end. The victim’s kin came out in public for the first time to narrate their story, much as the children of the Muzaffarpur shelter have done, in touching the conscience of a nation that seems unable to punish its rapists effectively, and in a time-bound manner.