India needs to bolster criminal justice system - GulfToday

India needs to bolster criminal justice system


Tough laws were enacted in 2012, but crimes against women have continued unabated.

The shooting down of four men who were suspected of raping and killing a 27-year-old veterinarian near Hyderabad city by the Indian police has been applauded by her family and many citizens, indicating mounting anger among the people over never-ending sexual violence against women.

Nonetheless, the shootings have also raised questions about whether the judicial process had been sidestepped and how the nation should approach such cases in future.

Recurring rape incidents have shaken the collective conscience of the people. The nation clearly has had enough with such abhorrent crimes.

Like in the infamous 2012 rape and murder of a woman on a Delhi bus, the latest case sparked demonstrations and calls for swift and tough justice.

Shortly after the arrest of the accused, hundreds of protesters even tried to storm the police station where they were held.

At one demonstration in Delhi, some women wielded swords while one lawmaker called for the men to be “lynched” and another for rapists to be castrated.

In Uttar Pradesh state, where a rape victim was set ablaze on Thursday while she was on her way to court, opposition politician Mayawati said the police there should take “inspiration” from what happened in Hyderabad, highlighting the intensity of anger among leaders and public over such heinous incidents.

Tough laws were enacted after the 2012 gang rape and murder of a woman in a bus in New Delhi, but crimes against women have continued unabated.

About 90 cases of rape are reported in India each day and many more go unreported because of the social stigma attached to victims.

Indian police registered more than 32,500 cases of rape in 2017, according to the most recent government data. But courts completed only about 18,300 cases related to rape that year, leaving more than 127,800 cases pending at the end of 2017.

A huge backlog of cases in the slow Indian criminal justice means that many rape victims wait years for justice.

Fast track courts have been set up but cases have moved slowly, for lack of witnesses and the inability of many families to go through the long legal process. Some victims and their families have even ended up being attacked for pursuing cases against powerful men, often local politicians.

Amnesty International India says the “alleged extrajudicial execution” raises disturbing questions and has called for an independent investigation.

“In a modern and rights-respecting society, using extrajudicial executions to offer justice to victims of rape is not only unconstitutional but circumvents the Indian legal system and sets a grossly wrong precedent,” it said in a statement.

Zero tolerance against rapists should be the norm. The process of law should not be slow and swift punishment for offenders is necessary.

The fact remains that stringent measures announced by the government have not proved to be effective as yet in stemming the rot of rape cases.  While laws are in place, there should be no laxity at the implementation level. This is where the sincerity of the authorities, whichever party rules, will be put to test.

Extrajudicial killings certainly cannot be seen as a solution to preventing rape. The applauding of the killings of the accused by many sends a signal that people are losing their faith in the criminal justice system.

India needs to strengthen the criminal justice system so as to deal more sternly with such heinous acts of violence against women.

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