Just punishment

Just punishment

The conviction and punishment of four students of a Himachal Pradesh medical college, who subjected a first-year student, Aman Kachroo, to severe ragging which resulted in his death, will be widely welcomed. The guilty students have been awarded four years’ imprisonment, including the 21 months they have been in judicial custody. The incident occurred in March last year and had shocked the entire country. Many would feel that the perpetrators of the crime got away lightly because the maximum punishment for the charges against them is 10 years’ imprisonment. The Dharamsala court judge, who passed the order, had converted the murder charge against the four accused to culpable homicide not amounting to murder and may have taken a lenient view, considering their young age and the possibility that murder may not have been their intention.

While that is debatable, the first-ever conviction in a case of ragging would hopefully serve as a deterrent against the terrible and inhuman practice which was rampant in most professional colleges, and sometimes in other colleges also. It is still prevalent in some forms in many colleges, going by reports and the accounts given by many students. In an earlier case, an accused  in a case of ragging in Tamil Nadu, which also led to the death of the victim, had been acquitted by the court for lack of evidence.  States have passed laws against ragging and guidelines have been issued to colleges on steps to prevent ragging in campuses and how to deal with complaints. A committee appointed by the supreme court found that these guidelines were not followed by colleges. Aman Kachroo’s death could have been avoided if the authorities of the medical college in Kangra district had been sincere in implementing them.

The cruelty and barbarity involved in ragging is sometimes worse than police torture. The trauma leaves permanent scars in the minds and in some cases the bodies of the victims. Some of them have committed suicide. The argument that it is a rite of passage for freshers is completely unacceptable. It is an expression of sadism and criminal domination of a group over a hapless individual. It also induces victims to take it out on their juniors in the coming years. College managements have the highest responsibility in ensuring that the campuses are free of  this abhorrent practice. Along with guilty students, the authorities should also be punished if there is a case of ragging on the campus.

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