Wrong sentence

The conviction of the accused persons in two cases of rape, which have attracted nationwide attention, in Mumbai and in Kochi is welcome. 

But there are some uncomfortable features in both cases, relating to the sentence awarded in the Mumbai case and the trial process in the Kochi case. 

A Mumbai sessions court sentenced to death three accused in the Shakti mills rape case of last year under IPC’s section 376(e), brought into law after the Delhi gang rape case. 
 
The section, which prescribes death penalty for repeat offenders in rape cases, was invoked because three accused were found guilty of rape in another case also. 
 
The sentence is wrong in the first place because capital punishment is wrong in any type of case. 

Death sentence is barbaric and should have no place in a civilised society. Justice does not lie in the physical elimination of the wrong-doer. 

It is bad in principle and ineffective in practice; it has not been a deterrent against  crime. The IPC amendment which prescribed death sentence for rape was excessive and aberrant. 

The trial judge’s interpretation of the provision is also suspect. 

A strong legal view is that a second offence should attract action under the provision only if it is committed after conviction in the first case. 

The offences cannot also be considered to be the rarest of rare and so the section and its application in the case may not satisfy the Supreme Court’s norms. 

An observation made by the trial judge is particularly unacceptable. The judge said that the accused do not have the potential for reformation. 

Such a wrong and negative view should not form part of a system of justice, and the judge’s subjective assessment should not have influenced the judgment. 

Any person has the chance and potential to reform at any stage in life. In any case, should a person who does not or cannot reform be hanged to death? 

A life term in jail would have served the ends of justice in the Shakti mills case. 
 
In the Suryanelli case, justice finally prevailed when the court convicted 24 persons who had sexually exploited a school girl, and sent them to jail. 

But the course of justice had many twists and turns, and it took 18 years for the guilty to be brought to book. 

At one stage, they had even been acquitted.  Such narrow misses and long delays do not strengthen the system of justice.
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