Death penalty for child rape could mean fewer convictions

The Modi government has just passed an ordinance to provide for the death of men who rape girls younger than 12. In Bengaluru, the ordinance has run into questions and much scepticism.

 Child rights activists and legal experts are worried it could spell more trouble for children. 

Kavita Ratna, director (advocacy), The Concerned for Working Children (CWC), believes the ordinance won’t be able to deliver justice. “The minute capital punishment comes into the picture, the number of convictions becomes lower. Reporting of crimes will also come down: often, the abuser is someone known to the victim,” she says.

 Also, at risk are the lives of the victims and witnesses, she believes. “This ordinance does not address the cumulative effect of sexual oppression and repression. It is a response to the current outrage,” says Kavita. The ordinance may garner popular support at first, but in effect, it can actually be very counter-productive, she says. 

 Kripa Alva, chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, agrees the ordinance is a knee-jerk reaction to the Kathua rape case.  “I now wonder if this will bring down the reporting of incest cases,” she says. “Nobody wants a person in the family hanged.” She calls for more stringent provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) instead. “Why can’t the government set up special courts to expedite all child sexual abuse cases? That would make a difference,” she says.

 Suma Ravi, director (south), Child Relief and You, feels the death penalty is not really a deterrent. “Cases will be hidden and abuse will take other forms. Adults who commit this crime may now gain greater control,” she says. A whole system---including the legislature and the judiciary---must work for the protection of children. Resources have to be set aside for child protection, she adds.

It’s public posturing, says police officer

A high-ranking police officer is convinced the ordinance makes getting convictions more difficult. “It is only a public posture. The tougher you make the punishment, the more difficult it is to implement it,” he told Metrolife. Victims and their families are reluctant to even to register an FIR. Would they then even attend a trial to prove the charge, he wondered. “When you are giving a death sentence the charges will have to be proven beyond all possible doubt. The tougher the punishment, the longer it takes for the trial,” he says.  Quick punishment is better than harsh punishment. The rapist has to go behind bars quickly, whether for five years or 50 years, the officer says.

Legal perspective 
M T Nanaiah 
Senior advocate, High Court

“The ordinance is a rushed one. It will have to be tabled before parliament in six months or it will lapse.”  Extreme crimes can’t be controlled merely with an ordinance, he believes.  “Parents should be taught how to raise children. All crime finds its roots in a bad childhood.”

This happened in Delhi

The Geeta and Sanjay Chopra kidnapping case (also known as the Ranga-Billa case) involved the kidnapping and murder crime in New Delhi in 1978. It involved the kidnapping and the subsequent murder of siblings Geeta and Sanjay by Kuljeet Singh (alias Ranga Khus) and Jasbir Singh (alias Billa). The kidnappers had initially admitted to raping her but later retracted the statement. The two kidnappers were convicted and sentenced to death.

 

 

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