Spotlight on death penalty

A panel discussion in progress

A panel discussion on death penalty was held recently at Jain University, Palace Road. The discussion was a public consultation on laws against child sexual abuse and talked about how death penalty is not a solution for child rape.

Retd Justice V Gopal Gowda, DG-IGP ST Ramesh, Jayna Kothari, co-founder of Centre for Law and Policy Research, were among the panelists who voiced their disagreement against the death penalty and opined that it ignored the actual problem.

ST Ramesh said,  “It is not the severity of punishment but certainty of punishment that should be focused on, particularly in rape cases. The ordinance is an easily availed option by the government more like legal populism.”

There is no support mechanism on the ground for children who are victims. POCSO, a special law to protect child sexual abuse, must be brought into complete action. Death penalty will lead to a low conviction rate which in turn will lead to the victim and witnesses turning hostile. Fear will be internalised in the child, said one of the moderators, Swagata Raha

Dr Shaibya Saldanha said, “Child sexual abuse happens in a manipulative way. One of the reasons for this is that genitals are not considered as normal parts of the body. The child’s own innocence and ignorance is used against them.”

“The police doesn’t have the resources to take the case further due to lack of technology and manpower. Reforms should be brought in the criminal justice system. Filing a case should be simpler and all cases should be investigated thoroughly,” added ST Ramesh.  

An overview of the performance of fast-track courts in India was given by Jayna Kothari. She feels that disposal of cases is comparatively faster there but even then, the conviction rate is quite low.

Justice Gopal Gowda said, “The ordinance is unwarranted and uncalled for. To confront Indian society would be an apt solution for this crime, which is being repeated frequently now. The Parliament can enact a law to protect children and women in a better way and see that it is implemented properly.”

“There is a necessity to make children safe in their homes, schools and public places. There should be specially trained police officers to handle child abuse cases. Reforms in the criminal justice system may lead to better decision making. Gender sensitisation needs to be enforced in the police department, among judges, court staff and so on. And awareness should be spread all the time, and not just when a child or women is sexually abused in a brutal way.

Fact file

The turnout report on special courts for children
Case disposal – 51
Convictions – 4(7.2%)
Acquittals – 47(92.8%)

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Spotlight on death penalty

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