It’s rare that to see judges join public in their outcry for justice. But a spurt of gruesome crime against women and the recent gang rape and murder of a girl in Delhi, forced them to shed their traditional inhibitions. Some former supreme court judges minced no words in showing their disgust at the failing standards of governance and the inept dispensation machinery.
A sitting judge of the top court, Gyan Sudha Misra, was the first to break her ‘silence’, saying “enough is enough”. Similarly, former Chief Justice of India, A S Anand, who had ordered the trial of a former Punjab top cop KPS Gill for violating the modesty of a senior IAS officer, told DNA that an amendment in law, specifying exemplary compensation for the victim, is also needed.
“The state is under obligation to protect all its citizens and provide speedy justice,’’ Anand said. He added that in case of shoddy investigations by the police, the investigators concerned must face penal and administrative actions.
He also feels that women judges and special prosecutors must be engaged in the trial of the accused, charged with offences of any kind of crime against women. When contacted at Kottayam in Kerala, former SC judge K T Thomas, who had dealt with several cases of cruelty against women, said, “I am appalled. Its not a case which has shocked my conscious, it far more than that.” He said the victim’s testimony must be recorded through video-conferences, which is possible only when the courts are equipped with modern technologies. “There’s need for proactive judiciary,” he said.
Expressing his anguish, criminal lawyer KTS Tulsi finds fault with the dispensation machinery. He said, “The way the victims and the witnesses are treated in our courts in cases of sensitive crimes, no one dares to participate in the trials. People are losing trust in the judiciary. A lengthy trial shatters the victim’s hope of getting justice.” “With over 2,500 rapes reported in the last five years in the national capital, only 190 accused were convicted,” said Tulsi. He added, “The conviction rate is as low as 7.6% because of our tardy procedural trial system.”
Former attorney general Soli J Sorabjee feels that fast-track courts and an effective witness-protection programme can salvage some damage done to the dispensation system.
“I am grief-stricken by this case but today we should all take pledge to respect and protect the dignity of women. Our emphasis should be on sensitising the whole system. We should make the young generation aware about the self defence and legal measures,” said Sorabjee.
Sorabjee has demanded that in the present case, the trials should be over in the next three months and stringent punishment must be given to the perpetrators. “Only then will the message reach the society at large,” he said.
Lawyer Rebecca John says the legal system tires out people. “There are death sentences for murders but have the murders stopped? We have to understand that demanding death sentence for rapists won’t ben any good till the conviction rates do not increase.” John said, the need of the hour was “skillful determined prosecution and a sensitised court environment.”
Another former Delhi high court judge, SN Dhingra, said, “We have fast-track courts for corruption cases, but human lives are more important. Corruption cases can wait.” The supreme court, in February last year, had sought to mellow down the offence of gang rape to something like a compoundable offence.
A bench of justices Markandey Katju (now chairman of the Press Council of India) and Gyan Sudha Misra substituted punishment in a rape case with monetary compensation.
In the Baldev Singh versus State of Punjab case, three men had gang raped a woman. Since gang rape involves minimum 10 years of rigorous imprisonment, the accused were convicted under section 376 (2) (g) of IPC and were sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,000 each.
The accused had appealed to the top court, stating that they had entered into a compromise with the victim and that she had accepted compensation in lieu of punishment for the accused. The bench upheld the conviction but reduced the sentence. However, they directed the convicts should pay a sum of Rs50,000 each to the victim envisaged under section 376 of the IPC