Delivery of Justice in Rape CasesAfter the Nirbhaya rape incident, rape laws in India were made more stringent. But no law can ever hope to overcome misuse of position or status, fear or greed. There has been a rush (I hate to use this word, but cannot avoid it) of rape cases recently with Unnao, Kathua and Surat all troubling the minds of all right-thinking citizens. But in between, there was another report that has troubled me immensely and has got me thinking.
By Sunil Garodia
A girl in Delhi has filed a case against her parents for accepting Rs 20lakhs from the accused who raped her and forcing her to change her statement in order to let him off the hook. After bowing to that girl for her huge courage, I think that this is one of the reasons why convictions for rape are so low in India. In 2016, only 25% of rape cases filed resulted in conviction. This girl has had the courage to protest. Others are not so strong. Many cases are settled by the families of the victim and the accused in this dastardly manner.
Very often, as it will happen in both Unnao and Kathua, misuse of position and fear play a huge role. On one side are powerful people who have committed ghastly crimes in Unnao, from the ruling party and in Kathua, protected by the ruling party and on the other side are powerless people who can only hope for support from activists, lawyers and the judiciary. The accused will misuse their status to destroy the case against them. Also, fear of reprisal will prevent witnesses from coming forward and may even make the families of the victim to withdraw the cases.
There was even a judge in the Madras High Court, Justice P Devadass, who encouraged settlement of rape cases if the accused agreed to marry the victim. Calling it alternative dispute resolution, the judge granted bail to a rape accused and asked him and the victims family to mediate so that the victim could marry the girl whom he raped.
It is sad that educated people can call rape a dispute and say that there can be alternative ways of resolving it. A dispute is defined as a disagreement or argument. Is rape a dispute or disagreement or argument? It is forced violation of a person that infringes on her/his individual liberty and deserves punishment according to law. The person asked by the Madras High Court to seek marriage had been sentenced to 7 years in prison by the trial court. The victim obviously refused to even consider marrying him. And what if the person married the victim to escape punishment and then abandoned her after some time?
Instead of prescribing fancy ways, the legislature, the investigating agencies and the judiciary must work to eliminate misuse of status, greed, fear and other such factors that come into play in reducing the rate to conviction for rapists. Justice for victims must be swift and as per law. If needed, more procedural delays must be eliminated and better ways of collecting, submitting and admitting evidence must be introduced for rape cases to make the delivery of justice fast and just.