No Death Penalty for Rapists – First Enact Police Reforms

Two things strike me as the outrage over Jyoti’s assault and death bubble over in Delhi. First, the public now has the mileage to force the politicians to make some really important and long overdue changes. Second, this initiative is being completely wasted in useless knee jerk responses.

A Waste of Public Anger

A Waste of Public Anger

Forget the death penalty for rapists for god’s sake. It won’t work. Not because we want to be soft on crime but because there are too many issues that will actually make women’s situation worse. What is important is not the quantum of punishment, but the certainty of punishment. In a land where the police refuse to register even an FIR for cases of rape and try and “bring peace” between the rapist and the victim, what the hell is the use of a harsher end game penalty?

Sorry to say but the state of affairs goes well beyond rape. We need comprehensive police reforms that change the way the police force itself works. This is the only real way to improve things. In 2006, the Supreme Court recommended several police reforms that are desperately needed and that states need to implement. Things like ensuring the independence of the police force from the politicians. This is what’s needed. Not some stupid half chewed thoughts on torturing rapists or castrating them.

The judicial system also needs to be changed so that cases move quickly. These are big things, but public anger is at a boil right now. We have the momentum and power to change important things provided that outrage is channeled into something useful. Not mindless demands for bloodthirsty revenge.

Public anger and momentum is one of the few weapons  we have today to enact meaningful reforms. If it’s squandered over trivialities it would be a tragic loss. At the very least we want the death of the poor girl to have some meaning. So please pass this on. Stop talking about harsher punishments etc and focus on police and judicial reforms. Demanding that the states implement the police reforms recommended by the SC will be a great first step. Then demand that vacant posts in the judiciary be filled. It’s a start and it’ll mean that Jyoti’s death wasn’t in vain.

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  1. Narayanan says:

    Bhagwad, I agree with you that most rape cases in India are never reported. But, when reported convictions in India seem to be much higher than the rest of the world.


    An excerpt from the source:

    It’s been reported that a woman is sexually assaulted in India every 20 minutes; in the United States, it’s every 2 minutes. The conviction rate for rapes in India for the year 2011 was just 26.4 percent — barely a fourth. That’s impressive when compared to 5.7 percent of convictions for reported rapes in England and Wales, according to a 2008 Washington Post story. In the United States, 97 percent of rapists never spend a single day in jail.

  2. tp says:

    NEW DELHI: Ten days after being set up to try cases of sexual offences against women, a fast-track court in Dwarka, west Delhi, on Tuesday gave the death sentence to a 56-year-old farmhouse guard for raping and killing a three-year-old girl in 2011.

    This was the first sentence handed out by any of the fast-track courts set up in the capital after the Nirbhaya gang-rape.

    Terming the crime as “most diabolic and gruesome”, additional sessions judge Virender Bhat sent the accused, Bharat Singh, to the gallows, saying the case fell in the “rarest of rare” category. The victim had died while she was being raped and her internal organs had come out, the court said.

    “There is a steep rise in crimes against women, particularly minor girls. Time has come when the courts have to take a stern view of such crimes and inflict harsher punishment possible upon the perpetrators… so that a stern message is sent to society,” the court said.

    • bhagwad says:

      1. Rest assured that this will go all the way to the Supreme Court. It will be 15 years before he can be put to death (if he is at all)

      2. This was not an ordinary rape. You really think that the court would have given life imprisonment/death if it wasn’t?

  3. vikram says:

    Rightly said. Death penalty cannot be given for every crime. What is currently happening in india is an emotional reaction to the crime without focussing on the root cause. I hope india doesnt blindly follow united states in making a habit of legally killing people. As you rightly pointed out death penalty for everything is like bloodthirsty revenge which america has been practicing since long. Though india also has provision of death penalty but that is for rarest of rare cases. Only 3 death penalties have been carried out in india since 1995 compared to 43 in america in 2012 alone. One of them 36 years after being in prison. Americans are the biggest hypocrites and india should better not follow that pattern in order to satisfy public anger. And this illogical demand for death penalty for everything should stop.

    • bhagwad says:

      The problem isn’t with low punishments. It’s that the accused are never punished! Never arrested. And the trials take years.

      That is what causes criminals to have no fear.

      • vikram says:

        You are right. Criminals dont have fear. But what people dont understand that just giving death penalty wont create fear. If it was so then why does america need to continuously kill so many criminals and yet it has the highest crime rate in the world. Death penalty is not the solution for everything. It is irritating when my friends argue in favor of death penalty on the basis of america without understanding the fact that it is basically an act of revenge. Americans have always been bloodthirsty revenge seekers. Not indians. I will surely forward this to those people to read and understand. You have written this nicely.

      • Anjali says:

        few days back, I read that a rapist who was sent to jail for molesting and murdering a girl of 9,was found to be “reformed” after few years of imprisonment and was released little earlier on the grounds of “nice” behaviour…the same person again raped a minor girl and left her on the rail tracks to die and that too within a week after he was set free from the restraint.
        Now what should be done to him…should he be even allowed to live?

      • Mayur says:

        I don’t think a person with a criminal mindset can be reformed by putting him in prison. Why do we see so many past convicts getting back into prison for crimes committed after serving a sentence. A crime like rape is not a mere ‘mistake’. And to think such a person can be reformed is just too idealistic. Such people should be better removed from the society.

      • bhagwad says:

        I don’t think the state has the right to end the life of its citizens.

        I also don’t believe that “society” is more important than the individual. I don’t mind banishment – as in “leave this place and never come back”. We can do that for those who don’t want to play by the rules.

        But not take their life.

      • Mayur says:

        More than the right of the state, it is about the need take the life of certain individuals for the safety of others. For example, psychopaths who don’t stop killing people for their fun need to be executed. Even if they are imprisoned, they may continue killing other prison inmates. Life of such individuals cannot be more valuable than other humans. More than the right to take life, the safety of the citizens is what the state prioritizes in sentencing such people to death.

        For others, life imprisonment is apt as it will be just what you call banishment from the society. “Leave this place and never come back” cannot mean “go to some other place to kill people”. It is not about society being more important that the individual, but about the life of all individuals being equally important to be protected from proven murderers.

      • bhagwad says:

        I think for really dangerous people, life imprisonment is good enough. Personally I’m not willing to go beyond that.

        We’ve come a long way in the past 500-1000 years with our justice system and people are rarely if ever killed. And crime in the modern age is the lowest it has ever been in the history of mankind. The fact that the recent Delhi protests happened at all is proof that people’s tolerance of such things is going down all the time.

      • Mayur says:

        I would agree with you if life imprisonment for a dangerous criminal is about keeping him in a secluded prison cell for always. Even then, how would you ensure the safety of the few people who are in direct contact with the criminal; like those taking him food and clothes? Otherwise, if you mean life imprisonment as and with other prison inmates, I disagree.

        I was just checking the figures given by someone in this thread above. And the US actually had 43 executions in 2012 itself. That is not a small number.

        And I don’t know if you are talking about crime in the world or for any specific place. I don’t know the facts about a few hundred years ago as I wasn’t available back then. But comparing the conditions of just 20 years ago, I see a great difference for the worse in relation to crime. If one doesn’t manage to get one’s belongings stolen, there is always the risk of getting mugged, robbed or even killed if one is not extremely careful. The freedom of movement with the carefree attitude without the fear of crime one had just 20 years ago is absent today. I think tolerance to crime is going down because crime itself is going up.

      • bhagwad says:

        Indeed solitary confinement is given out for truly insane and dangerous people. But that’s really very rare. Most criminals are not medically insane and kill for a purpose – usually money or love or drugs. They don’t pose a real threat to their inmates. Those that are psychopaths or clinically insane are treated differently already.

        I feel that the greater reporting of crime has made it seem as if crime has increased. Previously with less media, no Internet, SMSs, smartphones, email and other communication tools we would simply be unaware of the kind of world we lived in.

        We could say that we are finally realizing that the world is a dangerous place to live in :)

      • Mayur says:

        There are a lot of criminals who kill just for the sadist pleasure they derive from killing. Money, love or drugs has nothing to do with their crimes. And most of them are perfectly sane; some even highly educated.

        Violence, including sexual forms, towards fellow prison inmates is a well known fact in prisons all over the world.

      • bhagwad says:

        I’m sure education has nothing to do with sanity/insanity. Killing for sadistic pleasure definitely qualifies as insanity in my book. In any case, if prisoners behave like that, they’ll go into special confinement.

        Self correcting problem IMHO.

      • bhagwad says:

        Killing someone on the street might be necessary to save yourself in the immediate future. Awarding the death sentence in court doesn’t serve this purpose. So I’m ok with the former and not the latter.

      • Mayur says:

        Ok. Now consider the following scenario. A woman is attacked and raped by a man in an empty and lonely street. After the crime as the man starts to walk away, the woman grabs a random blunt object lying around and hits the man on the head, killing him on the spot.

        Now, should the woman be tried in court for murder? If yes, then how will you ascertain that she didn’t kill in self defense during the crime? If not, then do you have any specified time frame during which the killing of an attacker should be considered as to be done in self defense? And, if she even kills the man a day later, should she be tried in court? Or is revenge fine with you as long as it is taken by the person himself?

        Or should the court decide after analyzing a crime how much punishment is sufficient to equate the revenge for the victim?

      • bhagwad says:

        You make a fair point. My view is that if it’s done in the heat of the moment after a terrible crime then it can be forgiven. Killing the rapist after the deed is done falls into that category in my opinion.

        Going a day later in a pre meditated way is punishable. There can be no hard and fast rule and each has to be taken on a case by case basis.

      • Anjali says:

        and you think they will never come back?…talking about the banishment, where exactly you plan to dump those creeps?

      • bhagwad says:

        I’ve often toyed with the idea of keeping a separate little land of the country fenced off for this purpose. Let those who do not want to follow the rules of the Constitution and whom no other country will accept be sent off there. A kind of “no man’s land” with no government, no amenities…no nothing.

        Interesting proposition eh?

      • Anjali says:

        but why should they even live?

      • bhagwad says:

        Because I don’t believe the state has the moral authority to put someone to death.

        I don’t mind individuals killing in self defense. But not the government.

      • Anjali says:

        state has authority to put anyone to death…people committing rapes..people throwing lethal acid on others..people setting someone on fire while he/she is alive ans others…everyone deserves to be executed for the offence…giving them an island to live will be like providing them free accommodation to carry on their life.

      • bhagwad says:

        One set of people cannot lay down the rules for who “deserves” life and who doesn’t.

        Life is not a gift that is given to those who deserve it. Like the sunshine or the rain, it’s given to everyone – undeserving or not.

        I’m reminded of Gandalf’s words from the Lord of the Rings:

        “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

      • Anjali says:

        Life is a like a gift ……………….Undeserving or not..then why were you advocating for the abortions in one of your blog?

      • bhagwad says:

        Mixing subjects here, but as I already mentioned I don’t believe that fetuses are alive. Or even plants since there’s no consciousness.

      • Anjali says:

        I know I am mixing subjects…pardon me.

        I brought it up here because couldn’t remind you the wordings from Lord of the rings on the respective blog.

      • bhagwad says:

        Also in the case of abortion, the life of the mother is being inconvenienced. Just as I don’t mind a woman killing her rapist to protect herself, I don’t mind women getting rid of fetuses to prevent inconvenience to themselves.

        Of course, as I mentioned I don’t believe a fetus is alive in the first place. But even if it were a full grown person, they don’t have a right to use my body to sustain their own.

      • Anjali says:

        Rape is forced sir…in maximum cases the victim is not even conscious to practice self defense,the offender can’t be set on loose,he must be punished by the state then,otherwise what’s the point of having legislative bodies..?

      • bhagwad says:

        I don’t disagree. Of course the he/she must be punished by the state. I didn’t say otherwise.

      • Mayur says:

        Though I may be interfering in the discussion here, I noticed how you have no problem if a person kills in self defense. So are you not justifying street justice? And by street justice I don’t mean mob justice. I mean an individual who is in possession of a gun or a knife and kills his or her assailant in an event of probable danger to his or her life. So you think that is right but not if the crime is properly assessed in a court of law and a death sentence awarded accordingly.

  4. Mayur says:

    One of the accused in the recent rape case in Delhi who was the most barbaric, has turned out to be below 18 years of age. It is being expected that he will escape with the least punishment if not just reform. How do you see this as justice?

    • bhagwad says:

      The principle behind the idea is sound. There has to be the concept of “adulthood” demarcating when you’re responsible for your actions. I’m sure you’ll agree that if the boy was 10, giving him the death sentence or even life imprisonment is wrong. The only question is what age limit should we set. It so happens that the limit is 18. We can debate about whether it’s the right limit or not, but I’m sure you’ll agree that some line has to be drawn somewhere.

      But before you think of lowering the age to say 12, remember that adulthood also means the ability to sign a contract, get married, drink, vote etc. So taking all that into consideration, 18 it is. There’ll always be “edge” scenarios like if you’re just one day less than 18, but maybe that can’t be helped.

      In the US they have this concept of “being tried as an adult”. I’m unsure about the exact requirements, but it seems to be a somewhat fair way of going about things.

      • Mayur says:

        Yes. I was thinking about the ‘one-day-less’ or one day over scenario. In such cases, the law seems to be flawed.

        Wouldn’t it be better if merely taking the age in account, the knowledge of the crime and its consequences and the intent of the criminal be taken as the basis for trying him? Rape is a crime which cannot be without the knowledge of rape and the intent to rape, specially in this case.

      • bhagwad says:

        It’s difficult to gauge things like that. For example I read in the paper the other day about a 12 year old boy raping a much younger girl. How do we gauge intent and knowledge in that case? Can we sentence a 12 year old to life imprisonment? Or even jail for 7 years – more than half of their existence on the planet?

        These are not easy questions and every solution is bound to displease someone or the other.

      • Mayur says:

        Intellectual maturity must be taken into account. On a debate the other night, I heard about a boy of 7 who started thieving. By the time he was 17, he had committed scores of thefts and become an experienced and hardened thief. But every time he was caught, he was released for being a juvenile.

        And obviously we can’t expect to compare an almost 18 year old’s knowledge and intent about rape and murder to that of the innocence of a 12 year old.

      • bhagwad says:

        This problem of “almost but not quite” will always happen whenever we draw a line.

        How is intellectual maturity measured? I don’t think there are any standardized tests for it.

      • Mayur says:

        If it is assumed that an almost 18 year old doesn’t understand the meaning and consequences of rape and brutal murder, then it is just like the proverbial ostrich burying its head in the sand. Something like ‘I don’t see it – so it doesn’t exist’ or ‘I can’t measure it – so it doesn’t exist’. But law usually works along those lines.

        As for measuring the intellectual maturity, a psychiatrist can efficiently analyze the intellect of a person. A measurement scale is not required. Just the fact that a person understands the nature and consequences of his actions is proof enough. But sadly, no court will accept such a proof.

        But to think that such 18 year old ‘child’ didn’t know what is rape and was innocent enough not to understand that brutalizing someone’s abdomen with an iron rod could be fatal is simply absurd. But law has been known to have a liking for absurdities.

  5. Garima says:

    Let’s consider your strong views against Capital Punishment once, “WHAT exactly should be the punishment?” is my question to you.

    • Purple Cloud says:

      Since the author has chosen not to reply to your question, let me make a wild guess as to what his reply would have been.

      Maybe he would suggest that all rapists be arrested and put behind bars and then released as soon as they are reformed. In that case, we should expect the rapists of the recent Delhi case to come out as soon as they are reformed into nice men with good manners and behavior.


      Maybe he would suggest that all rapists be told to “just go away from here”. And if by “here” he refers to the country, then maybe all those rapists would be given passports to relocate to another country of their choice.

      Maybe you haven’t noticed but elsewhere on this blog, the author has written about how the american parents of a victim of the 26/11 attack in Mumbai had forgiven Ajmal Kasab. But he was still hanged, probably to the disappointment of the author of this article. We should expect another article from him soon expressing his disappointment on the hangings of Kasab and Afzal Guru. :)

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