The rape and murder of Nirbhaya in Delhi on 16th December, 2012 was an extreme case of depravity and brutality warranting the extreme punishment provided under law, which indeed has been imposed. The fundamental question however remains alive; do the women of this country feel a little more secure after this fast track delivery of punishment to the culprits?
The statistics showing the numbers of rape cases (registered) and the rate of conviction tells us a different story altogether. Nirbhayaâ€™s case is just an exception; the rapists have got away in most of the cases!
The statistics show that in 2012, the total number of rape cases registered under section 376 of IPC were 24923 cases in the whole of India; The State wise breakup of a few Sates are as follow: Delhi- 706, Gujarat-473, Maharashtra- 1839, Madhya Pradesh – 3425, Rajasthan – 2049, West Bengal- 2046, Chhattisgarh- 1034.
Comparing the conviction rates for the States mentioned above, the following numbers emerge: Delhi – 49.3%, Gujarat – 15.3%, Maharashtra – 16.1%, Madhya Pradesh – 19.5%, Rajasthan – 30.0%, West Bengal – 10.9%, Chhattisgarh – 22.8%. All India conviction rate is 24.2%. The statistics further show that 14 states have conviction rate lower than the national average with J&K coming at the bottom with 7.5% conviction rate. Gujarat comes at 20th position with 15.3% conviction rate.
Thus at the national level, hardly 24% of the rapists are convicted with states like West Bengal, Maharashtra and Gujarat falling far below the national average rate of conviction. Without entering into the larger reasons like social, religious, economic that lead to the commission of this heinous crime on women, the total inefficiency of the criminal justice delivery system to swiftly punish the rapists without a high rate of conviction would amount to granting considerable immunity to the offender.
The massive protest that erupted after the Nirbhayaâ€™s case in Delhi appears to have missed this obvious aspect. Hanging the rapists became the prime slogan and the crowd that gathered outside the sessions court to hear the final sentence continued in the same vein. Death sentence cannot ever be the punishment for any offence in a civilised society. Death sentence kills the criminal and never the crime. Hanging the four will have very little impact if the conviction rate is less than 25%.
The immediate requirement is therefore to create a new law and procedure to achieve fast and sure convictions. Procedure should be simplified and made akin to a summary trial to be completed within three months. Summary procedure may result in some wrong convictions and therefore only deterrent jail terms should be prescribed with a right to appeal. One suggested jail term can be up to the age of 70 years (of the accused) with a minimum of 10 years. This will guarantee that every accused rapist get convicted within a period of three months from the date of offence and faces an incarceration till he reaches the age of seventy, whereas at the same time giving him sufficient safeguards to appeal in case he is wrongly convicted.
The day we reach a national conviction rate in rape cases close to 100%, it will certainly be a very strong deterrent for the commission of this heinous crime.