With the Supreme Court confirming the death pelty to Nirbhaya’s four rapists, the denouement has come in a case that jolted the conscience of an entire tion. Her parents have said the verdict will offer hope and succour to other rape survivors, even though the judicial process took nearly five years in this apparently open and shut case. The defence lawyers meanwhile contend that the apex court has ‘bowed to public pressure’. However, the fact is Delhi High Court had in March 2014 itself upheld the death sentence handed down by the fast track court. Prior to this, defence lawyers had unsuccessfully petitioned the Supreme Court that the trial should be conducted away from Delhi to nullify the public opinion factor. When the case later came up on appeal, the Supreme Court took its time to begin hearing the case while appointing two senior advocates as amicus curiae on behalf of the accused. Only in February this year were hearings started, apparently to put a sizeable interval between the incident that horrified and galvanized the country on the night of December 16 in 2012. After all, the massive public outcry this case had triggered brought about a change in the country’s laws on crimes against women. Yet, despite the cooling-off period that the SC judges imposed to deliberate upon the death pelty, they ended up concluding “if ever a case called for hanging, this was it”. Terming it an attack ‘most brutal, barbaric and diabolical’ that puts this gangrape and murder in the ‘rarest of rare’ category, the SC bench used words like ‘gross’, ‘gruesome’, ‘beastly’, ‘savage’ and ‘sadistic’. This is strong language, but then medical and forensic evidence including D, fingerprints and bite marks, told their own ghastly tale. And the three dying declarations the Delhi braveheart gave clinched matters, for these were remarkable in clarity and consistence. The Delhi police officer who led the investigation has credited Nirbhaya for the team’s success in securing a conviction, noting how positive and forthcoming she was in helping them il the perpetrators. Not only did she recall their mes from their conversation, she did not flinch while recounting how they violated her with iron rods and threw out her inrds.
Thus it is that the three-member SC bench has called this case “a story from a different world where there is irreverence for human beings”. Describing it as a crime of ‘mental perversion and extreme brutality’, the judgement reads: “The casual manner with which she was treated and the devilish manner in which they played with her identity and dignity is humanly inconceivable.” In her separate and concurring judgement, Justice R Banumathi said that the Nirbhaya case verdict ought to be “an eye-opener for a mass movement” to end such violence and sensitise people on gender equality and justice. In this context, she referred to tiol Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data about a total of 3,27,394 cases of crime against women reported in 2015, an increase of over 43% in such crimes since 2011 and 110.5% over the past decade. Across the country, the SC verdict is being welcomed as a pronouncement that will help reaffirm people’s trust in the Judiciary, that the ‘social trust’ so demonically shattered can now be regained somewhat. But can it be? After a shaken tion had spurred the Central government to constitute the Justice JS Verma Committee, it suggested several stronger measures to deal with sexual assault. The outcome was the Crimil Law (Amendment) Act 2013, which widened the definition of rape, introduced fast-track trials in rape cases, and provided for death pelty if rape victims were killed or left in vegetative state. Acid attack, sexual harassment, voyeurism and stalking were made crimes under the IPC. The law relating to juvenile justice was tightened so that sex offenders in age group 16-18 years can be put on trial. But as NCRB statistics show, India has a long, long way to go before her daughters can safely negotiate not just a milieu outside that can be callous or downright hostile, but even within the confines of home. New Delhi still remains the country’s rape capital — latest figures of Delhi Police show that the number of rape incidents reported increased three-fold from 706 in 2012 to 2,155 in 2016. In her judgement, Justice Banumathi further wrote: “The battle for gender justice can be won only with strict implementation of legislative provisions, sensitisation of public, taking other pro-active steps at all levels for combating violence against women, and ensuring widespread attitudil changes and comprehensive change in the existing mind-set.” Nirbhaya’s rapists may well seek to delay their date with the hangman by filing review and curative petitions before Supreme Court or by seeking presidential pardon. But when this country talks of a ‘sense of closure’, its people need to demand and ensure proper investigation and trial to il such offenders, or much better still, to prevent such offences through proper education and sensitization.