"I realise that some of my criticisms may be mistaken; but to refuse to criticize judgements for fear of being mistaken is to abandon criticism altogether... If any of my criticisms are found to be correct, the cause is served; and if any are found to be incorrect the very process of finding out my mistakes must lead to the discovery of the right reasons, or better reasons than I have been able to give, and the cause is served just as well."

-Mr. HM Seervai, Preface to the 1st ed., Constitutional Law of India.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Keep the fire burning - random thoughts post Delhi incident

Emotions ran high in past few weeks, so were discussions, analysis, claims for new and stringent laws. The canvass of discussions got unprecedentedly wide thanks to the media focus and efforts. Statistics, law, sociology, psychology, juvenile delinquency all got featured in the discussions. The heat and dust is slowly settling down though a rest in peace is far from possible in the minds of concerned human beings. Mathura still haunts our conscience and this is set for another long haul.

The incident was seen as living example of the increasing rate of violence against women in India. Women's dignity, rights and freedom has been in the forefront of discussions. Claims are for more laws, stringent laws and capital punishment and even invasive therapies to sexually defunct the offender. Without ignoring the women's rights, dignity and freedom issues involved, I would like to see this in a larger perspective.

The moot question in very mind is why such incidents are repeatedly happening? Answer to this is multidimensional. The societal outlook towards women, the social conditioning experienced by children (of either gender), sexual depravity due to social and psychological reasons, law and its response to criminal cases in general and rape cases in particular contribute to recurrence of such incidents.

The present incident should be an eye opener about the systemic failure which also is a cause. Often it is said that every crime comes with a price tag. Punishments are the promises made to the offender that he/she will be made to pay the price. Though a very rudimentary approach in penology, this becomes one of the moot points today. Chances are much higher, given the conviction rate of the day, that crimes can very well escape the payment. Then what stops a person from not committing crimes is his/her own value system. Law/legal system fails to keep its promises.

More than severity of punishment, which mostly would call for stringent standards of proof and lesser rate of conviction, it is certainty of punishment that will help to keep the crime rates in check. What we would need beside social and contextual changes would be a legal system that keeps its promises.

A police system in which one could place trust to investigate efficiently and impartially that one would be confident to file a complaint. A judicial system which responds efficiently and conduct time-bound prosecution and final resolution. A reformative system in correctional houses that will address the requirements of individual convicts. Above all, a political system which can keep its political preferences at bay and act corrupt free.

Writing above, what rings in my mind is that I am asking for the impossible, this much is never going to happen. I guess this belief is what has kept us lagging for long, that nothing would be done. The way public took to street on recent two occasions if nothing is an indicator that people will not take things lying down always. It is this flame that need to go on, the vigil till there is a systemic overhaul, become iconoclast if need be. 

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