The death sentence for the four accused in Nirbhaya rape case meets the expectations of all right thinking people. The sentence of death for four convicts in the December 16 Delhi rape case took nine months in the coming; a long period for what seemed an open-and-shut case. The award of capital punishment to all four accused in the Nirbhaya case does not come as a surprise. The fifth accused, a juvenile, has already been remanded to a juvenile home for a term of three years. Public outrage against the very brutality of the crime had been so overwhelming that only no judge could have imposed a lesser penalty. This is an instance in which public opinion has asserted itself, and rightly so.
The defense may find fault with the judgment. But the evidence gathered and produced had been so clinical that, with or without media hype and visible public indignation, the verdict could not have been otherwise. The Supreme Court rider of ‘rarest of rare cases’ was more than established by the prosecution, though in the larger public perception there never was any doubt. To be sure, the police, the judiciary, and even the government were under immense pressure to ensure justice. No one could afford a slip-up, and a court has to base its ruling on facts, not emotions. Given the watertight case the investigators built, this was indeed a fast-track trial. No one, after all, would advocate bypassing the due process of the law. The family of the 23-year-old Nirbhaya, who was subjected to brutality that defies narration, has expressed satisfaction at the sentence. Justice, however, is rare for victims of rape or their families; satisfaction, ever rarer.
In the same court that has pronounced death for the Delhi rape and murder, 20 out of the 23 rape cases heard this year ended in acquittal. In most cases it was because the complainant backed off. Even more than the criminal justice system, society is conditioned to remain silent on crimes against women ‘in their interest’! The December 16 case has served a cause to that extent. It has jolted society, the police, the judiciary, and even the legislature to bring about meaningful changes in the laws and procedures to protect women and children. So that the young life lost is not a complete waste, India has now to move on from the phase of debate to action. The nine months since the horrific night have thrown up an overwhelming range of ideas, including many opposing views. There, however, appears to be no decline in rapes being committed each day. Death is propounded as a deterrent to such heinous crimes. A greater deterrent would be the surety that culprits will be nabbed and sentenced.