Google Translate

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

It’s not ordinance, what’s needed is fixing the system!

It is obviously to honor the sentiments of all those girls and boys who took to the streets, vociferously condemning the heinous Delhi gang rape incident and demanding speedy action against the criminals, indeed calling for death penalty, that the government has come up with a tough anti-rape ordinance immediately following the submission of Verma panel recommendations.

The ordinance brings many changes to the existing Indian penal code: it provides for death sentence for rapists whose victims end up dead or in a persistent vegetative state; it makes gang rape punishable with a minimum prison term of 20 years; and it defines in clear terms as to what constitutes unwelcome sexual acts, ranging from stalking to acid attack, which are in turn recognized as offences warranting a higher degree of punishment. As the ordinance was signed by the President on Sunday, February 3, 2013, which came into effect immediately, women’s rights activists expressed their unhappiness over the provisions.

Critics accuse the government saying that it has ignored many of the holistic and wide-ranging recommendations of the Verma panel such as the issue of sexual harassment at workplaces, making rape and sexual assault gender-specific,  making marital rape an offence, removing the need for sanction in cases of sexual offences that come under the purview of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, banning of politicians from contesting polls when a court has recognized a criminal case against them, etc. In sum, it is debunked as having nothing for ‘gender justice.’

Women’s organizations have dubbed the ordinance mere eyewash and expressed their strong resentment at the rejection of some of the recommendations of the panel as stated by the Home ministry.  But Union Minister Chidambaram has clarified stating: “Nothing has been rejected. Some issues require more consultations and deliberations due to divergence of opinion.” It was further clarified that the rest of the recommendations that attracted divergent opinions would be taken up when the bill replaced the ordinance.

True, a lot more debate is warranted on this whole issue. There are many critical issues that need to be addressed such as: compensation and rehabilitation to the victims of rape and sexual assault, establishing fast track courts to deal with rape cases, and the over all security and well-being of women in the society.

Now, the question is, when so much needs to be discussed to arrive at a reasonable understanding of the committee’s recommendations and come up with a final product that encapsulates everything warranted so as to make it good enough to serve as a deterrent for the rest, why this hurry to bring out an ordinance, that too when the Parliament is anyway scheduled to meet shortly? Obviously, it is only acts of this nature that make citizens believe that governments do what is easy for them to do rather than what is really needed to be done.

That said, we must remember that mere promulgation of rules does not and cannot ensure justice to the victims. Rather what is urgently needed is fixing the system that is meant for administering justice: the police must be sensitized to the need for investigating the cases with alacrity and booking the culprits with no bias/favor. If this has to happen, obviously, the police must be freed from the interference of the power centers, be it governmental or political. Simultaneously, courts must find the ways and means to handle these cases on a different footing to deliver justice soon. 

Merely having laws does not mean delivery of justice. If the system meant for administering justice is saddled with insurmountable pulls and pushes from different quarters, any number of ordinances, as women activists wittingly/unwittingly said, would remain mere eyewash.  

Indeed, a few legal experts opine that the existing laws are pretty good enough to book the culprits but what is needed is the ‘will’—will to administer the rule book by the organizations meant for it. So what the women activists/organizations must fight for is: effective enforcement of laws rather than calling for new laws, which is incidentally the easiest thing that any government can do vis-à-vis delivering fair justice, that too quickly. 

“At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice, he is the worst”, said Aristotle some ages back. And so long as the governance does not hone its resolve to bring the people under the purview of law, the separation from law encourages man to be the worst.

And this governance should operate from within the families first, and then the society, and ultimately the government; for social evils, after all, cannot be arrested through criminal law alone. Remember, by the time the criminal law starts operating, the offence has been committed and someone has already been victimized.

image courtesy -


Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Recent Posts

Recent Posts Widget