Daijiworld Media Network
Jun 21: In April 2011 Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau stirred a hornet’s nest by suggesting ‘castration’ as an alternative punishment for rapists. ASJ Kamini Lau incidentally initiated this debate while pronouncing a sentence of 10 years imprisonment to a man for raping his minor step-daughter for over four years. While awarding life imprisonment for a man for raping his six year old niece in February last, Lau lamented the absence of ‘castration’ as a deterrent punishment for pedophiles and sexual offenders who commit barbaric crimes like rape. She also gave exhorted Indian legislators to explore castration as an alternative to conventional sentencing of life imprisonment for sexual offenders.
A week ago Kamini Lau while framing charges of rape and attempt to murder by a HIV+ father on his 15 year old daughter once again lamented lack of legislation to deter rapists from committing such heinous crimes especially on minor girls and asked Indian legislators to explore alternative punishment to conventional sentencing. "Castration is the most befitting sentence which can be imposed on any pedophile or serial offender but the hands of this court are tied as the statute does not provide for it...Indian legislators are yet to explore this as an alternative to conventional sentencing," Kamini Lau observed.
No doubt Kamini Lau needs to be appreciated for initiating such a debate and thinking in the line which any civilized person would support considering that rape of minor girls, who are often murdered, is on the rise. Regrettably, President Pratibha Patil, who is in the last days of her presidency, commuted 30 death sentences awarded by Supreme Court to 30 murders and rapists including that of a man convicted for rape and murder of a five year old girl. The 30 whose death sentence she commuted were found guilty by the Supreme Court for the barbaric murder of 60 people that includes women and children.
It may be recalled here that Kamini Lau has just reiterated what former Supreme Court judge Justice Krishna Iyer had said way back in 1979. While deciding the sentence of a man who had killed his wife and children after developing sexual relation with a fresh girl Justice Krishna Iyer had suggested voluntary castration as a better alternative as against an outright death sentence. The issue of ‘castration’ as a deterrent was in the backburners until Kamini Lau once again initiated the subject a year ago.
In India depending on the enormity of the crime, sentence for rape can go up to life imprisonment which means imprisonment till death unless released by the executive. Article 72 of the constitution gives power to the President to grant pardons, reprieves, respites and remissions of punishment to people convicted and President Prathibha Patil used her Presidential powers to commute the death sentence of the rogues who did not show even an iota of mercy on their victims.
Those commuted of their death sentence by the President include Dharmender Singh and Narendra Yadav who had killed 5 of a family including two brothers aged 12 years and their 15 year old daughter who was gang-raped and killed along with their parents. It also includes Piara Singh and his three sons who had killed 17 people in a wedding party including 4 children. There are many more murderers and rapists who have been benefitted by the largesse shown by the first citizen of this country. It also must be remembered here that most of the victims of these 30 men went through brutal and immeasurable inhuman torture before they were killed. It is no exaggeration to say no punishment even death sentence is in commensurate with the crime they committed.
It is travesty of justice in our country that on one hand we have an Additional Sessions Judge, a woman, who proposes sternest punishment to rapists and pedophiles and even calls for a legislation to curb the monstrous crime of rape. On the other we have the first citizen of this country, undoing everything, just by the stroke of her pen even ignoring the cry for justice by the victim’s families. Considering the dismal situation of our judicial system we know how complicated it is for anyone to find justice in our country. It is not just the question of justice delayed and denied but another blatant example of hard-fought justice from the judiciary negated by the stroke of a pen by one person.
A barbaric crime like rape affects not only the victims but also her near and dear ones. Naturally, the only solace they would have got is to see the perpetrators of the crime being sent to the gallows and provide peace to the victim’s soul. However, commuting their death sentence means ignoring the pain, the trauma, the stigma, the stress by the victim if she is alive and also the family members and relatives who also suffer along with the victim is in vain in addition to the loss of life suffered. May be in another year or two Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru may also be ‘pardoned’ of their crimes in the form of Presidential clemency.
There are many who argue that giving punishment to the perpetrators may not bring back to life those who are killed and hence the granting of clemency should not be made into an issue. However, one cannot deny the fact that it would send wrong signals to other perpetrators in particular and to the society in general. It will given impression that one can get away without much punishment from any kind of crime. Apart from encouraging criminals by removing the fear of law it would discourage everyone - from our courts to the common people to seek justice through our legal system.
The incidents of rapes especially those on minors have increased drastically in India. Just a week back we read about the rape and murder of a 7 year old girl by her father’s friend in Banglore. Just a month back there was a similar incident of another minor girl being raped and killed. Now the French diplomat’s case of trying to rape his 3½ year old daughter in Bangalore is equally shocking.
Close to the heels of this revelation comes another smack on our face which says that conviction for child rape is outrageously low in our state. Of the 309 cases registered between 2008 & 10 and 366 persons being arrested only 22 have been convicted for the crime so far. Here, it is pertinent to note that going through the rigmarole of trying to convict the perpetrator serves no purpose when those convicted by the highest judicial body of the country are pardoned by commuting their death sentence.
Coming to the core issue of castration as a deterrent punishment, there are many who favour it as they believe it would act as a deterrent and is commensurate with the gravity of what rape victims and their families go through. Castration involves surgical removal of the testes and chemical castration involves reduction in testosterone levels to render the sex offended impotent by administering drugs to the offender.
However, there is a sizeable section of the society which opposes it saying it is barbaric, violates basic human rights and takes us back to medieval times. While some women vociferously support it saying it alone can be an effective punishment for an inhuman crime like rape one section of the feminists and others condemn it as too dreadful. However they fail to see that the victims of these offenders had gone through hell and their basic human rights were violated and trampled by these very men and needless to say such deranged men don’t deserve clemency.
It is said that castration as a punishment is in vogue in many countries. Voluntary chemical castration is said to be prevalent or compulsory for child sex offenders in Germany, Poland, Germany, and Denmark and in some US States. If these highly progressive nations consider it alright to have such a punishment as a deterrent we need to give some thought to the issue and act on it at the earliest. Or else we will have more live sex bombs creating havoc in our society.