Express News Service
NEW DELHI: The government has brought an ordinance to recommend death penalty for child rapists despite the fact that Justice J S Verma committee, in 2013, had opposed capital punishment in even rarest of the rare rape cases.
Following the brutal gang rape and murder of a paramedic in December 2012 that led to countrywide public protests, the then home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, had said that the government favoured death penalty in exceptionally gruesome rape cases.
A committee under Justice Verma, former Chief Justice of India was also constituted to amend criminal laws pertaining to sexual offenses.
The committee, which had former chief justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court Justice Leila Seth and former solicitor general of India Gopal Subramaniam as its two other members, in its report, in February 2013, however, felt that “the deterrent effect of death penalty on serious crimes in actually a myth”.
“It is also stated that there is considerable evidence that the deterrent effect of death penalty on serious crimes is actually a myth. According to the Working Group on Human Rights, the murder rate has declined consistently in India over the last 20 years despite the slowdown in the execution of death sentences since 1980,” the committee had said.
“Hence we do take note of the argument that introduction of death penalty for rape may not have a deterrent effect.”
Lawyers and members of women’s organisations, too, said that the latest government move could actually cause more “damage”.
“Examples from other countries show that capital punishment associated with rape will result in more killings after rape—so I don’t see the rationale behind this knee-jerk reaction by the Centre in the wake of Kathua incident,” said Ravi Kant, Supreme Court lawyer.
Mariam Dhawale, general secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association said that it was “bizarre” that the government had not consulted women’s organisations before taking such a crucial move.
“Several scholars and civil society members had given their representations before the Verma Committee and said that death penalty in rape cases is not the solution to make India safer for women,” she said.
“It’s the shoddy investigations and abysmally low rate of conviction in such cases that needs be improved and every law should be well-drafted and thought out rather than made in haste,” said Geeta Luthra, another SC lawyer. “If the government is serious about bringing justice to the family of Kathua victim, why does not it first extend POCSO act to Jammu and Kashmir?,” she asked.