India Sets Executions For The 4 Men Convicted In New Delhi Bus Rape And Murder
A bill seeking to provide death penalty for aggravated sexual assault on children and greater punishments for other crimes against minors was approved by Parliament after it was passed by the Lok Sabha on Thursday.
Piloting the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani said it aims at making offences against children gender-neutral.
The Bill, which was already passed by the Rajya Sabha on July 29, defines child pornography, making it punishable.
Cutting across party lines, members supported amendments to POCSO Act though some demanded that Bill be referred to the standing committee or select committee as it makes certain offences punishable with death.
Seeking passage of the bill in Lok Sabha, Irani said this bill is not related to vote bank politics but to save the future of India.
In an apparent reference to Congress MP Ramya Haridas who raised the Unnao rape issue in the House, Irani said this bill should not be looked from the perspective of politics and should not be politicised for personal benefits.
Responding to Haridas, Irani said it was very unfortunate that when she was speaking some members who were supporting her were actually having fun.
She further said the courts of this country have even power to punish MLAs and MPs.
The Bill, said Irani, would provide added legal protection to 39 per cent of population or 43 crore children, irrespective of whether they are a girl or boy.
Besides other things, she said, the Bill defines child pornography so that sexual predators indulging in such heinous crimes could be punished.
Regretting that 5,000 persons followed the child pornography site operated by a person, Irani said, “this is a matter of grave concern for the society”. The site had even shown the rape of a minor girl, he added.
Recalling a case wherein children were administered drugs and hormones to make them sexually active, she said, the law is aimed at providing stringent punishment to such offenders.
“We want to provide added protection to children…in rarest of rare cases death (penalty),” she added.
Replying on the bill, Irani assured that under witness protection scheme, all measures such as doing threat assessment of the victim and witness and if required even changing their identity and others, were taken to ensure their safety.
On if juvenile is involved in the sexual offence against the children, the minister said that cases come under juveile justice act and the death penalty could be given only if he is above 16 years of age and juvenile justice board finds that he has an adult mind.
The minister acknowledged that the rate of conviction in sexual offences is very slow and informed that under Nirbhaya Fund, 1023 fast track courts will be established across the country and 18 state governments have already been taken on board by the government.
She also said that a national database for such cases have also been started and about 6.2 lakh sexual offence cases were registered in that base.
Sharing the details of awareness programme among children, the minister said CBSE will carry out programmes in school across the country to make aware children about good and bad touch.
She further said more than 40,000 teachers will also be trained for the same.
Participating in the discussion, Su Thirunavukkarasar (Cong) suggested that since the bill has a provision for the death penalty, it should be sent to a Parliamentary committee for further scrutiny.
Rita Bahuguna Joshi (BJP) said the Bill will go a long way in bringing offenders against children to book.
Kanimozhi (DMK) said that bill should be sent to select committee or standing committee as harsher punishment could deter people from reporting the crime.
While presiding over the proceedings, BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab pointed out to Irani that the Hindi version of the POCSO bill used the word “balakon”, a term for young boys, while the English word “children” is gender-neutral.
To this, she responded that the legislative department of the government had vetted the bill and cleared it.
Rajiv Ranjan Singh of the JD(U) hailed the bill, saying it will curb the growing trend in the society toward such heinous crimes.
He, however, suggested the government work towards having special courts across the country and ensure speedy trial so that the cases of sexual crimes against children are taken to a logical conclusion.
A short period of trial will also minimise the chances of accused influencing witnesses. Citing a survey, he said the cases of sexual harassment against children have risen by 500 per cent.
TMC’s Satabdi Roy wondered if the death penalty will deter criminals and asked the government to explain as to what it is doing to help victims.
Shiv Sana’s Vinayak Raut supported the bill and sought a time-bound trial for the accused.
BSP’s Danish Ali also backed the bill, saying he supports capital punishment for those convicted under this Act even though he is ideologically against the death penalty.
Ali (BSP) said he was against the death penalty for the juvenile.
Hasnain Masoodi (NC) extended support to the Bill stating that the proposed legislation was for the 10 per cent of the victims and that for the remaining 90 per cent there was a need to strengthen the prevention system.
“We have to strengthen the prevention mechanism,” he said and added that it was high time to make stringent and effective law for the protection of children.
Amid the opposition to the death penalty for juvenile by some members, Nishikant Dubey (BJP) said the government has shown the power to come up with the death penalty.
He also pitched for the need for an awareness campaign in the society.
Kalyan Banerjee (AITC) expressed concern that in the media the identity of the victim and his/her family got leaked which he said should not happen.
Pritam Munde (BJP) stressed on the rehabilitation of the victims. – India Today, 1/8/2019
Ten years after after condemning to death six nomadic tribe members in a rape and murder case, the Supreme Court on Tuesday found them innocent and ordered the Maharshtra Police to hunt down the real criminals.
In a complete volte-face, the apex court ordered the immediate release of Ankush Maruti Shinde, Rajya Appa Shinde, Ambadas Laxman Shinde, Raju Mhasu Shinde, Bapu Appa Sinde and Surya alias Suresh for the murder of five members of a family, rape of a woman and her 15-year-old daughter and dacoity in Nashik.
They had spent over 16 years in jail in anticipation of death. The court said the six men were falsely implicated and roped in by the police. One of the six was a juvenile at the time of his arrest. Some of them have developed psychiatric symptoms due to the long years in solitary confinement. They had not been eligible for pardon or furlough as they were condemned men.
The apex court Bench of Justices A.K. Sikri, S. Abdul Nazeer and M.R. Shah specifically takes the case of Ankush Maruti Shinde, who was subsequently found to be a juvenile.
“Dr. Ashit Sheth, Shinde’s psychiatrist, clearly opined that he lived under sub-human conditions for several years. He was kept in isolation in solitary confinement with very restricted human contact and under perpetual fear of death. He was only allowed to meet his mother, and that too only infrequently. He was not even allowed to mix with other prisoners. Therefore, all the accused remained under constant stress and in the perpetual fear of death,” Justice Shah described.
The court ordered the Maharashtra government to pay each of the six men a compensation of ₹5 lakh.
The court turned its ire on the State Police force for trauma it unleashed on the men, who belonged to both socially and financially backward communities. The court highlighted how the police did not bother to even investigate the fact that an eye-witnesses had, immediately after the crime was committed, identified four other men from the rogues’ gallery as the perpetrators of the crime. There has been no effort from the side of the police made to find these four men. The court ordered the Maharashtra Chief Secretary to take disciplinary action against the probe officers within three months.
The acquittal of the six men is, however, a U-turn for the Supreme Court too. In 2009, the court had dismissed their appeals and found them all guilty enough to be sent to the gallows.
However, luck changed for the six men when they filed their review petitions against the 2009 judgment. In October 2018, the court decided to recall its 2009 verdict and hear their appeals afresh. This change of mind by the court has now finally proved their innocence. – The Hindu, 5/3/2019
It is a tale of Kafkaesque horror. Six members of a nomadic tribe spent 16 years in prison in Maharashtra; three of them were on death row for 13 of these years, while the other three faced the gallows for nearly a decade. One of them was a juvenile at the time of the offence. And all this for a crime they did not commit. The only silver lining for the six convicts is that even though 10 years had elapsed since the Supreme Court imposed the death penalty on them, the sentence was not carried out. Hearing on their review petitions became an occasion for another Bench of the Supreme Court to revisit the 2009 verdict. A three-judge Bench has now found that unreliable testimony had been used to convict the six men. One of the two eyewitnesses had identified four others from police files as members of the gang that had raided their hut in 2003, but these four were not apprehended. The gang had stolen ₹3,000 and some ornaments, killed five members of the family, including a 15-year-old girl, who was also raped. It is possible that the heinous nature of the crime had influenced the outcome of the case. The belief that condign punishment is necessary for rendering complete justice could be behind courts brushing aside discrepancies or improvements in the evidence provided by witnesses. On a fresh hearing of the appeals, the court has concluded that the accused, who were roped in as accused in this case after being found to be involved in an unrelated crime elsewhere, were innocent.
The case, in itself, holds a strong argument against the retention of the death penalty on the statute book. Had the sentence against these six been carried out, the truth would have been buried with them. In recent years, the Supreme Court has been limiting the scope for resorting to the death penalty by a series of judgments that recognise the rights of death row convicts. A few years ago it ruled that review petitions in cases of death sentence should be heard in open court. In a country notorious for “the law’s delay”, it is inevitable that the long wait on death row, either for a review hearing or for the disposal of a mercy petition, could ultimately redound to the benefit of the convicts and their death sentences altered to life terms. In a system that many say favours the affluent and the influential, the likelihood of institutional bias against the socially and economically weak is quite high. Also, there is a perception that the way the “rarest of rare cases” norm is applied by various courts is arbitrary and inconsistent. The clamour for justice often becomes a call for the maximum sentence. In that sense, every death sentence throws up a moral dilemma on whether the truth has been sufficiently established. The only way out of this is the abolition of the death penalty altogether. – The Hindu, Editorial, 7/3/2019