A perverse view of crime & punishment

The pendency of cases in all courts in India is public knowledge

A judgement of questionable wisdom, bordering virtually on perversity in granting a convicted rapist bail to pursue mediation with his victim, raises very serious questions about the lengths the judiciary can go in interpreting crime and punishment. As a piece of judicial intervention, it takes the cake for ignoring the feelings of the victim of a terrible crime. The single-judge bench of the Madras High Court seems to have been cavalier in not taking into consideration the misery of a minor who was not only raped but also impregnated and is bearing the child of her rapist.

The very meaning of mediation would suggest that both parties are willing to negotiate, say, a civil dispute rather than depend on a very slow official system of justice delivery. To equate a crime like rape — which affects society because it mocks the very tenets of civilisation that make living in harmony possible — with a common dispute is to trivialise the entire process of passing judgment on criminals who break society’s code. Nor can a judge take law back to the ready justice of medieval times in which village elders could decide if a rapist should marry the victim and be absolved. What guarantee there, too, that a violator would reform to the extent that he would hold to a forced settlement?

The pendency of cases in all courts in India is public knowledge. To base an interim bail order for a rapist on the premise that the mediation process would take a case off the judicial system is akin to throwing the baby out in order to clear the bathwater. Heinous crimes like rape and murder can hardly be subjected to mediation as it would send a completely wrong signal to those with clout and financial muscle to plot a crime and then get away with it.

Some countries have a “blood money” system to compensate victims of automobile accidents or road deaths. But even that has to be accepted by the victim’s family; compensation cannot be forced on them.

The Alternate Dispute Resolution process is to be highly recommended in a country with a huge backlog of cases. But to believe rapists and murderers can be offered mediation as a medium of reconciliation is to take justice back several centuries, particularly since the judge has ignored completely the rights of the victim. This inadvertent cause celebre created by a single judge has also seen the issue run into problems of property settlement between the families of victim and rapist. Let us just say the judge is no Daniel come to judgment, and that his peculiar treatment of the case not become a precedent for other such cases.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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