Please consider this petition from Alumni and Students of The Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi (IIT-Delhi).
We write to you as men and women who studied or are currently studying at this esteemed institution of India. We write to you as concerned Indians, as men/women who grew up in India and consider ourselves Indian, who are horrified that a case like ‘Nirbhaya’ could have happened in our country, in our city. We are ashamed that our city is now known as the “rape capital” of India. We are worried that too little action, too late, will be taken on this case and the culprits will not pay sufficiently for the horrible crime they have committed.
We worry that India is now known as a nation, which despite its progress, is one where women do not even have fundamental rights e.g., the right to say “no” to a man, the right to their own bodies, the right to live - if a man - any man - deems them unfit for whatever reason(s).
We think this is unacceptable and ask you to please accept the recommendations in our petition and correct this situation. In addition to the Justice Verma recommendations we ask that you also consider the following recommendations.
We have TWO Recommendations for the "Nirbhaya" case:
FIRST we ask that the guilty should be punished in accordance with the heinousness of their crime and with urgency: In this particular case, even the lawyer for the accused is not contesting what happened http://www.smh.com.au/world/victims-in-delhi-rape-case-are-to-blame-defendants-lawyer-says-20130110-2ch95.html) but is instead simply claiming that it was the victim’s fault because she was out at night, etc. While the lawyer may garner “sympathy” for his guilty clients from some elements in Indian society, legally he is not denying the culpability of his clients in the rape and murder. This “admission” in combination with the DNA evidence (which we understand is incontrovertible) and eye witness account of the other victim, should make sure that these men are convicted and punished to the fullest extent of the law. Justice should not be delayed. Why have the guilty not been convicted and sentenced yet despite the overwhelming evidence?
SECOND we ask that the “juvenile” defendant be tried as an adult: His crime is a fully adult one. He is already seventeen and a half, merely months away from being a legal adult under current law. More notably he led the most viciously brutal attacks on Nirbhaya. He was also the one who wanted to murder Nirbhaya and her friend by running them over with the bus after throwing them out bleeding and naked on the road. He is not only a rapist and a murderer who understands and leads adult crime, he shows clear signs of being a psychopath who will only hurt others if set free. He must be tried as an adult and stopped immediately.
THREE Areas for Legal Reform!
However the story does not end with Nirbhaya. Rape is all too common in India and much more so than we would like to admit. We are making recommendations also for more permanent solutions that make India a decent place for women. Given that here are suggestions in THREE broad legal areas that need to be addressed in the area of safety and security of women via the legal system:
Importantly we would also like to note what we do NOT want!
Hold Law Enforcement /Police force accountable: Rape often goes unreported, unprosecuted and unpunished because the police force does not do its job. There are many reasons for this ranging from inadequate numbers of personnel who work on preventing crime and law & order (vs. providing security detail for VIPs, bureaucrats, politicians), not enough women in the police force to the feudal/backward mindset that police brings with them when faced with rape cases. The big issue here is of prevention as well as proper prosecution for which we need legal process and evidence. Increased police detail, increased number of policewomen and increased surveillance and security of risky areas/situations should be part of a strategic plan for law enforcement. We need to hold the police/ law enforcement LEGALLY culpable and accountable in cases of rape when they fail. There should be serious punitive consequences when police /law enforcement FAILS to: record/lodge/act on cases properly and in a timely fashion, act with urgency when called into such situations e.g., in Nirbhaya’s case the officers /policemen whose jurisdiction this fell in, as well as policemen who reached the scene but took over 45 minutes to act in transporting the victims should be suspended/ dismissed from the police force in disgrace at a minimum; and finally when they fail to properly collect, record AND protect the evidence in rape cases. In such cases the evidence is often DNA-based and should be collected as soon as possible and then kept under strict protection. If this evidence is compromised then police should be held accountable for this and punished. This is the ONLY way we will get better performance from law enforcement in the short term. And this is entirely necessary to enforce the law and deter these crimes. We also recommend measures such as the following to improve law enforcement performance: Improve pay and pay for performance for the law enforcement. The police officers'/stations' performance should be audited regularly by an external party- possibly comprising of retired army officers, professors, social workers and others. Have ~20 policewomen in each police station in Delhi (this is being implemented already) & ~10 in each police-station in India. Writing an FIR for a charge of rape by a woman should be done through a police-woman. No negative consequences for police /jurisdictions for increasing rape statistics. For comparison rape statistics in Sweden are ~60 per 100,000 people, in the US they are ~30 per 100,000 people, and they are < 2 per 100,000 people in India, which only suggest terrible underreporting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_statistics).
MUCH stricter, stronger sentences for punishing Rape and associated violence against women: In cases where the the evidence is clear (especially DNA-based, strong circumstantial evidence) we need MUCH greater deterrence through punishment. Make rape a crime that bring certain punishment! Currently the perpetrators of this crime get off too easy. In cases where the victim is killed or reduced to a near-death state we should consider punishments such as longer harder sentences, life sentence without the possibility of parole along with chemical castration.
Revision in Law for Juveniles: Finally juveniles need stricter sentencing in cases of such clearly “adult” crime. In Nirbhaya’s case the most brutal of the perpetrator was the 17 year old who wanted to eventually run Nirbhaya and her friend over with the bus after throwing them out naked and grievously wounded on the road. Apparently this “juvenile” could get off in 5 months or maximum 3 years. He will possibly not get the death penalty. At his age men are not only sexually active but also aggressive in cases of such an adult crime. This age for such crimes in particular should be redefined to be 15 years old. At this age boys/men are sexually aware/active and strong enough to inflict harm. Stricter sentencing, surveillance for life (which in India could be difficult) and possibly life without parole should be considered.
NO RESTRICTIONS ON WOMEN
: Of course all people - not just women - should be careful and use good judgement in terms of who they trust and where they go; this is true in ALL societies and for ALL kinds of crime BUT rape and violence against women is never justified. It concerns us greatly when men in leadership positions in India call for restrictions on women e.g., RSS chief, MPs, government of Pondicherry, etc. as a “solution” to rape. Restricting women would not only be a step back, it will actually fuel more of such crime (more repression) and for sure embolden men with the values that indulge in this crime.
On behalf of several concerned citizens of India and the world, we are filing petitions along these lines and will be making inroads via media, NGOs and other channels. However Indian judiciary can make and have an immediate impact on this front. Please give our recommendations full consideration and we look forward to the result. Thank you for your work.
Alumus & Students of IIT-New Delhi
New Delhi, India