It was, indeed, clear from day one that the Nirbhaya gang rape and death case was the ‘rarest of rare’ kind. So, it is no surprise that the Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of the four convicts.
The apex court rejected appeals filed by the convicts against the Delhi High Court order that confirmed the capital punishment awarded to them by the trial court in 2013. As Chief Justice Dipak Misra, who wrote the main judgement, pointed out, what the convicts’ brutality evoked in public conscience was nothing less than a “tsunami of shock”.
The court even described the attitude of the offenders as “bestial proclivity” and the entire incident sounded “like a story from a different world where humanity is treated with irreverence”.
The Nirbhaya case was a landmark one and not simply because of the savagery of the culprits, but also the impact that the ghastly incident created on the applicable law. Within just a week of the attack, a committee was set up to review the entire gamut of criminal law and recommend the required amendments. The committee’s voluminous report formed the basis of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, the provisions of which were already implemented as an Ordinance.
It not only paved the way for speedier trials and enhanced punishments but also led to the expansion of the definition of rape to include more criminal acts. The condemned criminals can now seek a review of the order, but it would be a travesty of justice if they are shown even an iota of human kindness, which they denied to their victim so cruelly. One of their partners allegedly committed suicide while in jail.
The wound left on the public conscience by letting off the juvenile, who was the most brutal in attacking Nirbhaya, is still hurting as the man walked off with light punishment. The Juvenile Justice Board had refused to try him as an adult because his age was determined to be a few days short of 18 years on the date of the crime. Although convicted of rape and murder, he was sentenced only to three years in a reform home and has since walked free. How can one be sure that he will not suddenly turn a beast again?
It is time our lawmakers and society took a call on the issue of juvenility. The involvement of teenagers in crimes has acquired menacing proportions and a large number of those apprehended are young people. The worst of all, most have been found to show scant respect for human values and morality. With youths exposed to a whole lot of new tools for learning and acquiring knowledge, the age for being considered mature needs to be lowered by a few notches. Society badly needs such a change.