MICHAEL VAZ, MERCES
I doubt whether a day goes by without rapes being reported in our country. There had been demands from various quarters on enhancing the punishment of the rape accused. The chairperson of the National Commission for Women had been on a hunger strike demanding severe punishment for the rapists and the institution of fast-track courts to deal with the culprits. It is a relief that the cabinet has approved an ordinance to inflict death sentence or life imprisonment for rapists of girls below 12 years and it has also enhanced the quantum of punishment for all other rapes. It is shocking that 43 per cent of the rape survivors are minors, which in itself thoroughly justifies the new amendments. It pains us to say that in an ignominious act in Indore a four-month-old infant was raped and killed by a man who is the cousin of the victim’s mother. Can there be anything more horrifying than this? It is a sad reminder to the fact that according to the data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCBR), 94 per cent of the rapes are committed by people known to the victim. The data is a reflection on the way the world is changing. Trust no stranger, was something we were much attuned to, but now the statistics reveal that even to trust the known people cannot be free from risk. Nonetheless it was intriguing that in the rape of the 4-month-old infant in Indore some member of the Madhya Pradesh Bar Council has appealed to the advocates not to plead for the accused. This does not seem to be in sync with the tenets of jurisprudence for in a civilized democracy the accused should be given a chance to defend himself, failing which we tend to degenerate to anarchy. If he is proved guilty by the fast-track court he is certain to be directed to the gallows as per the proposed ordinance. It is worth mentioning at this juncture one important point – is there any other place in this world where rapes of minors and infants are more common than in India? That shows the inner criminal mindset hovering in our country.