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End Misuse of Law

Convicts should not have liberty to play with law to their advantage

Even as the date for hanging of the four convicts in the Nirbhaya rape case nears, one of the convicts Mukesh Kumar Singh has made what many see as last-ditch attempt to escape the gallows. Singh, whose execution by hanging is slated for February 1, has challenged the rejection of his mercy petition by the President in the Supreme Court. He has also sought dismissal of the death warrant issued against him. The convicts in the December 16, 2012 case have used or rather misused the legal process to frustrate the due process of law. After the curative petitions by two of the convicts were rejected earlier this month, another one of them filed a mercy petition leading to stay of execution of the death warrant. The latest petition by Mukesh Singh has been filed under Article 32 for judicial review in terms of the judgement of the Supreme Court in the Shatrughan Chauhan case. Chief Justice S A Bobde has directed that the matter should be given top priority as hanging of the four convicts is scheduled by this weekend.

It is intriguing to note that the convicts, who have been sentenced to death after following due process of law which has been upheld even at the highest level of Indian judiciary, have been delaying their execution on one pretext or the other. It appears that convicts enjoy more rights in the country than the victims or their relatives. Despite the brutality of the convicts having been proved beyond doubt which led to their conviction they are allowed to use the legal process much to the frustration of the parents of Nirbhaya who have been fighting for justice for last eight years. Despite the fact that it was known to all that the convicts were adopting “delaying tactics” no action appears to be taken to stop misuse of the judicial procedure especially by the condemned criminals. In a rather belated move the central government has now sought change in guidelines in death row cases from the Supreme Court to prevent convicts from delaying their execution by exploiting one legal option after another.

Even as the parents of Nirbhaya, who succumbed after a brave fight to fend off a beastly attack on her, wait for justice, the authorities appear to be blaming each other for the delay in execution of the convicts. Surprisingly those who were in the forefront of criticising the then government for its inability to save the girl from brutal sexual assault and wanted justice to be given to her are not showing the same zeal in securing the punishment for the accused. It is amazing to note that the central authorities have now realised that the current rules were skewed towards convicts and allow them to play with the law and delay execution. Were not such attempts made by the convicts earlier? Why did the authorities wait till more attempts were made by the Nirbhaya case convicts to frustrate delivery of justice? Could not the authorities seek changes to the rules earlier to ensure that there was no delay in carrying out the sentence? The apex court now has to act at the earliest to ensure that the rule of law prevails over the delaying tactics of the criminals.

Though many questions have been raised over justice delivery in the country over the years, no authority has shown urgency in changing the rules to ensure that justice was delivered quickly and no one could use it to their advantage. It is sad to note that extreme punishment like death sentence does not appear to have served as a deterrent to the criminals involved in rape cases with scores of cases being reported all over the country almost every day. What is more intriguing is that more victims of rape have been killed by perpetrators of crime than those punished by law. While the authorities have been bringing newer rules hoping to check crimes they have not shown keenness in amending those rules that allow criminals to frustrate delivery of law. Many of the rules dealing with the crimes in the country are archaic and have been pending overhaul for long. Besides ensuring that the loopholes that exist in fast delivery of justice are plugged, it is necessary that the anomalies that exist in our laws are rectified at the earliest to put misuse of the criminal justice system to an end. 

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