NEWS SEXUAL DEATH SENTENCE
NEW DELHI: India, run by deeply corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, is in the forefront in awarding death sentences for those involved in sexual offences – More so during the rule of the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) led from the front by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a bachelor by definition except for a brief spell of married life in his young days.
Last year, 65 per cent of the total death sentences awarded by trial courts involved sexual offences — an increase from 53 per cent the previous year, in 2019. Of these cases, 82 per cent involved children.
According to data collated by Project 39A, a litigation and research group at National Law University, Delhi, this is the highest proportion of death sentences in such cases in the past five years. Death penalties, the report said, in cases related to sexual offences have been steadily increasing — from 17.64 per cent in 2016, 37.27 per cent in 2017, 41.08 per cent in 2018, 53 per cent in 2019 and now, 65 per cent in 2020.
Corrupt politicians and bureaucrats are hardly ever caught. Even when they are caught, cases drag on and on for decades or are disposed of without punishment or fine in almost all cases. There are enough loopholes in law to facilitate their escape. So with the case of businessmen who loot the nation’s government=owned banks with help from senior politicos and bank executives. They take huge loans and refuse to repay. The extent of Non-Performing Assets (what is left of enterprises that end up with zero value after hundreds of crores are taken from banks as loan) or “bad loans” in the banking system in India was, a while ago, of the extent of Rs 10 lakh crore. Businessmen take away and park their ill-gotten wealth in tax havens like Mauritius, St Kitts etc and laugh their way through a luxurious life abroad thereafter. Incompetence of those who lead the nation and complex legal mechanisms that allow such people to get away with their act together work to the disadvantage of India of today. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, enjoying a high popularity rating because of his claim to being a “poor man” in his childhood and hailing from a so-called backward community, has done little to stem such rot in the system.
Modi had spent much of his life as a “pracharak” (publicist) for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the largest fundamentalist Hindu outfit working from behind the BJP; a post that required a life of bachelorhood. They need not necessarily abstain from sex, though. The idea is that they devote all their time to work for promotion of the RSS, pro-Hindu ideology. The RSS never speaks out against social evils like corruption, as it is part of India’s elitist set-up composed mostly of corrupt bureaucrats and greedy businessmen.
Thousands of teenaged youths are framed by police across states in India in recent years even for sexual crimes as a simple touch. Curiously, a Mumbai high court ruling this week stated that a touch on a woman’s body is a sexual crime; but it is not a crime if the “skin of the man and skin of the woman do not come into direct contact” — meaning, a touch over the dress cannot be termed a sexual offence. Such are the elitist fads promoted by the Indian establishment of the modern times, and under the BJP-led, Modi-led Indian governance system and parliament.
The past year had also witnessed the execution of the four accused in the 2012 December gangrape-murder case in Delhi — Mukesh, Akshay Kumar Singh, Vinay Sharma and Pawan Kumar — on 20 March in Tihar jail, after a gap of five years. Yakub Memon, who was convicted in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, was the last person to be executed before them in July 2015.
Governments, both the previous United Progressive Alliance(UPA) that ruled the nation for 10 years from 2004, and the Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government are sharpening laws against sexual advances, abuses, harassment, torture of women, also as part of an effort to get votes from them by adopting the appeasement route. UPA was led by a woman, Sonia Gandhi of Italian origin, while Prime Minister was Dr Manmohan Singh, a former IMF economist and professor who ran government on lines recommended by Sonia Gandhi, who headed the UPA and her own Congress party, the main constituent of the then-ruling alliance.
A gang-rape and killing of a para=medical female student in a running, otherwise empty luxury bus in capital Delhi in year 2012 led to a huge outcry and sharpening of laws on sexual abuse in India, creating a situation in which even a sharp look at a woman can result in a complaint and the accused getting arrested and jailed – in situations similar to fundamentalist Saudi Arabia. Indian men, mostly docile, have not complained.
Notably, the report noted that, as of 31 December 2020, 404 prisoners in India are on death row — with most number of such prisoners, 59 of them, in Uttar Pradesh. Large numbers of them are from the poor segments of the society, like Dalits, or Muslims. Uttar Pradesh courts also handed out the most number of death sentences in 2020 with 13 out of the total 77 capital punishments from the state. With nine cases, West Bengal comes second.
Uttar Pradesh is run by a BJP government, headed by Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu sanyasin (one in priestly uniform; a bachelor and RSS pracharak of the past), and the fact is also that traditionally, the state has been among the top in crimes of all sorts.
The report noted that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a major drop in the number of death sentences by trial courts in the past year. A total of 77 death sentences were imposed in 2020, compared to 103 in 2019. Fifty of these 77 cases involved sexual assault. In 41 cases, the victims were minors. However, 62 per cent of the total death sentences were imposed in the first three months of the year, before the lockdown was announced on 24 March 2020, which is more than double the number of death sentences imposed during the same period in 2019.
The report noted that the increase in death sentences before the nationwide lockdown to “strong public sentiment across India to prosecute and execute sexual offenders”. What it refers to is the big push by the Indian media, especially English media where large numbers of women work, to give exemplary punishment to men involved in sexual offences.
“The changing realities of the death penalty in India highlight the necessity of robust empirical research that helps assess the impact of various measures and design well-considered reform,” the study recommended. –IHN-NN
INDIA HERE AND NOW