India is struggling with one of those profound puzzles of justice vs. the law. They are not unknown in any democratic society, including our own of course. Indeed this case is a testament to India’s unique heritage of both British and its own multicultural legal heritage.
On 2012, a savage attack on a young college physiotherapy student and her companion on a city-operated bus in New Delhi momentarily shocked the nation and the world. Six men raped the young woman and beat her companion, leaving them for dead. The violence was such that her intestines were wrenched from her body and she died despite extraordinary medical assistance 13 days later in Singapore.
The youngest of the rapists – just under his 18th birthday at the time, therefore legally a juvenile in India – was released Sunday after serving three years. India and the world hardly took notice. At the time there was enormous worldwide publicity of the crime and a spotlight thrown on the inferior status of women in India despite their frequent prominence in political life. [Indira Gandhi, daughter of the sainted independence fighter, Jawaharlal Nehru, served politically ruthlessly twice for more than a decade as prime minister before her assassination in 1984.]
The young rapist went free if under surveillance after the mandatory limit of three years for a juvenile offender, no matter the crime. Attempts to amend the law to permit longer sentences – death by hanging is mandatory for rape in India – has been shelved in the parliament.
The crime excited large crowds at the time with harassment of women in public life widespread. But most observers are convinced that the hullabaloo over the dramatic crime, which brought out strong popular demands for eliminating customary and legal prejudice against women. has subsided. .
Asha Singh Singh, the victim’s mother, on Wednesday, the third anniversary of the crime released her name, Jyoti Singh, for the first time.
“Why should I hide her name? Why should I be ashamed of it?” her mother said, referring to the law which forbids releasing the name of rape victims. “Those who committed that heinous crime on her should feel ashamed. The makers of this administrative system should feel ashamed.”
“Crime has won. We have lost,”, she was quoted by CNN. “Our efforts for three years have failed. If they understood my daughter’s pain, if they understood my pain, the culprit would not be free.”
“He deserves the same punishment as the four who’ve been given the death penalty. It should set a historic example in society that if you treat women and girls this way, no one will be spared.”
Four of the rapists received death sentences and the fifth, the driver of the bus, died in prison, officially designated suicide but called murder by his family and his attorney.
The verdict was unanticipated by the media with virtually no audience in the court when the verdict was handed down. Under India’s juvenile aws, maximum punishment doe minors is three years at a reform facility. The government opposed his release, but the New Delhi High Court refused to grant a petition for prolonged custody. Government lawyers admitted that the judge had no discretion considering the letter of the law.
However, the general consensus in India is that despite the attention the case gathered at the time, little has changed. Kritika Dua, 22, a young woman studying law to become a judge, claimed that despite the laws on the books, police and the judiciary fail to implement them..
“Even we are at fault,” a young colleague claimed, “The mindset has to change. How can anyone say that the answer to the problem is that girls should not go out?” After the rape, some politicians suggested that she had invited the attack by going out at night.