The Scales of Justice are in Disarray

Written by: Yug Sinha

India has recorded a 1,200 percent increase in cases of sexual assault.

The latest data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show that more than 33,600 women were raped in 2017- that is, one rape every 15 minutes.

To add to this data, not a day has gone by when the Unnao rape victim succumbed to 90% burn injuries at Safdarjung hospital in Delhi and another woman claims that the police in Sindupur village in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh have refused to register her complaint after some men attempted to rape her.

"Rape toh hua nahin, Jab hoga tab dekhenge [Rape has not happened, we will see when it happens]",is what the police said to the woman.

Throughout this article, we shall be looking at the Unnao Rape Case and the inefficiency of administration that led to ‘just’ one more death.

FACTS OF THE CASE:

A woman named Shashi Singh, her son, Shubham Singh, and her daughter, Nidhi Singh lured the victim to move to Kanpur with the allurement of securing employment.

On the night of 11 June 2017, she was raped multiple times by Shubham Singh and his driver, Awdhesh Tiwari.

She was later assaulted by many individuals and allegedly sold to one Brajesh Yadav for ₹60,000. A First Information Report (FIR) was registered under Section 363 and 366 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against Shubham Singh and Awdhesh Tiwari on 20 June 2017.

She recorded her statement in front of the Judicial Magistrate on 22 June 2017 under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure(CrPC) in which she named Shubham Singh, Awdhesh Tiwari, Brajesh Yadav, and other assailants for the abduction and gang rape.

A second FIR was made under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) and they were subsequently detained.

In an open letter on 17 August 2017 to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, the victim stated that before the events of 11 June 2017, she had been raped on 4 June 2017 at 8:00 pm at the house of Kuldip Singh Sengar, a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Uttar Pradesh from the Unnao constituency, and a member of the Bharatiya Janta Party.

Her statement was recorded by the police on 22 June 2017, but the police did not allow her to name her assailant.

On 5 April 2018, the woman's father was arrested and placed in judicial custody, allegedly after he was assaulted by supporters of Sengar. Five days later, the victim attempted to immolate herself in front of the residence of the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, stating that the police had taken no action against the accused.

A day later, her father died in the hospital of his injuries, leading to the arrest of Atul Sengar (Kuldip Singh Sengar's brother) and the suspension of six police officers.

After this incident, the case received widespread media coverage, forcing the State Government to hand over this case to the Central Bureau of Investigation, which later got shifted to the Allahabad High Court.

But, Shivam Trivedi- one of the two rape accused got bail on 25 November from the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court.

The conditions laid down by the Allahabad HC to grant bail were subjected as -

• That the applicant will not try to influence the witnesses or tamper with the evidence of the case or misuse the liberty of bail.

• That the applicant will fully cooperate in expeditious disposal of the case and shall not

seek any adjournment on the dates fixed for evidence.

• That the applicant shall remain present, in person, before the trial court on the dates fixed for:

a.) opening of the case,

b.) framing of charge; and

c.) recording of statement under Section 313 Cr.P.C.

The above laid down conditions were violated within 10 days when he and four more men allegedly set the women on fire.

After fighting for over 42 hours, she breathed her last after suffering a cardiac arrest.

This shows that harsher criminal laws cannot eliminate sexual violence and in no way can transform societies. There is sufficient evidence that suggests that it is the probability of punishment rather than the severity of it that deters potential offenders.

Completely ignoring the systemic realities and the contribution of administration like police apathy towards rape survivors, poor investigation and a judgmental criminal justice system and only asking for harsher punishments as a solution, our outrage as a society seems shallow.

After the death, party politics started at full swing. UP ministers Swami Prasad Maurya and Kamal Rani Varun along with local BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj who himself is accused of two rapes and two murders and is out on bail met her family but were faced with violent protests.

They were met with slogans, 'Wapas Jao, Wapas Jao[Go back, Go back]', after which the police used force to disperse the protestors.

Not only the government, but the opposition also saw this as an opportunity to target the authority of Uttar Pradesh.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who also met the victim's family in Unnao accused the Uttar Pradesh government of patronizing criminals that led to recurrent crimes against women in the state.

Samajwadi Party president and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav sat on a 'dharna' outside the Vidhan Bhavan in Lucknow and blamed the BJP government for the death of the woman and sought its removal.

Ms. Mayawati met Governor Anandiben Patel and submitted a memorandum, asking her to direct the Chief Minister to take necessary steps to curb crimes against women and fulfill his constitutional duty of maintaining law and order.

Criminal elements have no fear of law in the State, she said.

"Rape incidents have become common now. Being a woman, I have taken this incident seriously. And I felt that the Governor is herself a woman, that she would take this matter seriously," she told reporters.

But despite such big words, Justice is far from being served.

On 6 December 2019, In Lok Sabha, when the Unstarred Question No. 3060 was asked by Harish Dwivedi, which goes as follows-

1. That whether the government has decided to set up Fast Track Courts in the country with the Nirbhaya Fund for disposal of pending rape cases, if so, the details, thereof;

2. the number of courts to be established; and

3. the name of such districts in Uttar Pradesh where the said courts are being set up?

To this question, the answer of the Minister of Women and Child Development, Smriti Zubin Irani is,

" Yes Sir. A scheme on the lines of other Centrally Sponsored Schemes for setting up of a total of 1023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs) for expeditious trial and disposal of rape cases and cases under the POCSO Act has been formulated by Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India. The total estimated cost is Rs. 767.25 crore, out of which Central Share is Rs. 474 crore. It has been proposed to set up 218 FTSCs in the State of Uttar Pradesh. The decision of Government of Uttar Pradesh in this regard is awaited."

Where the clearance to a Statue is given within weeks of its proposal to be constructed in Ayodhya with a budget of Rs. 450 crores, it is a shame that such delay is shown towards the setting up of Fast Track Courts.

This considerably shows the priorities of the administration at this very moment.

You must be furious, but you don't have the right to be. The reason being, you and I form the part of a society that is deeply embedded in rape culture. It is contradictory that a society which in many ways actively promotes the ecosystem for rape through cultural and societal attitudes suddenly decides to act out when heinous sexual crimes against women are committed.

The laughing off culture and normalization of sexual violence in the media which takes the form of objectification of women's bodies, victim shaming, explicit jokes, etc. is a big contributor for creating an environment that disregards bodily integrity and perpetuates sexual violence.

Therefore, it is very convenient and cowardly for society to place the blame and direct our vengeance on a few individuals without any reflection on society's role in sustaining such heinous crimes.

A slight notion of justice was served when a Delhi Court on Monday held Sengar guilty of rape and convicted him under Section 376 IPC and Section 5(c) of the POCSO Act.

But will this be the end? Only time can tell us.

The Justice delivery system in India is expensive and full of promised uncertainties, so to

compensate that Uttar Pradesh government has paid Rs 25 lakh and promised a pucca (brick) house to the victim's family.

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