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5 January, 2020 11:17:58 AM
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Nirbhaya rape case deferred yet again

For Nirbhaya's parents, there have been ups and downs in their seemingly endless fight
Kumkum Chadha
Nirbhaya rape case deferred yet again

When gang rape victim Nirbhaya’s mother, Asha Devi, reacted to the court verdict, saying,  "Today I have another date in my hands” after the matter was  deferred  yet again, she touched a chord. Her daughter’s gang rape seven years ago had shook the nation wherein the popular sentiment was to hang all the accused without mercy. Of course there were voices against but they were more to decry capital punishment than they were for sparing rapists who had mercilessly gang-raped and brutally assaulted a 23-year old paramedic student on the intervening night of December 16-17, 2012 inside a moving bus in south Delhi.  After battling for life in a Delhi hospital, she was flown to Singapore where she died  on December 29, 2012.
Since then her parents have been running from pillar to post for justice.
Even while the Courts continued hearing the case, the nation stood firm with Nirbhaya’s family who feel that  something or the other may come up to hinder or delay the execution as it has happened numerous times since death penalty was pronounced on the culprits by the  Supreme Court of India.
Grounds that “the court has given them [convicts]  time to seek remedy. The court is only looking at their [convicts] rights and not ours. There is no guarantee that a judgment will be given on next date of hearing," she was not off the mark.
In a heart rendering moment, however, the judge told her: "I have full sympathy with you. I know someone has died but there are their rights too. We are here to listen to you but are also bound by the law".
Additional Sessions Judge Satish Kumar Arora, who is hearing the plea of Delhi government seeking issuance of death warrants for executing the convicts, said it will wait for the order's copy and adjourned the hearing for January 7, 2020.
For Nirbhaya's parents, there have been ups and downs in their somewhat endless fight but now there seems a ray of hope and a closure in sight with the possible execution of the guilty.  The parents, however, feel that is no guarantee that a final judgement will be delivered at the next hearing as well. Their frustration is understandable.

The Supreme Court, however, has  confirmed the death penalty awarded to one of the four convicts, Akshay in the gruesome Nirbhaya gang rape-and-murder case by dismissing his plea which sought a review of its 2017 judgment. This prompted Asha Devi to state that they were now “one step closer “ to the  death warrant and execution of the four convicts in the case.

On July 9 last year, the top court had dismissed the review pleas filed by the other three convicts -- Mukesh (32), Pawan Gupta (25) and Vinay Sharma (26) -- in the case, saying no grounds have been made out by them for the review.

Dismissing the plea of Akshay, who was the cleaner of the bus in which the incident took place, a 3-judge bench had said there was no "error apparent on the face of the record" and none of the grounds raised by him call for review of the 2017 judgment.

"The review petition is not for re-hearing of the appeal on reappreciation of the evidence over and over again. A party is not entitled to seek review of the judgment merely for the purpose of rehearing of the appeal and a fresh decision," the bench had then said:

"In light of the aggravating circumstances and considering that the case falls within the category of 'rarest of rare cases', the death penalty is confirmed," it said.

Despite the horrible experience, Nirbhaya’s parents faith is intact. The incident has also made them kind of crusaders. Their fight for many  other Nirbhayas, they say, will continue:

"With the hanging of the four accused, Nirbhaya will get justice. But there are many Nirbhayas in the country. We will fight for other daughters too," said her father who has, in these last seven years, gone through hell. Also he has understood what delayed justice means and entails and therefore his is a call for what he terms as  time-bound justice. "There is no time-bound procedure for filing mercy or review petitions. There should be a fixed duration of cases," he says. In this context he says that delay in trial courts is understandable because evidence and witnesses have to be examined but there is little justification for the higher courts including the apex court to take time in dispensing justice.   Meanwhile politics has played out with the Congress and BJP tearing each other apart. It all started on the streets and reached Parliament. It started with Congress’ Rahul Gandhi and peaked with BJP’s Smriti Irani. It was a chance remark that became a controversy.

It was during an election rally earlier this month that  Rahul Gandhi attacked the Modi government over crimes against women: “Narendra Modi had said ‘Make in India’ but nowadays wherever you look, it is ‘Rape in India,” he said. “Open a newspaper, a woman is raped in Jharkhand. See in Uttar Pradesh, Narendra Modi’s MLA raped a woman and the car met with an accident but Narendra Modi didn’t say a word. In every state, every day, rape in India. Narendra Modi says ‘Beti Padho Beti Bacho’.But Modiji you did not say save from whom? Save her from BJP’s MLA.” Rahul had said.

This was enough for the BJP to swing into action. Union minister Smriti Irani brought it up in Parliament. “This is first time in history that a leader is giving a clarion call that Indian women should be raped,” she said. “Is this Rahul Gandhi’s message to the people of the country?”

She did not stop there but dragged in the Gandhi family: “This is the first time in history that a son of the Gandhi family has publicly called that women in India should be raped. I want to ask the hon’ speaker, Rahul Gandhi is a politician of this parliament, he is a lawmaker of his parliament. Is it his statement that all men in India want to rape women? Is it his statement to citizens of this country that he makes a public call that the nation’s women be raped? Hon’ speaker, this is not about the dignity of just the men and women of this Parliament but a member of this Parliament is demanding for the first time that India’s women be raped. These words were uttered out of his mouth. Ask any woman of this country, if there is a public call for her rape, she knows how to give a fitting reply.” Even as the  BJP members demanded an apology from Rahul Gandhi, Irani sought punishment for him.

BJP MP Locket Chatterjee also joined in saying that  Gandhi had insulted women by making remarks that 'Make in India' had become "rape in India" and added that all men were not rapists.

This time around, Irani and her colleagues have clearly jumped the gun. Rahul Gandhi, on his part, has refused to apologise and rightly so because his remarks have been exaggerated, misinterpreted and misquoted:  “I won’t apologise… “Let me clarify what I said. I said the PM keeps talking about ‘Make In India’. So when one opens the newspaper one hoped that one would see news about it, but what do we see when we open the papers? We see so many cases of rapes.” The Congress leader also tweeted a video of where PM Modi can be heard describing Delhi as the “rape capital”.He slammed the BJP for trying to divert attention from the Citizenship Amendment Act that had triggered protests across the Northeast.

Rahul Gandhi is right. Both about refusing to apologise for something he had not said and about the increase in rape cases: between 2016-2017 the number of reported cases of rape reached 32,559 and these are government statistics which are usually conservative.

 But that is one part of the story: the other is politicians making political capital of a sensitive issue like rape, distorting statements and trying to score brownie points vis a vis their opponents like Irani has done this time around. The BJP would do well to exercise restraint and choose their battles rather than being up on their feet and portraying itself as always being right when it clearly is in the wrong.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: (kumkum91@gmail.com)

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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