Indian sentiments were shaken by the appalling 2012 Delhi gang-rape incident. Post the barbaric case, there were massive protests against the government and police demanding speedy justice and ensuring security for the women. The government bowed down, police acted swiftly and finally on September 13, 2013, a fast-track court in Delhi awarded death sentence to the four accused - Mukesh (26), Akshay Thakur (28), Pawan Gupta (19) and Vinay Sharma (20).
In an interview with Biplob Ghosal of Zeenews.com, former top cop Kiran Bedi discusses the impact of the Delhi-gang-rape case verdict and the role needed to be played by the Executive, police and the Judiciary to ensure safety of women.
Biplob: How do you view the court’s verdict on the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case? Do you think it will act as a deterrent?
Kiran Bedi: By giving the strongest verdict of death penalty, the judiciary has increased our faith in the processes of law and criminal justice system. It has proven that when it wants to deliver it does! There are several messages through this judgement to potential criminals, community, parents, police, prosecution and the courts too. It is a landmark judgement.
Biplob: Many sections in the society have the opinion that the juvenile should have been given a tougher punishment. Your comments.
Kiran Bedi: Absolutely. The juvenile has slipped through the cracks in the (outdated) law. We ought to have kept the offence independent of the age at which it is committed and trusted the courts to assess which court the offender needs to be tried for the crime, keeping in view the gravity and depravity of crime and his level of socialisation and understanding.
The mental maturity and environment of juveniles today is very different from the time when the law was being drafted internationally and here in India. The point is, if we can respect the wisdom of the courts in final judgement, we can also accord the courts the discretion for the trial of juvenile. Had there been this provision the fifth accused also would have been hung by the Additional Sessions Court.
Biplob: Has anything changed on the ground post the ghastly incident?
Kiran Bedi: Yes. The gang-rape incident has reversed the process. Women were not reporting rape cases; now many more will come forward if not all. Police were not recording crime in many cases; now they too are, if not all. Earlier, they were investigating poorly; now they know what all can be done swiftly without losing time.
Now people have also seen if due processes of investigation are followed and they stand by, it succeeds in procuring a guilty verdict. Speedy trial helps in keeping memory fresh and hence better recall.
Media also played a major role and reported judiciously and kept the youth charged up. The politicians too amended the law feeling the heat because of the pressure created by the people.
The Supreme Court directed the government for fast track courts etc-- all worked in tandem! All this was the right example of an aligned criminal justice system.
Biplob: What in your view the police and political leadership need to do to ensure safety and security of the women?
Kiran Bedi: They need to put in place a well-thought-through crime prevention plan which involves the following Ps - parents associations in all schools for responsible parenting; principals for right education of boys and girls; people should come forward as a community and pitch for installation of cameras in markets and RWSs; police should have improved investigation tools, particularly in rural areas; politicians should make laws as per needs of society, like the one on Justice Juvenile Act needing changes; prosecution should be strong and independent, and insist on day to day trials; prisons for reforms and press for education and awareness needed! And the press also should play a responsible role.
Courts too must not bail such offenders without conditions on their bail, like reporting to panchayats and local police station. This will check social control and re-offending! People should also collectively maintain pressure on local leadership and police!
Biplob: Can the mindset towards women be changed? If yes, what all needs to be done to achieve the same?
Kiran Bedi: We have to work on bringing back ethics and non-violence education in schools right from primary level up to class 12 and involve parents and local social leadership for community responsibility to report deviant behaviour early on. There has to be a system in place where one can keep a check on school dropouts, drug addicts, young alcoholics, past released offenders etc. All this will align the key stake holders in crime prevention and ensure responsibility.
Biplob: What tips would you like to give to the women to make themselves secure?
Kiran Bedi: Prevention is the key. Women have a major role as mothers and teachers. Mahila mandals or RWAs must keep alert on their sons’ activities and kind of friends they keep. They too must know where are their sons spending time? Just as they keep track of their daughters.
Besides introducing self defence training in schools to instill courage in girls, use of technology for staying connected back home is also a must.
All this is not enough but let`s begin with this at least.