Vital changes needed in IPC to help women, say police
New Delhi: Calling the Delhi gang-rape "the worst in the world", police officers are calling for urgent amendments in the archaic Indian Penal Code (IPC) to provide justice to women in distress.
Even police officers who have over the decades seen countless bodies and battered humans are unable to control their emotions as they talk about the savagery committed Dec 16 on the victim who finally died Dec 29.
"We have never seen a beastly crime like this," one officer said. "Forget the details… I can tell you with authority that there has never been a rape like this anywhere in the world."
This is a rare case when most police officers surprisingly are in agreement with what protesters are demanding on the streets: death for all six rapists.
"What happened on Dec 16 was shocking," another officer added. "We too are human; we too have daughters, wives and mothers. It is impossible to tell anyone what this woman underwent in the (moving) bus."
All the accused have been charged with murder since the 23-year-old woman who was brutally raped and tortured succumbed to multiple organ failure in a Singapore hospital after struggling for 13 days to live.
The woman and her male friend boarded the bus in south Delhi`s Munirka area Dec 16 night. The bus was plying illegally, and within moments the six males began assaulting her. Her friend was badly beaten.
After 40 minutes of savagery, in which the attackers also used an iron rod, both victims were thrown out - naked, shivering and bleeding. Police say the crew tried to crush the gang-rape victim but failed.
Police officers and legal experts say there are some fundamental problems related to the IPC that need urgent correction if the law has to become women-friendly.
One IPC provision needing early change is section 354 which deals with "outraging the modesty of women".
The punishment under this - two years in jail or fine or both - is the same irrespective of whether merely someone passes lewd remarks or tugs a woman`s dress or actually makes a physical advance.
The nature of punishment gives vast discretion to judicial officers. This is also an easily bailable offence.
Experts and officers say there should be three gradations in this section, with "simple harassment" inviting lesser punishment and the more serious assaults deserving harsher punishment.
If punishment goes up, the cases will go to a sessions judge, and bail won`t be easy.
"Section 354 is what is used most extensively," one officer said. "Most complaints of women relate to this section. But as the accused get bail, women feel cheated and betrayed."
Police officers say there should also be death penalty even for rapes in the "rarest of rare cases" - as defined by the Supreme Court for murder.
"There may be rapes where the victims may be badly traumatized and barely be living," said the officer. "Such cases should call for death penalty."
The current punishment for rape under Section 376 provides for punishment from seven years to life.
Women`s groups have been repeatedly calling for amendments in law, pointing out that some IPC sections, framed during a bygone era, do not correspond to present realities.
The six Delhi rapists have been charged with, among other things, gang-rape as defined by IPC section 376(2)(G).
Under this sub-section, each accused present during a gang-rape would be deemed to have assaulted the victim irrespective of whether he took part in the rape or not.
"Even if one or two among the six accused in Delhi did not rape her, that makes no difference," he said. "As far as the law is concerned, they are all equally culpable."
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