The nation wails amid rape trails

The country boils over the gang rape and brutal murder of Hyderabad veterinary doctor and other women abuse incidents across India, reports Sunny Sharma

A 26-year-old veterinary doctor from Shamshabad of Hyderabad in the state of Telangana, who had worked in Kolluru village was found murdered and her body charred under Chatanpalli bridge in Shadnagar at outskirts of Hyderabad on 28th November. The incident happened on 27th November, when four men who are said to be hailing from Narayanpet district, raped, smothered and then burnt her.

The victim on 27th November stopped near Shamshabad toll booth parked her scooter there and took a cab to go to Gachibowli to visit another doctor. When she returned to the toll booth at around 9:15 pm, she found her two-wheeler punctured, after that, she had gone missing and on 28th November her burnt body was found.

The case

Cyberabad police on 29th November detained four people, identified as Mohammad Arif, Jollu Naveen, keshavulu, Jollu Shiva all of them were drivers and cleaners of a lorry parked near the toll booth. According to the investigation, all four of them were consuming alcohol at Shamshabad toll plaza, when they hatched the plan to rape the veterinary after they saw her parking her scooter.

One of them punctured the rear wheel of the vet’s scooter after she was gone and when she returned to take her scooter at around 9:15 pm, she realised that one of the tyres of the scooter is punctured. On the pretext of getting the scooter fixed, the prime accused Arif approached her. Another accused Shiva took her scooter and came back after sometime and told her that all the repair shops were closed.

The accused then abducted the doctor, took her to an isolated place and raped her. According to the police, the veterinary died because accused had covered her mouth and nose while committing the crime, she was smothered. Realising that she has died, the accused then wrapped vet’s body in a blanket, took her under Chatanpalli bridge in Shadnagar in their lorry and burnt the body.

All four accused were remanded to 14 days judicial custody in Charalapally Central jail amid tight security. Later all four accused were killed in encounter by the police.

Victim was scared

The Veterinary’s younger sister told the police that her sister called her around 9.22 pm and informed her that she was at the toll plaza as her scooter is punctured, she also told her sister that a person offered her help and took her scooter for repair and she is waiting for him to get back with her scooter. She then told her sister that she is scared as there are some truck drivers standing nearby. However, later she hung up telling her sister she would call soon.

Later at around 9:44 pm, Vet’s sister called her back to check on the situation and at that time her phone was switched off. When the family failed to establish contact with her over the phone, they went to the toll plaza but failed to find her. The family had to run from one police station to other to get their complaint registered. Top police officials have suspended three policemen, sub-inspector M Ravi Kumar, and head constables P Venugopala Reddy and Satyanarayana Goud for dereliction of duty and delay in action, as instead of registering FIR, they had asked the family to go to another nearby police station.

Minister slammed

A day after vet’s charred body was found, Telangana Home Minister comments kicked up a storm that the incident could have been prevented if the victim had called the police instead of her sister.

“We are saddened by the incident. It is unfortunate that she called her sister and not ‘100’. Had she called ‘100’, she could have been saved,” Telangana Home Minister Mohammad Mahmood Ali had said.

People condemned the remarks of Mahmood Ali after which, the minister clarified his statement saying the victim is like her daughter, “ I’m deeply saddened by the mishap, she was like my own daughter. Stringent punishment will be given to culprit,” said the minister.

Fast track court

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, popularly known as KCR, ordered the setting up of a fast-track court for trial in the case and assured all necessary help to the family. KCR said, “Officials have been instructed to investigate the murder of the veterinary fast and take action against the culprits. It was decided to set up a fast track court for a quick trial of the case. Officials have been asked to initiate the process.”

KCR also announced that the government is ready to provide all necessary assistance to the family of the veterinary.

Accused nabbed

The Police teams investigating the case checked on various CCTV footages around the area of crime, in one of the CCTV footage of a petrol pump at Kottur village, two accused were seen purchasing petrol in a canister. The accused took the petrol to burn the body of the victim.

Accused Jollu Shiva and Jollu Navin were seen in CCTV footage of different places riding the scooter of the victim from one petrol pump to another to buy the petrol in a canister.

The first major breakthrough came when a mechanic around the toll booth told the police that a man had brought the scooter for the tyre puncture repair and gave police the description of the man.

Investigation teams also got some vital clues from nearby liquor shops from where the accused took the liquor before the heinous crime.

From CCTVs installed near the toll plaza, the investigators found the lorry, which was parked near the toll booth and with the help of the registration number of the lorry seen in the footage, police contacted its owner who led them to the main accused driver Mohammad Arif, who then assisted police to arrest the other three accused.

Punishment sought

The incident led to massive protests at various places in Telangana and across the nation with the public demanding death penalty for the accused. Hundreds of people had laid siege to a police station where all the accused were held. Raising slogans ‘we want justice’, and demanding that the accused be hanged immediately without inquiry and trial.

The case was raised in both Houses of the Parliament, where many parliamentarians spoke their heart out. Samajwadi Party (SP) MP Jaya Bachchan called for the strictest punishment for the committers of the heinous crime and suggested that the accused must be brought out in public and lynched. “I think it is time… whether Nirbhaya or Kathua or what happened in Telangana… I think the people now want the government to give a proper and definite answer,” Jaya Bachchan said in Parliament. She said that rapists should be “brought out in public and lynched.”

“I don’t know how many times I have stood and spoken after this kind of crime. I think it is time… whether Nirbhaya or Kathua or what happened in Telangana… I think the people now want the government to give a proper and definite answer,” she said in Rajya Sabha. She also added that the security personnel in charge of the area where the crime took place be held accountable and questions be asked. “I think these people need to be shamed in front of the entire country.”

AIADMK MP Vijila Sathyananth said, “The country is not safe for women and children. The people who committed this crime should be hanged by December 31.”

DMK’s P Wilson suggested castration to keep a check on the repeat offenders. The court should be empowered to surgically and chemically castrate convicted rapists before they are released from jails and the cost of such a procedure should be recovered from the accused by selling his assets, he said. He also added that a list of sexual offenders should also be made public.

Describing the incident as a disgrace to humanity, Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu said, “What is required is not a new bill. What is required is political will, administrative skill, change of mindset and then go for killing the social evil.” He also suggested a rethink on the practice of allowing convicts in heinous crimes to go in for mercy appeals.

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the guilty should be given stringent punishment without any discrimination of religion or caste, he said, adding that no government or leader would want that such incident occurs in their state.  Sanjay Singh of the Aam Adami Party (AAP) said stringent action in all cases of sexual assault on women should be taken after a trial in fast track court and punishment given within a timeframe. Amar Patnaik of the BJD demanded death for such heinous crimes. While T K Rangarajan of CPM said laws be framed to tackle crime are not percolating down, Vaiko of the DMK wanted concrete action be taken to deal with such crimes.

RK Sinha of the BJP said capital punishment is yet to be given to the guilty of the 2012 gang rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi due to appeals in the case.

Even the mothers of the accused are demanding capital punishment. Shyamala, mother of an accused Chenna Keshavulu said, “Let him be hanged or set on fire like what they did to the doctor after raping her.”

Mother of another accused Arif said, “He should be given strictest punishment which he deserves for such a heinous crime.”

The shocking incident has revived the memories of Nirbhaya case of 2012 when a young girl was abducted and brutally raped in a running bus in New Delhi. She was thrown out from the bus in a serious condition and later died in hospital.

It has been seven years since the Nirbhaya case and nothing concrete has been done so far. The case is still in court and during this time thousands of girls and women of this country have been raped or killed after the crime.

Talking about the statistics, after the Nirbhaya case, about 1.5 lakh cases of rape and murder after rape have been reported across the country. According to the data, every hour, 22 cases of rape are reported in India.

The demand for capital punishment within six months in the case of rape in the country is gaining momentum. It is being realized that it is not enough to just make laws as these incidents can only be controlled by strict punishment. Statistics show that the percentage of verdicts in cases of murder after rape and rape in the country is extremely low.

There are also many people in the country who believe that these cases can only be reduced by social change. Congress MP Amee Yajnik says – “I request all the systems — judiciary, executive, legislative and others to come together to see that a social reformation takes place. This should be on an emergency basis.”

Three years ago, there was an incident in Himachal Pradesh’s capital Shimla in which a minor school girl was brutally murdered after the rape in the kotkhai area. The police nabbed one accused, who was killed in the custody after the protests turned violent and later the CBI, which was handling the case claimed to solve it with the arrest of the main accused.

However, in the recent development in the case, the forensic science laboratory report indicated the involvement of more people in the crime. The family of the victim has appealed to the state Chief Minister Jairam Thakur to reinvestigate the case and punish the real culprits as they are roaming freely. This incident shows the way our system handles so many sensitive matters.

After this, CM Jairam has ordered the Chief Secretary and the DGP to study what the government can do in the case now. He said that investigation in the case is in progress and the matter is in court. CM said that now the role of government is not very much. Nevertheless, the matter will be studied and then we will see what the government can do.

One such case is from Kathua in Jammu where the girl was murdered after the rape. The case was echoed across the country. But it seems there is no end to these barbaric crimes. It seems there are no strict laws as the incidents of rape and murder are continuing unabated.

In another incident, a gang rape occurred with a law student in Ranchi. The accused kidnapped the girl and raped her. On November 21 in Sambhal, Uttar Pradesh, a minor girl was raped and after the rape, the accused burnt the girl alive. She later succumbed at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi.

On the last day of November, a rape incident occurred in Narela area of outer Delhi with a nine-year-old girl. The girl was playing near the house, when an unknown person reached there and lured her to a deserted area and raped her. The accused also tried to take the girl’s life by strangling her with a belt and threw her in the bushes considering her dead. Later, a passer-by saw the girl and informed the police. This incident shows that criminals do not fear the law.

There is anger in the country after the Hyderabad incident. From Parliament to the road, questions are being raised due to the delay in the decision in rape cases. Fast-track courts have been opened at most places for speedy disposal of cases of rape and sexual harassment of women. Are verdicts by fast track court really deliver justice quickly? Probably not. The purpose of creating a fasttrack court was to deliver justice quickly but this has not happened.

There is anger across the country in Cyberabad (Telangana) over the issue of raping a female veterinarian and then brutally burning her. Even after the Nirbhaya incident, there was similar anger in the country. The protest movement lasted for a few days and then dozens of similar incidents took place.

All the accused in the Hyderabad case has been caught by the police and they have confessed their crime before the police. However, the matter is not limited only to their capture or confession. The point is, how long will these criminals continue to commit such barbaric crime and the victims will keep knocking the doors of the court in the hope of justice. In the Telangana case too, the whole country is demanding the hanging of these accused as well.

What the law says?

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2018 was passed in Parliament last year. According to the law, there is a provision of the death penalty, 20 years of imprisonment, life imprisonment on raping a girl under 12 years of age. Apart from this, there is a provision of at least 20 years of rigorous punishment or life imprisonment if found guilty of raping a girl aged between 12-16 years. In case of rape with an adult, the accused can be punished with 10 years imprisonment and the provision of the death penalty on murder. In case of accused is under the age of 16, he can be sent to a child correction home.

All parties agreed to pass this bill in Parliament. Under the new law, no one can ask the victim questions about her conduct in the investigation. Under the IPC terminology, the word female is used in place of a girl child even under 16 years of age. There is also a provision to provide first aid to the victim of rape immediately and for free. The hospital has the responsibility of immediately informing the police.

Will she get justice?

Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has ordered setting up of a fast track court for the expeditious trial in the case of rape and murder of a woman veterinarian near Hyderabad.

However, there is a big question mark if the victim will really get fast justice. Similar assurances had been given in the case of “Nirbhaya” who was gang raped and died later. There are similarities between Nirbhaya the 2012 Delhi gang rape victim and the Hyderabad gang rape victim. Both were from the medical profession, while Nirbhaya was a paramedic student and the Hyderabad victim was a veterinarian. Both were young and in their twenties. In both cases, the rapists and murders were from the transport sector. In this case, the four accused, all lorry workers, were booked under Sections 376D (gang rape), 302 (murder), 201 (destroying evidence) of the Indian Penal Code after their arrest on November 29.

This is how the Nirbhaya gang rape case proceeded. Nirbhaya boarded the bus in which she was gang raped and brutalised on the fateful night of December 16, 2012. Six persons were involved in the gang rape and also inflicted fatal injuries to the victim’s internal organs. They were arrested from different locations over the next six days.

In January 2013, then Chief Justice of India started a fast-track court for a speedy trial. The police filed a charge sheet in the Nirbhaya gang rape case on January 3, 2013, almost 18 days after the crime was committed. The fast-track court began hearing against five accused from January 17. One accused was declared juvenile by six months.  The first conviction in the Nirbhaya gang rape case came on August 31, 2013, eight and a half months after she was raped. The juvenile was held guilty and sentenced to a reformation centre for three years.

The fast-track court delivered its verdict in nine months, declaring four accused guilty and awarding the death penalty to all. Six months later, the Delhi High Court upheld the trial court ruling and confirmed the death sentence to all four convicts. This was on March 3, 2014. The matter reached the Supreme Court, which began hearing this case on a fast-track mode in April 2016 for more than three years and three months after the crime was committed. In May 2017, the Supreme Court upheld death sentences to the four convicts in Nirbhaya gang rape case. Three of the four convicts filed review petitions against the Supreme Court judgment.

In July 2018, the Supreme Court rejected the review petitions. More than five and a half years had elapsed since the crime was committed that shook India. Then came a mercy petition to the President of India from one of the convicts.

On December 1, the Delhi government recommended to the President that the mercy petition of the Nirbhaya case convict be rejected. Almost seven years have passed since the crime was committed.

Irony is that the decision to reject mercy petition in one of the benchmark cases of gang rape and murder came in the shadow of anger and protests over gang rape and murder of the Hyderabad doctor. Now that the mercy petition is set to be rejected, the mother of the 2012 gang rape victim has expressed frustration over “endless wait for justice”. Yet Nirbhaya case has not reached its closure in seven years. Seen against this background, the speed of justice delivery in the Nirbhaya case offers little hope for a speedier justice to the Hyderabad victim.