NEW DELHI:The fast-track court’s decision to give death penalty to the four convicts in the Delhi gang-rape case was welcomed by the legal community, which said due process had been followed.
Lawyers were quick to point out that the court’s primary duty is to dispense justice to the victim by punishing the accused, so that the next of kin find succour and closure. The wider message conveyed through the punishment, acting as a deterrent to future offenders, is only the second aspect of sentencing, they argue, stressing the need to differentiate between the two.
Revolted by the brutality of the crime, the court gave death sentence on Friday while observing that courts cannot turn a blind eye to the need to send a strong message to perpetrators of such crimes.
Indicating one of the reasons for the decision, it said the “increasing trend of crimes against women can be arrested only once society realizes there will be no tolerance for any form of deviance against women, and more so in extreme cases of brutality such as this one; hence, the criminal justice system must instil confidence in people, especially women.”
Noted lawyer Mukul Rohatgi said the decision is fully justified. “If ever there was a rarest of rare case, this is it. I had no doubt the court will give maximum sentence as it is fully justified and appropriate.”
Rohatgi said sentencing in such cases has to serve as a deterrent because the situation in most Indian cities is alarming. “Even foreign tourists feel totally unsafe and it is against the ethos of India and Indian-ness. I only feel that the judgment should have come even earlier. But the important point is that attention should be focused on hundreds and thousands of such cases which are going on unnoticed and unsung. I think this judgment should open the eyes of the public, judiciary and police.”
Supreme Court advocate Surat Singh expressed his satisfaction at the death penalty. “Given the brutality of the acts of all the convicts, right from the intention to rob, rape and kill, to the intention to destroy the evidence, this case can be rightly described as rarest of rare and fit for capital punishment. It will send a deterrent message to potential offenders and restore faith in the investigation, prosecution and judicial systems. This case is exemplifies successful probe, prosecution and trial.”
Lawyer Gaurang Kant felt the sentencing would go a long way in sensitizing people to crimes against women. “Not to mention that Nirbhaya would feel emancipated. I hope this acts as a deterrent to the rising offences against women.”
Justice R S Sodhi, a retired HC judge, agreed with the sentencing, saying in this case the “balance easily tilts towards aggravating circumstances warranting death penalty”. Sodhi pointed out how each convict was involved in the brutality, and said the judge must have weighed the pros and cons beforee deciding. He, however, added, “I am not sure if death sentence is a deterrent. But yes, it is a swift punishment that leaves the victim’s kin and society relieved. In case of life term people eventually forget.”
Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaisingh was sceptical if the death penalty would be a deterrent, but felt police and the prosecution had met expectations. “Any sentence by a lower court has to be confirmed in HC. The convicts have the right to appeal. The question is does death act as a deterrent? There have been death sentences given earlier for rape and murder but still this case happened. It makes you wonder what’s the purpose of a death sentence.”