A wide gap between a rape charge and punishment


Amid the clamour for the death sentence to the rapists of a paramedical student in a moving bus in Delhi, a small fact might have missed most of those seeking this sentence. In cases where the rapists have murdered their victims, only one convict has been hanged in the last eight years. Since Dhananjoy Chatterjee of West Bengal was hanged in 2004, 25 killer-rapists sentenced to death have obtained the President's pardon.

Dhananjoy had raped and murdered Hetal Parekh, 14, in 1990 and was hanged on August 14, 2004.

Among those pardoned, Moloi Ram and Santosh Yadav of Madhya Pradesh had been on death row since 1999 after the Supreme Court confirmed their death sentence for raping and murdering the young daughter of an official of the jail where one of them worked as a guard and where the other was serving a term. Twice — in May 2001 and May 2005 —the home ministry recommended to the President that their mercy petition be rejected. On February 4, 2011, then President Pratibha Patil accepted the mercy petition and turned the death sentences into life terms without parole.

Also spared was Bandu Baburao Tideke, a self-syled swami, who had abducted a 16-year-old schoolgirl and raped and murdered her. Uttar Pradesh's Bantu was on death row since July 2008, having been convicted of raping and killing a five-year-old girl. On June 2 this year, the President accepted his mercy petition. Another UP resident, Satish, who was convicted of the 2001 rape and murder of a six-year-old, was given the presidential pardon under Article 72.

Incidentally, a bill — Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2012 — was introduced in the Lok Sabha this month by Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, seeking to amend, besides other things, laws dealing with rape. Under the bill, rape would be gender-neutral. It proposes to replace the existing offence of rape with that of sexual assault, thereby seeking to criminalise acts such as penetration of a man or a woman with any part of the offender's body or with any object with a sexual purpose, as well as oral sex.

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