In May 2017, the Supreme Court of India upheld the death penalty to the four men convicted for the rape and murder of a paramedical student in December 2012. While upholding their death sentence the apex court dwelt into the “attitude, perception, the beastial proclivity, inconceivable self-obsession and individual centralism” of the convicts that had shocked the “collective conscience” of the society.
The case, by all means, fell into the “rarest of rare” category and the reaction that manifested in massive protest across the country in the winters of 2012 was also unprecedented.
But, the apex court did not and could not have upheld the death sentence just on the basis of the sentiments that prevailed, if the prosecution would not have proved the case “beyond the shadow of reasonable doubt” which in turn would have not been possible if the investigative agencies would not have done their work with due diligence.
The judgment in clear terms credited the prosecution for ensuring a thorough investigation that “has been cautious” and for adopting “modern and progressive scientific method” to nail the culprits. Within nine months, the trial court convicted all accused and sentenced them to death.
On Monday, in yet another rape case, this time involving a former BJP MLA, the trial court in Delhi delivered its judgment. It convicted the expelled BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Senger under Section 376(Rape) of IPC and Section 5(C) and 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012. But, in sharp contrast to 2012 case, the court admonished the highest investigative agency of the country — Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) — which was charged with the investigation of the case.
As reported by The Indian Express the court pulled up the CBI, saying its “investigation suffered from patriarchal approach or inherent outlook to brush the issue if sexual violence against the children under the carpet apart from exhibiting lack of sensitivity and humane approach”.
The failure of the criminal justice system does not lie majorly in preventing the crime, but in failing to ensure fair investigating and protecting the interests of the survivor.
While the trial that was fast-tracked on the orders of the Supreme Court might be lauded, the fact remains that it is a classic case of multiple injustices met to a survivor seeking justice.
The survivor, a minor goes missing on 4 June, 2017 and was gang-raped by Sengar, his brother Atul Singh and their accomplices. The family filed a missing person complaint. Two weeks later she was found and a case was registered under Sections 363 (kidnapping) and 366 (kidnapping a woman to compel her for marriage) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
There was no mention of rape in the initial complaint. No serious action was taken against anyone and 10 months later, the survivor’s father was attacked by Sengar’s brother and his henchmen. Cross FIRs were filed by both the parties but power comes to play its role and only the survivor’s father gets arrested and sent to judicial custody.
This is the first instance of the failure of the criminal justice system.
The minor survivor, unable to do anything tries to set herself ablaze near Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s residence in Lucknow. While the survivor is seeking justice, her father dies in police custody.
As reported by The Hindu “The post-mortem report lists the cause of death to be “blood poisoning due to perforation of colon”. It also lists "multiple injuries on his body”.
This is the second instance of a miscarriage of justice.
Following this senior counsel, Gopal Chaturvedi sends a letter to Allahabad High Court requesting for a court-monitored probe to which the high court takes cognisance and treats it as a PIL. Finally, Sengar and his aides were arrested by the CBI. While the case is being investigated, on 28 July, 2019 the survivor gets severely injured after the vehicle she was travelling in collided with a truck. The vehicle also had her mother, aunt and her lawyer Mahendra Singh.
Two of the survivor’s aunts are killed in the accident.
On 2 August, the Supreme Court ordered the transferring of the case from CBI court in Lucknow to its counterpart in Delhi and a fast-track trial starts with the conviction of Sengar on Monday.
In more than two and a half years, since the case first came to light, the survivor had to face several injustices. From losing her father to police atrocity to losing her loved ones in an ‘accident’.
Finally, with the conviction of Sengar in a trial that was fast-tracked one can see it as justice taking the right course. But when seen from the perspective of the survivor it only highlights the many loopholes in the criminal justice system that powerful and mighty tend to abuse.
Those loopholes stretch from inept investigating officers, shoddy investigating, the manner in which the justice can be held to ransom by those who yield the power to the extreme insensitivity and callous attitude of our system to protect the interest of the survivor.
The Kuldeep Singh Sengar case will be remembered more for how those in charge with dispensing justice abuses it, leading to multiple injustices than for the “fast-tracking” of justice that some people might want it to be remembered for.
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Updated Date: Dec 17, 2019 14:04:20 IST