Are 3 Years Enough?


The youngest of the accused in the Delhi gang rape case has been sentenced to three years in reform home.

According to the Indian Penal Code, crimes of murder are punishable by death. More so, after this horrific incident in December 2012, and the public uproar it created, the government of India toughened laws and imposed the death penalty in cases where a victim of rape is left in a vegetative state after an attack.

For many this brought a sense of hope and it was precisely this hope and the expectation of a tougher sentencing that has left the entire nation reeling.

Kiran Bedi, an Indian Social Activist and a retired Indian Police Service officer  expressed her frustration via Twitter, saying that “Courts need not be mechanical robots. We make laws and then interpret them not to be enslaved but do justice to victims too“.

However, according to the Indian juvenile court system, 3 years is the maximum sentence a juvenile can receive. By this standard, the convicted murderer received the maximum sentence and justice was served.

Yet, one should ask whether age should have been the only factor that prevented this criminal from being persecuted by the fullest extent? In my opinion, whether the accused was 17 or 18 should be irrelevant. Emotional and intellectual maturity is what should be the focus of attention as opposed to the juvenile’s numerical age. One year does not separate the men from the boys. After all, five of the attackers were over the age of 18 and not one of them acted like a proper man.

Also, according to investigative reports, this man was accused of being the most violent while carrying out this horrific crime. How then is it fair that the most violent perpetrator be sentenced to simply three years at a reform home?

The answer is simple: it isn’t fair. Instead what would be fair is for heinous crimes to be prosecuted differently from ordinary crimes, like petty theft. The judicial system should have in place different legal provisions based on the seriousness of the crime committed. Justice for such crimes should not be determined by age alone. After all, does it really make sense to give a murderer and a thief a similar sentence? I think not.

While the Juvenile Justice Board believes in reform as opposed to punishment, it seems almost ridiculous to believe that such a criminal could truly reform  after having committed such a heinous crime.

I am inclined to believe in second chances. However, I am also inclined to believe in justice for the victim, who isn’t with us anymore. The facts remain that this man was one of the six men who attacked her, and ultimately murdered her. I am no lawyer, nor am I a expert. I am however a woman, and this verdict was a slap in the face for women everywhere and particularly in India. On a daily basis women in India are sexually harassed, from catcalls on streets and groping in buses to rapes. Quite often the police refuse to accept complaints by female victims and even accuse them of inviting unwanted male attention by dressing provocatively.

This verdict was an institutional failure and has made the Indian judicial system look like a complete joke.

What are your views? Are you pro-reform or pro-punishment? Are 3 years enough?

We have a voice, use it.


12 thoughts on “Are 3 Years Enough?

  1. I agree that the verdict was not proportionate to the crime, but at the same time, blaming the court does nothing to solve the root of the problem. By the time a crime reaches a court, it is already too late. Same goes for metting out punishment. Not only is focusing on punishment merely acting out punitive justice, it is also reactive policing, both of which have been proven in criminal journals to have no effect on crime rates. So in the case of India where rapes happen on a daily basis, harsher sentencing is moot. In this sense, i’m definitely pro-reform. But not a reform of the abstract level of the institution & law; a reform in more concrete, tangible terms of the police

    Greater power lies in the police than in courts. They are in fact the real gate keepers to justice. They are the first point of contact in cases of crimes. They determine what gets reported & goes to court, and what gets ignored. And it is not a stretch to assume that for every case of rape reported in India, 200 more go unreported, ignored or women threatened to silence. They fail not only to actively pursue rape reports, they also fail to engage in proactive policing to prevent rapes. So your stance about the verdict (and court) being an institutional failure, while true, may also need to include how the police at the everyday level of society may be more to blame.

  2. I am pro-reform too like most people here commenting. But we shouldn’t become “lakeer ke fakeer”, it shouldn’t be written in stone that 18 is legal age to try a convict who is capable of such an outrageous act. It is very easy to have a liberal viewpoint when its just a news item. Imagine the horrors that the victim is facing and the families who have lost their loved one.
    Like Bianca says in India its become a systemic problem and there should be a special consideration for such acts. I think when even a 16 year old also has the capacity to rape a 23 yr old woman and the brutality of the act leads to her untimely death, its fairly obvious that there is no further scope of emotional or physical maturity left. I would probably find it acceptable to have him serve life sentence and thorough psychiatric evaluation on his behavioural patterns performed on him through the years.
    Its very dangerous for such people to roam scott free after just 3 yrs of juvenile correction facility which to be honest is not such a difficult term in India. It also sends a wrong message to these delinquents, Rape all you want till you’re 18 and in case you get caught its a mere 3 yrs and that too not in prison.

    • Btw liked the way you’ve written.. nicely articulated. you should blog more.

      • Thanks a lot. I am going to try and post every day. This issue really needs further exploration, not just with India as a case study but so many more countries as well.

      • I agree completely and this is the reason I try to write more universally acceptable posts. Although I do not want to refrain from using our Hindi phrases so that I dont alienate the fellow country men & women of course.

  3. I think meting out punishment based on intellectual/emotional maturity could be dodgy (amazing vocab here, I know, hahaha). Already there are issues with people manipulating the system, pleading insanity or self defence (think Trayvon, wasn’t that ridiculous?), if we base someone’s culpability (there, made up for dodgy!) on how ‘mature’ they are, it’s just inviting more such excuses from criminals. I mean, okay, it’s a double edged sword. Young people who are fully mature will get better punishments, but then adults may also get lesser sentences if they’re found to be emotionally less mature. If we trusted the justice system and the goodness of defence lawyers, then great, this system would rock. But we don’t trust the system and defence lawyers don’t typically lose sleep thinking of the good of the general public while they defend their clients.

    I think, as you suggest, having two sets of rules is better. For general or white-collar crimes, we stick to the current 18 year old cut off point. For particularly nasty crimes (rape, murder, assault of pregnant women etc etc), the cut-off point could be lowered, since even children know things like murder is wrong.

  4. I am pro-reform -and at the risk of sounding naive- firstly because I believe that there is an intrinsic good in people, and appeal to this kinder nature. Secondly, punishment can act as a form of correction, which directs the offender towards reform right?

    I have to raise my doubts on the point you made that age should not be a determinant when deciding the best punishment. While there is a negligible difference between the age of 17 and 18, deciding emotional maturity is not always a quantitative figure, thus the need to implement a fixed age limit for juvenile law. Who’s to say what is more appropriate a punishment in this instance, be it 3 years or 10 years? All I have to say is murderers and rapists they may be, but they are also young boys. I guess this is where my stand on pro-reform comes in.

    • I understand your point and agree that people should be allowed the chance to reform. However, it should be understood that rape in India especially, is a systematic problem. It isn’t a one-off, rare crime that hardly never occurs. With the brutality of this particular case, and the constant harassment that women receive on a daily basis, a tougher stance was necessary, not just as a measurement of justice, but more so to show the woman of India that they can feel safe and protected. There cannot be a double standard where crimes of such nature are concerned.

      However, it does provide food for thought. Interesting take.

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