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You Need Blind Trust to Believe PM’s Claims on Hanging Rapists

Rapists aren’t being hanged in 3 days, there’s no NCRB data since 2016, and the death penalty isn’t a deterrent.

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Cameraperson: Shiv Kumar Maurya
Video Editor: Varun Sharma

This is a work of satire.

Has the Law on Punishment for Rapists Been Amended? And Are Judicial Delays No Longer a Thing?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, 30 January announced a set of ground-breaking judicial reforms.

Speaking at the New India Youth Conclave 2019 in Surat, addressing India’s young professionals, a group he would certainly not mislead this is what the prime minister said:

Hanging is evidently now the punishment for rape – not just for murder and rape, or rape of girls under the age of 12, but for rape in general – an amendment to the law brought in without any of us having any clue whatsoever.

Even more significantly, there is clearly no longer a problem with judicial delays in India, at least when it comes to rape cases.

The prime minister claims that because of his government’s policies, rapists are now being hanged – not just given the death sentence, but hanged – within a month.

It is nothing short of revolutionary that investigations, filing of charge sheets, trials, appeals to the high court, appeals to the Supreme Court, clemency petitions to the governor, clemency petitions to the president, and additional appeals to the Supreme Court – all the steps that have to be followed before someone can be hanged – are all being completed now within 30 days, and sometimes, in just 3 days.

It is possible that the prime minister was referring to the time taken after a trial begins, but even that in no way lessens the scale of the achievement. If he was referring to the length of trials, this certainly doesn’t mean trials are being rushed, leading to human rights violations – and in any case trials of such length are very much the exception.

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Everything We Know About This Issue is Wrong

Unfortunately there have been some naysayers from among political rivals and the media, contesting the factual accuracy of the PM’s statement. Of course he had already countered such objections in his speech.

According to the prime minister, it is the media’s fault that the general public is not aware of all these hangings.

  • It is evidently the media’s fault that the public still thinks the last execution in India was that of Yakub Memon in 2015, three and a half years ago.
  • It is evidently because of bad reporting that we still believe that there have only been four executions in India in the last fifteen years.
  • It is the media’s mistake for making us believe that the Muzaffarnagar rape trials have taken so long that most women have been forced to change their testimony, and the one woman still fighting for justice is still waiting for the trial to finish over 6 years in, while the trial against Kuldeep Sengar for the Unnao rape is yet to begin.
  • It’s because of the dishonest media that we still think there are 426 persons on death row in India, including Nirbhaya’s rapists and murderers [Source: Death Penalty in India, Annual Statistics Report 2018]
  • And it is, of course, entirely the media’s fault that we still think there are around 1,33,000 rape trials still pending in India, that the average time for a rape trial to be concluded is two to three years, and that less than 10 percent of cases are disposed of within a year of the assault, let alone a month.

Those last few statistics on rape trials are from the National Crime Records Bureau’s 2016 report, which is two-year old data. No wonder the media’s credibility is hanging by a thread.

It is certainly the media’s fault that they have not been able to access the most recent statistics. If the NCRB’s 2017 report is not available, that can hardly be the Modi government’s fault, given its strong relations with statistical bodies.

Death Penalty Deters Crime. Debate Over, OK?

If this all weren’t enough, the prime minister has also announced that the debate over the deterrent value of the death penalty is over.

Debunking decades of studies, research and evidence that indicate the death penalty does not act as a better deterrent for crime than life imprisonment, including the Law Commission of India’s 262nd Report, the prime minister on Wednesday asserted that the more the news of hangings was spread, the more potential rapists would fear committing crimes.

We can only assume this was on the basis of exhaustive research by India’s top criminologists.

According to the prime minister, these reforms to the criminal justice system have not just been announced, but are actually playing out. The nation, and the media, clearly caught unawares, will be waiting with baited breath to see the results.

(Correction: This story has been updated to correct the name of the last person to be hanged in India, in 2015, to Yakub Memon.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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