The LexGaze Weekly - COVER STORY


Ms. Shriya Maini and Ms. Shobha Prabhakar

Oct 18, 2020

Issue 18

Hathras, Nirbhaya, Kathua, Damini, Delta Meghwal – What do they all have in common? Ask anyone from India, and they will hang their heads in shame, admitting to the horrors and humiliation of their country’s malignant provisioning for women safety. Well, let us be clear – these and many more are the women and young girls who have been victims of the heinous crime of rape in India, and mind you, we are yet to count the widely publicized Unnao rape case, Ajmer Rape case and many more.

Launched with an initial funding of a 100 Crore Rupees, the flagship campaign of the Indian government, "Beti Bachao Beti Padhao" was announced to break the shackles of patriarchy with the artilleries of literacy, aimed at ensuring survival and protection of the girl child in India1, a country which was struggling with female infanticide; prostitution; dowry; bride burning; sex, bride and child trafficking, With aspirations to educate and empower the young girls of our country to be socially and financially self-reliant, the campaign today has been reduced to a scornful laugh, a mere juxtaposition of four words, coupled in reality to being “an unattainable goal”. Statistics stand reprehensibly tall with disgrace. In 2019, India recorded an average of 87 rape cases a day whereas 4,05,861 cases of crimes against women were chronicled, a 7 % rise from 2018, as per the latest data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).  Abysmally surprised that the Indian Beti is perhaps, far from still   being safe?

From the Nirbhaya Gang Rape to the Kathua Minor Rape, criminal laws in India have witnessed two major milestones of amendments, namely the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 and 2018. Shouldn’t the Hathras Rape of 2020 be another knee-jerk response, when the Indian society wakes up from its deep slumber, yet again. The incidence of dual rape and murder of a Dalit girl in Uttar Pradesh has shown how we have aborted miserably in providing a safe and secure environment for our daughters. Whatever may have been the reason, Hathras glares in our faces because we, as a society taught our daughters to be independent but forgot to teach our sons how to respect a woman’s boundaries. Maybe the jumla should have read – Beta Padhao, beti bachao!

Furthermore, media reports confirm that the police authorities used unjust measures to coercively suppress the incident. Be it burning the body of the victim overnight without permission and consent of the family; or stopping the electronic/print media from physically accessing the victim’s house, all almost hinting at a deliberate manufacturing of investigative laches such as incoherent witness statements, an inconclusive Post Mortem or Forensic Report which could make or mar the case of the prosecution upon filing of the Chargesheet. The Courts have highlighted the high-handedness of the State authorities, questioning the District Magistrate of Uttar Pradesh – “What if it was a girl from a rich family? Would you have cremated her the same way?” Can a job offer and a few lakh rupees ever possibly compensate the victim’s family? We want justice for our daughters, not money.

The law enforcement agencies, instead of maintaining law and order, have actually left no stone unturned to suffocate the Constitutional provisions they vowed to protect by openly engaging in acts of subservience to the ‘so-called’ Upper Class perpetrators, thereby abusing statutory powers. The police without fear of public and State have also used duress against media to prevent it from covering the tragic incident only to supress voices of the victim and her family. A Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court had in Sahara India Real Estate Corpn. Ltd. V. SEBI, (2013) 1 SCC 1 ruled that Courts could temporarily ban media from reporting a case if it is of opinion that reporting of proceedings could adversely impact the trial. Why was this not done in Hathras Case by the Apex Court?

The fetters of MeToo, name and shame have been broken by media trials today, yet we find ourselves dipped in the deep waters of patriarchy. In fact, even the pandemic has not been spared – 1,477 complaints of domestic violence alone have been preferred by women during the pandemic-related lockdown between March 25 and May 31, 2020. This 68-day period has recorded more complaints than those received between March and May in the previous 10 years. It is time to eradicate the rape culture in India which has erroneously precipitated and has been constantly tarnishing the magnificent image of India at the global forum. We must acknowledge and engrain within our children that women, men and the third gender are equal citizens and are entitled to live a basic dignified life with pride that they deserve. The foremost solution to prevent and curb such incidences of rape, assault, sexual violence, atrocities faced by women due to caste inequalities or otherwise is quality education only, but for our children alike. Empower the girl but also educate your boys, we say!

About the authors:

(Special Credits: The authors have been assisted by Ms. Ritika Manchanda, a law intern at the Chambers of Ms. Maini)

Ms Shriya Maini is an Advocate on Record at the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India. An award-winning lawyer, Ms Maini practises at the Supreme Court of India, the Delhi High Court and District Courts/tribunals (NCLAT, NCLT and NCDRC). She specializes in dispute resolution (civil, criminal and matrimonial) and has been accredited with numerous publications. A gold medallist from Gujarat National Law University, Ms Maini post-graduated in-laws from the University of Oxford, U.K., and is also a Visiting Professor for Women and Child Laws and International Crimes at National Law University, Delhi, NLU Nagpur and Lloyd Law College, Noida.

Ms. Shobha is an Advocate & Legal Consultant, and is currently practising at Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur. She graduated from Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar and has vast experience of working for Retail and FMCG corporates. Ms. Shobha, along with interest in academics, was an active participant and member of the Theatre Club. During the course of her engagement with theatre and its allied activities, she realised that it is a powerful medium for interaction with common people and bring possible social change. Since her University days, she performs street & stage plays and is actively engaged in addressing socio-political issues through her writing and community involvement.