‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ – a well-known proverb. Talk about its implications and it is none other than Asha Devi, Nirbhaya’s ill begotten mother who is still awaiting her share of justice ever since the brutal assault on her daughter on that fateful night of December 2012. Asha Devi’s statement in retaliation to a tweet by ace lawyer Indira Jaising urging her to forgive the four men on death row sums it up all, “Even if God asks me, I won’t forgive them.”
A visibly choked mother, in a recent interview to India Today stated her 8 year ordeal which started with the doctors testifying to the fact how her princess was mauled to such a degree of vehemence which would put even the fiercest of wild animals to shame and might probably end with the sight of those anthropophagi dwindling to the golden noose. The visuals were heart wrenching – a soulless body drenched with blood stood witness to the fact that probably she was dragged to a jungle by some wild animal and somehow managed to break free from the clutches of death. Only when the perpetrators to the crime were brought into picture, did the heinous nature of the crime dwelled upon the onlookers. Torn clothes, ripped lips, fleshes apart and blood oozing out – all told tales of the dastardly act. The doctors at Safdarjung Hospital, where Nirbhaya was initially admitted were at a loss to understand which body parts to stitch first. She was even denied food and water for her body was left with no mechanism to utilize those. Her ordeal ended with her death but her mother’s continues still with the pain of seeing her loved one suffocate and succumb, not even able to gulp a drop of water during her last days.
As on date, three of the four death row convicts have approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ), seeking a stay on the execution of their death sentence. So far, President Ram Nath Kovind has rejected the mercy petitions of all the convicts in the matter. However, a ‘complete’ mercy petition of convict Akshay Singh Thakur has also been filed claiming that the previous one, which was rejected by the President, did not have ‘complete facts’. These developments comes close on the heels after Nirbhaya’s parents and the Delhi government moved the court seeking fresh death warrants for the convicts after the Supreme Court granted liberty to the authorities to approach the trial court for issuance of fresh date for the execution of these convicts. The date of execution, first fixed for January 22 in Tihar jail, was later postponed for 6 am on February 1 by a January 17 court order. The trial court had on January 31 stayed ‘till further orders’ execution of the four convicts in the case, who are lodged in Tihar Jail. Even before the convicts had started to delay justice by playing with the loopholes of our judiciary, the system had very effectively mitigated its role. Nirbhaya case was admitted at a fast track court for speedy trial which awarded its death sentence on September 2013. Ever since, citing one reason or the other the perpetrators have been able to evade the hangman’s noose.
Worth mentioning is that all the convicts are slum dwellers and from the economically poorer section. It’s not that I am demeaning anybody, but would reiterate upon the fact that without money or muscle power it is practically impossible for someone of the caliber of these hooligans to understand the intricacies of the judiciary and challenge the law of the land, surprisingly getting away with success even if temporarily. This clearly indicates the support of external agencies, but brings the incompetence of humanity to the fore. Since 2017, after the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence from three years earlier, it is the defence that has been doing everything possible to delay the verdict. But the question has to be asked: if verdicts are constantly challenged and postponed for one of the most talked-about criminal cases the country has ever seen, what faith does this instil in those whose trials are not broadcast on national news, those whose cases are not ‘fast tracked’?
There have been instances where the delinquents were audacious enough to threaten the victim with dire consequences and a Nirbhaya like situation. Couldn’t the situation have been reversed wherein the punishment meted out should had set an example for the wrongdoers and spared every vulnerable victim the nightmare of pain and embarrassment? Was this too much for an asking? Why is it that human right activists are vouching for these culpable? What makes lawyers like Indira Jaising tweet and suggest Asha Devi to forgive those persons whose tryst with hell is already long due? Who was lawyer A.P. Singh actually representing when he stated that, “I am of the opinion that any condemned convict must not meet his creator with a grievance in his bosom that the courts of this country have not acted fairly in granting him an opportunity to exhaust his legal remedies”? Are all these a political vendetta? Well, the answer seems intangible where probably no one or only time would tell.
Nirbhaya case shook the backbone of our country and questioned our very existence. Just the thought of it sends chill down our spine. Imagine those who had to go through all these. First Nirbhaya and now her family. Nirbhaya’s last words were that these rapists should be burnt alive, thankfully I would say she is no more to witness the mockery of our judicial system. This case has no doubt brought about a sea change to our existing judicial laws dealing with sexual assault with the introduction of fast track courts and POSCO acts, but do we see the same sea change difference in the crime rates. How ironic it is where on one hand we are a country who idolizes women as goddess, and on the other hand we also feature in the top 5 most vulnerable country in women safety, if reports from ‘Thomson Reuters Foundation experts’ survey’ are to be believed. Fought for her right did the brave Lakshmibai, every girl still does, gender equality being a far cry. It is high time the judiciary should brood over its loopholes and rectify it for timely and effective justice delivery, or should we as a nation support the extra-judicial execution in the 2019 Hyderabad gang rape case, wherein the dreaded culprits were taken to the scene of the crime for a reconstruction of events as part of the investigation and had to be shot for they snatched police weapons and fired on them before trying to escape. Food for thought.