NHRC chief wary of death penalty for rape demand

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‘Strict law may be misused’ ‘Strict law may be misused’
SummaryThere’s greater chance the rapist will kill victim, says Balakrishnan

While politicians and voices from the civil society are demanding death penalty for the rapists of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi, some advise caution. Prominent among them is former chief justice and National Human Rights Commission chief Justice K G Balakrishnan.

“There is no doubt that it is a most ghastly act, something that even animals would not do. But when we talk of the quantum of punishment, I can see one lurking danger if the punishment for rape is made death. There will be greater chance the person who commits rape will kill the victim since even if the victim is left alive, he can be given the death sentence. So he may decide to kill the victim to destroy the evidence. He might think that it is better if the victim dies,” Balakrishnan said. “All these factors, I am sure, must have passed the minds of the lawmakers when they decided to keep the maximum punishment for rape as life.”

He also cautioned against the possibility of a stringent rape law being misused. “In most cases, there is no doubt that rape has taken place. But there are also cases where a woman may level false rape charges against some person. We have to keep that also in mind,” Balakrishnan said.

He hoped Parliament would consider all pros-and-cons before passing a pending bill to amend rape laws, including a clause to bar judges from sentencing rapists to less than seven years. “Sometimes when we hear case, we find there is more to it than what is being said. That is why there is need to give some discretion to judges.”

To prevent rapes, Balakrishnan suggested “better security arrangements”. “I think patrolling should be increased. And by that I am not talking about police moving around in cars and PCR vans. They must identify possible trouble spots and increase vigil there.”

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