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Legal Distinction

The rape and murder of the 26 year old veterinarian in Hyderabad has rightly set off a storm of protest. As in the Nirbhaya incident in Delhi, people are flabbergasted how predators can suddenly emerge from among people in one’s everyday environs. Women have to be ever careful when in unfamiliar situations, but is it not possible for them to let down their guard even in normal circumstances? And, while these cases have made the headlines and impacted the public consciousness in a big way, it must not be forgotten that such crimes take place in extraordinarily large number on daily basis everywhere in the country and, in fact, around the world. In today’s technology operated world, the identification and apprehension of such culprits in most cases does not take much time at all, as happened in Hyderabad. Unfortunately, in India particularly, punishing them does, as has been seen in the Nirbhaya case. It is obvious that many of those indulging such acts are not deterred because, while they hear of people getting caught, they do not see the stark reality of the consequences. In fact, the rarest of the rare principle of the Supreme Court results in almost all such criminals escaping the noose. Sentences even may be passed, but the system continues to err on the side of leniency. This is despite the many ways the laws have been tweaked to make punishment for rape and murder more stringent. One reason for this inability to deter is the failure to understand the psychology of the rapists and identify and make provision for the many kinds there are. Some blame the lack of values among the general populace, but from the priest to the professional perpetrator and all those in between, the inability to resist temptation is a big problem. Those seeking to deter rape often think emotionally rather than rationally. They demand that rape be punished with hanging and other such severe punishments. Rape is a terrible crime, but it is still not bad as other physical harm and murder that often follow. This leads the criminal to kill the victim in the hope that he can get away with it, as the punishment would be similar in either case. It is important to ensure, therefore, that rape and murder should result in a mandatory death sentence. This fact should be widely publicised so that even the most marginalised of sections know the difference between the consequences of killing and letting the victim live. Of course, there are many for whom torture and murder is part of the ‘pleasure’ they get out of the rape, but if this legal distinction can save even a few lives, it would be worth it.