The fact that such a frightening incident of gang-rape has taken place in the Capital and that too in a public transport system at reasonable hours of the day in a heavily populated area leaves a very chilling impact on people. The gang-rape has shocked society and posed several questions reflecting their insecurities and sensitivities.

In this working world of the Capital, a large number of women work and use public transportation for daily commuting for various reasons. This incident is definitely going to act as a deterrent for women and their empowerment.

Some of the questions that we are faced with today are: Why do such incidents happen? Why are people not afraid of the police, the State or the law? Why is there so much insensitivity in the system? Do we have inadequate infrastructure? Is our law weak?

As the law holds, we have a fairly stringent system in place providing for 10 years’ minimum imprisonment and a maximum of life imprisonment for gang rapes. By itself this should serve as a major deterrent. However, the reason that it does not is because of the low rate of convictions -- which in cases of crime against women is less than 25 per cent; inordinate delay in the trial; inefficient investigation; hostile witnesses; and societal pressure which stigmatises the victim itself.

The worst is that a victim herself feels the complete pressure of society and therefore very often does not even approach for process or leaves the process midway.

In order for the system to work efficiently, the message has to go out loud and clear from all cross-sections of authority and processes that the guilty cannot and will not go scot-free and will be brought to book in the most efficient manner.

On a review of this latest shocking episode in the Capital one can only set out some observations: We desperately need monitoring, and not only after an incident but on a regular basis through concepts of neighbourhood patrolling, enhanced women force in the police and use of helpline which can assist victims in times of crisis.

Fast track courts needed

In addition, we need to put in place fast track courts, as has been done in Rajasthan for similar cases of gang-rape, which will lend credence to the working of the system and hopefully put the fear of god in aggressors.

Speed in disposal is another hallmark of a successful system. Not only must the system exist but it must be shown to exist. We need convictions, we need punishments, we need to catch not only the direct perpetrators but also take action against the conspirators. Only then can we hope to send a strong message that such crimes would not be tolerated by our society.

(Pinky Anand is a senior advocate based in Delhi)

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