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Two given life sentences three years after Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) student gangrape case began, while over 1,000 accused rapists await trial for much longer without media attention
The Times of India
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
By Rohit Wafhwaney
NEW DELHI: Early this week, the two accused in the MAMC rape case were sentenced to life imprisonment. What perhaps made news, more than the quantum of punishment awarded, was the speed with which the case was expedited.
On November 15, 2002, Rahul and Amit had waylaid a Maulana Azad Medical College student and raped her at knifepoint on the roof of a monument alongside a busy street in broad day light.
As the news broke, it made headlines in newspapers and TV channels across the country. The media tracked the story with vengeance till Monday, January 17, 2005, when a city court awarded life sentence to the accused.
So, does speedy justice have anything to do with media attention? So it seems.
In Delhi's Tihar jail, over 1,000 rape undertrials are lodged. Some of them have been languishing there for as long as six years.
Among them is Sushil Kumar (name changed), 23, accused of raping a 19-year-old girl in a remote village on the outskirts of the Capital. Having lived the nightmare for six years, justice still eludes the girl. Maybe, because the media never got to her.
Indira Jai Singh, a senior advocate, explains why media attention helps speed up trials. "Courts are very sensitive to criticism," she reasons. "It's a positive thing, at least in some cases, in which there's media following, the verdict comes through fast."
But the point is, what was it about the MAMC rape case that got the media running crazy over it? There are, after all, about 15,000 rapes reported in India every year, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). But only a handful become a delight for the media. Why?
P. Vasanthi, Director, Centre for Media Studies (CMS), explains: "Media now is very different from what it was a few years ago. Today it pounces on cases which have a face in it."
She cites the MAMC rape case and the recent MMS scandal as examples. "The victims were people the viewers or the readers could relate with - students, who were well off, just like their target audience."
An official of Tihar Jail says, "It is a known fact that the legal system in our country is as loose as it can get. Unless they are able to grab media attention, the undertrials have no option but to wait for several years for a verdict on them. The backlog of pending cases is such, you can't help it."
The clerk of court No. 33 of Tis Hazari Court, where Justice Chandra Shekhar sentenced Rahul and Amit to life term on Monday, attests this argument.
"Dates for court cases are given according to the number of cases slotted on particular days. But since the backlog of pending cases is so high, it is almost impossible to give dates before three-four months from a particular date," he says.
"Unless of course it's a high-profile case which the media is keeping an eye on. In that case we give dates really fast, for the case needs to come to a conclusion at the earliest," he adds.
And they obviously couldn't care less about the cases which the media isn't following. "In this very same court (No.33) we have rape cases which have been going on for three-four years. They're still going on, and the end is no where near," the clerk says.
Meanwhile, back at Tihar, Kumar almost sounds jealous of Rahul and Amit. "I have been here (in Tihar) for six years now. My case is still going on. There have been dates after dates after dates," he says.
He has a gripe against judicial delays too. "If on the next date I am sentenced, I would have to be in here for another 10 years. That makes it 16 years. That's even more than life term (which is 14 years)."
And as the strange ways of the crime world go, Rahul and Amit, who have begun their term in Tihar, may have been spared the delay but have other inmates incensed because of their speedy trial.
"They're not going to have a very happy time inside," a prison source assures.
CHRONOLOGY OF MAMC CASE
November 15, 2002: Rahul and Amit rape MAMC student at knifepoint on the terrace of 'Khooni Darwaza' monument in broad day light
November 16, 2002: FIR lodged on the complaint of Head Constable.
November 21, 2002: Victim identifies main accused Rahul from a police dossier.
November 22, 2004: Rahul arrested and later, his interrogation leads to the arrest of other accused.
January 18, 2003: Police files chargesheet after Rahul And Amit declared as "major" following ossification tests.
February 1, 2003: Case committed to Sessions Court.
March 11, 2003: Charges framed against the accused.
March 22, 2003: Trial commences.
September 6, 2003: Juvenile Justice Board orders two boys, aged 13 and 14 years, who pleaded guilty before it in the case, to be sent to Special Home till they attain majority.
January 13, 2004: Recording of statement of accused.
February 16, 2004: Recording of defence evidence begins.
August 17, 2004: Final arguments commence.
December 14, 2004: Court reserves order.
January 6, 2005: Court convicts Rahul and Amit.
January 17, 2005: Court sentences both to life imprisonment.
Date Posted: 1/19/2005
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