Retribution or Reformation?

Retribution or Reformation? I am sure all of us have been exulting the execution of the Nirbhaya gang-rape convicts, but has the death penalty served the justice that we all expected?

I know that we believe that the death penalty will deter future crimes against women, but as we’ve been seeing the death penalty involves a lot of legal complexities which makes the process very slow and cumbersome. So, the entire purpose of providing closure and justice to the victim and her family through the death penalty is a lost cause as we know the justice delayed is justice dismissed.


When the Nirbhaya gang-rape incident took place, the government set up the J S Verma Committee to provide the testimonials for reforming the legal and the criminal system. The recommendations of the J S Verma committee led to the introduction of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act (2013). This Act provided stricter punishment and made the legal and criminal system more victim-centric and victim-friendly.



But many of the important recommendations of this committee was ignored conveniently by the Government.

1. The recommendation of inclusion of marital rapes as a criminal offence was ignored citing the complexities involved in proving the offence.


2. The committee also recommended wide-sweeping policy reforms to make the police force more victim-friendly and to promote the effectiveness of the police during the investigation, evidence collection, undertaking, etc. But these recommendations were ignored conveniently, and this agenda has been kept pending for more than 45 years now.


3. The committee had also recommended the introduction of changes in the Armed Forces Special Powers Act on order to cover rapes committed by Indian soldiers deployed in disturbed areas. But these were also ostracised citing national security concerns.


4. The most important recommendation of the committee which was ignored was its stand against capital punishment for molestation. The committee had argued that the provision of the death penalty for rape could turn out to be counterproductive and instead had recommended rigorous imprisonment for life. This again was overlooked too.


The evidence available from around the world has indicated that the death penalty does not act as a hindrance against future crimes. The NRCB data shows that crimes against women have increased in the last 8 years.


The best way to provide closure to the victim is by delivering swift and strict punishment. For this to happen we need some wide-sweeping policy and legal reforms.

1. The prosecution must fast-track the case.


2. Special courts must be constituted where swift hearings can take place.


3. Through effective investigation and scientific collection of evidence, the police must convince the judiciary that the accused is indeed guilty of his crime or vice versa.


In a modern and civilized society, we see the death penalty as a retributive form of justice. But we need the criminals and the society overall to reform and adapt. According to me, true justice can be provided only when we promote the progressive modernization of Indian society by adopting reformative forms of justice.


Let me know what you all think about this issue in the comment section below.


Hoping for a better and secure future for all of us out there.




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