ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Retribution, Deterrence and Women's Safety

The sentencing in the Mumbai Shakti Mills rape cases throws up many questions.

The newly-introduced Section 376E of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that provides for the maximum penalty of death sentence for repeat rapists has been invoked for the first time, in the Shakti Mills rape cases in Mumbai. Even as the police and the prosecution congratulated themselves and a section of the media and society revelled in “just retribution” that the guilty have been given capital punishment, the sentence has evoked criticism that it will not really advance the cause of women’s safety and security.

The “repeat” in Section 376E is meant for offenders who commit the offence again after being convicted of (and serving sentence for) the first crime. In this case, however, the accused were tried simultaneously for the two gang rapes committed in July and August 2013 because they came to light at the same time and the police clubbed the cases together. The trials in each were therefore simultaneous and the verdicts followed one upon the other almost immediately. It has also been pointed out that this goes against the grain of fair procedure under Article 21 that guarantees the right to life. Incidentally, the Bombay High Court has since issued a notice to the attorney general and will hear a challenge by the convicts to the constitutional validity of Section 376E.

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