Ten Years of Nirbhaya: Death Penalty Is The Need Of The Hour, Says DCW Chief Swati Maliwal

Delhi Police should be ashamed of their investigation that after 10 years, the culprits of the Chhawla rape case were released.

Delhi Commission for Women Chairperson Swati Maliwal

Three shocking incidents have taken place since last August. Firstly, the 11 rapists of Bilkis Bano were released on the anniversary of Independence Day. They were such dangerous criminals that whenever they came out on parole, cases of misbehaviour with women were reported against them. Such people were not only released indiscriminately, but were also felicitated.

The second case is of Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim. Released on parole again and again by the Haryana government, he comes out and gives discourses. The third issue is about the acquittal of the culprits of the Chhawla rape case by the Supreme Court. The judicial system is being mocked in the open. In such a situation, ‘where is the justice’ is the big question that arises. From where do we get the sense of justice? These three incidents show how the issue of women's safety is treated by governments today.

'Culprits are let off... It's like slapping women on their faces'

Everyday more than six rapes are committed in Delhi. The situation is such that even after being tried for ten years, the culprits are being let off. This is like slapping women on their faces. Not only that, the culture of rape is being further promoted in the country. Ten years have passed since the Nirbhaya incident, but the situation has only worsened.

There was a big movement after the rape of Nirbhaya. I cannot forget that scene. I was also beaten with sticks. Of course, there have been a lot of minor and major legal changes since then.

Still, I had to sit on fast twice in different cases because the law was not implemented properly. The Central government says that the mindset of people has to be changed. But how will you change the mindset in such a big country? Deterrence is very important. What happened recently with the Korean girl in Mumbai shows the audacity of people. There is no accountability.

The question of increasing resources is also important. You can see on the board outside any police station of Delhi Police that less than half of the sanctioned workforce is working there. This sanctioned workforce is also 15 years old. Also pay attention to how many women policemen are there. The situation of sensitivity can be understood in such a situation.

Besides, the structure of Delhi's administration is also very strange. Here, the Delhi Police reports to the Union Home Ministry. We have approved a special task force to address the cries for justice of more than 500 women who reach us daily. In the last six years, the Delhi Commission for Women has heard one lakh women. Think what would have been the condition of the whole country in ten years!

'Nirbhaya Fund is a child that does not belong to anyone'

We are constantly fighting with the government for raising resources. As per our needs, the budget of the commission should be Rs 250 crore. Earlier, Rs 3 crore was received annually, now it has gone up to Rs 35 crore. We do not get anything from the Nirbhaya Fund. Strangely, the Rs 1,000 crore fund that was created in Nirbhaya's memory has now come down to Rs 200 crore.

The Delhi government applied for the Nirbhaya Fund in August 2015 to install CCTV cameras in buses. The struggle went on for two years. Later, the central government wrote to us that they cannot provide funds because installing CCTV cameras in buses is a 'gender neutral' project, not 'gender sensitive', because both men and women travel in the buses.

I have not heard anything more detached from reality in my tenure of the last eight years. I have written more than eight letters to the Prime Minister that the women's security policy of Nagaland should not be decided in New Delhi. The country has a federal structure, but there is an acute lack of political will at the Centre to uphold it. Nirbhaya Fund is a child that does not belong to anyone.

In such a situation, I feel very guilty. We come to the office even on Saturdays, conduct hearings continuously, yet the situation is getting worse. I am proud of my work but I am not happy. It really hurts. The screams of women do not let us sleep.

'Death penalty is the need of the hour'

It may take another 50 years from now when there would be no need for the death penalty, but today, if we do not take justice to its natural conclusion then criminals will come out as they did in the Bilkis Bano case. That is why death penalty is the need of the hour. More than hanging, however, it is important that justice be meted out in a time-bound manner.

After all, which law is not misused? I agree that wrong allegations about misuse are also made. In such cases the responsibility of the police increases. Ask the Delhi Police how many closure reports have they filed and how many women did they take action against in what they call false cases. Now, the Rajasthan Women's Commission has said that more than half of the cases are false.

Somebody should ask them from where they got this data? Not that we hate men. We are not anti-men. We are anti-crime. I absolutely agree that there are false cases. But in such cases, there is no need to put the laws in the dock. The problem is with the police investigation. Delhi Police should be ashamed that after ten years the culprits of the Chhawla case were released.


(The author is Chairperson, Delhi Commission for Women. Based on a conversation with Abhishek Srivastava)