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Rape victim's family appalled by light sentence

Juvenile given three years for his part in Delhi gang rape

<p>Protesters in Delhi demonstrate in this file photo</p>

Protesters in Delhi demonstrate in this file photo

  • Swati Deb, New Delhi
  • India
  • September 2, 2013
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Family members of a 23-year-old rape victim who later died from her injuries condemned as unjust a three-year sentence handed down on Saturday in the trial of the first suspect.

The father of the victim said today that he was “shocked” by the light punishment given to youngest of the six suspects involved in the attack on December 16, when the young physiotherapist and her boyfriend were lured into a minibus.

“I am still talking to our lawyers. We could pursue the matter in a higher court,” he told ucanews.com, echoing recent media reports that the punishment should be commensurate with the crime.

The juvenile suspect, who was 17 at the time of the attack, has been depicted as the cruelest of the six men, responsible for beating the woman’s boyfriend unconscious before attacking her.

The victim, who cannot be identified under Indian law, was repeatedly raped and assaulted with an iron pipe. She later died on December 29 at a hospital in Singapore, where she had been transferred due to the severity of her injuries.

The mother of the victim told ucanews.com that despite existing law for the prosecution of juveniles, the suspect should have faced the death penalty.

“The only thought that has kept me sane until now was that of seeing my daughter’s attackers hanged. This is no punishment,” she said of Saturday’s verdict.

Ram Singh, the alleged ringleader in the gang rape, reportedly hanged himself in prison in March. Four others are waiting sentencing later this month and could face the death penalty.

Sushma Swaraj, a senior leader of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party and opposition leader in the lower house of parliament, characterized Saturday’s sentence handed down by the Juvenile Justice Board as insufficient.

She wrote in a Twitter post on Sunday that the “meager punishment of just three years does not do justice to the victim”.

Swaraj further stated that she will put forward a private Member’s Bill seeking to amend the Juvenile Justice Act that would allow courts to sentence juvenile offenders according to the gravity of their offence.

In the wake of widespread media outrage over the verdict, the Congress party-led government moved quickly to justify the decision.

“People are demanding a stringent punishment but that can only happen if the laws are changed,” Federal Home Minister RPN Singh told ucanews.com.

“Government cannot function with anger, it can only function according to law. At least we know that the juvenile was given the maximum punishment under juvenile law,” he added.

Rights activists also acknowledged the primacy of the law in the case.

“I understand the general sense of anguish. But we have to appreciate the decision because the juvenile should be given a chance to turn into a good human being,” said Kavita Srivastava, general secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties.

Despite efforts to move swiftly in rape cases and to deter would-be offenders, including the establishment of fast track courts, several more cases have been filed in recent months.

Parliamentarian  Shailendra Kumar of the Samajwadi party said that new and existing legal channels seem to have done little to deter potential offenders.

“We had a gang rape of a Mumbai photojournalist when she was out on assignment,” he said, referring to a 23-year-old woman attacked while photographing an abandoned factory.

“Even on August 31, when the juvenile was sentenced, four men including two police officers were arrested for gang raping a 28-year-old woman in Noida on the outskirts of Delhi,” Kumar said.

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