IS death sentence a deterrent?

The death sentence awarded to the four convicts in the Delhi gangrape case has been lauded by those who believe only such exemplary punishment can act as a deterrent to other individuals.

A cross-section of psychologists and psychiatrists believe this is a defining moment in the criminal justice system of India. Dr Nimesh Desai, heading the department of psychiatry at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences, welcome the judgment claiming, “It’s good. We have always wanted a swift and fair delivery of the criminal justice system. Interestingly, this judgment has been given under the framework of the old laws, the new rape laws did not apply to it.”
Dr Desai believes, “If not at a conscious level, but at an unconscious level, the implementation of swift justice will impact the minds of those who are vulnerable or genetically inclined to commit rape. If similar judgments can be given for other cases in the next five years, it will prove to be a major deterrent,” he added.
Dr Pulkit Sharma, clinical psychologist and psychoanalytical therapist who has worked with juvenile rapists, does not believe this sentence will change the mindset of rapists. “Rapists have very little self-control and do not have sensitivity or empathy for others. Nevertheless, strong judgments such as this will act as a deterrent and make them realise that they will not be able to get away with such acts.”
Welcoming the judgment, Dr Ranjana Kumari, heading Centre for Social Research, said, “The decision to sentence the four perpetrators to death has set a new precedent in our response to sexual violence. This will send a clear message to the predators that they too will meet a similar fate.”
But Dr Kumari questioned what kind of long-term impact such a sentence will have. “Rape has many sociological dimensions, including patriarchy and the over-all status of women. My apprehension is that the rapists should not resort to murdering rape victims in order to destroy evidence,” she said.
Rucihra Gupta of Apne Aap Women Worldwide believes, “Without the police and judicial reform, the December 16 rape conviction may remain a one-off. What has happened to the policeman on duty in Tihar jail when the prime accuse Ram Singh “committed suicide”.
Ms Gupta pointed out that “there are more than 90,000 rape cases pending trial even now. All cases should be fast tracked with police and judicial accountability instituted for acts of commission and omission in crimes against females.”

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