MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is bigger bluff-master than Narendra Modi. Finding himself in a tight spot following a spate of rape and gang-rape incidents in and around Bhopal and the resultant screeching headlines in local newspapers, he started his own counter-propaganda about capital punishment to rapists. He even took his idea to the cabinet meeting where some of his senior ministers opposed it on the ground that such a measure would lead to more murders of victims after rape. Eventually he got the approval of the cabinet for suitable amendment in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for a provision of death sentence to whoever rapes a girl of up to 12 years of age. The bill will now be presented to the Assembly which started its winter session on November 27.
Madhya Pradesh has been recording the highest number of crimes against women, including death for rape, for over a decade. It is not for lack of sufficient legal provision to punish the culprits. The major reason for the rise of heinous crimes, including rape, in Madhya Pradesh is conversion of police force into Chouhan’s personal mafia. The police officers are being used to tamper with the evidence when a serious crime has been committed and the interest of someone close to Chouhan is suspected. Vyapam is the most glaring example where a Special Task Force (STF) headed by a senior IPS officer bungled the entire investigation apparently to save some high-ups. The then DGP and the present DGP were said to have tampered with the evidence of Shehla Masood’s murder in the morning of august 16, 2011 before the team from Koh-e-Fiza police station (which had the jurisdiction) could reach the site. The allegation as to how the senior officers had destroyed the evidence was made by none other than Koh-e-Fiza police station in-charge before a TV channel. Such instances are many.
Death for rape
Coming to the rape, the only instance where Chouhan’s police acted swiftly and submitted the charge-sheet in the court within days was the recent gang-rape of a UPSC student in Bhopal. But the girl, in spite of both of her parents being in the police, had to suffer police-inflicted tortures no less painful than the rape by hoodlums for three hours after dragging her to an isolated place near Habibganj railway station. When she went to the Government Railway Police (GRP) with her complaint, she was mocked for ‘coming with a filmy story’. She was made to run from one police station to another police station, tried to talk to senior officers but in vain and it was because of the outcry in the local media that her complaint was registered after 72 hours. Several more incidents of rape have since been reported around Bhopal and one has not perceived any change in the attitude of the police. It was not for nothing that a Madhya Pradesh High Court judge had described the State’s police as ‘criminals in uniform’.
If Chouhan is really sincere about checking crimes against women, he should made provision of stringent punishment to a police officer found guilty of not registering a rape complaint as soon as the victim approaches the police station. Leave aside death sentence or life imprisonment, even five years’ imprisonment will have salutary effect if the police register the rape complaint promptly, behave with the victim sympathetically and investigate the matter with alacrity —- which is too much to expect from Chouhan who has done everything to corrupt the police, bureaucracy and judiciary. With the police set-up as it is, his talks of death sentence or life imprisonment will have only propaganda value which perhaps is his only objective.
It will not be out of place to reproduce from an earlier piece how Chouhan’s predecessors, Uma Bharti and Babulal Gaur, had amended law to provide harsher punishment to molesters. The Subsection-A was added to Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (use of criminal force to outrage the modesty of woman); it provided that the offender ‘shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine.’ The main Section provides for a maximum punishment of up to two years. Besides, the Madhya Pradesh amendment also provides for the same punishment to whoever abets or conspires in the act, which is not there in the main Section.
Not even once has Chouhan’s corrupt police invoked this Section to book a stalker, though harassment of women on roads and in buses has been steadily on the increase during Chouhan’s regime.