According to the recently released annual crime data by the Delhi Police, the helpline for women reported at least six distress calls every hour. During the last year there were 2155 rape cases of which 291 remained unsolved. There is a molestation complaint every two hours.
How to reverse such a nightmarish situation? There is a ray of hope if the quick trial of ‘Khooni Darwaza’ gang rape case is taken as a precedent in cases of rape, because if it takes too long to decide a case, the cases become non-conclusive. The quick verdict of Khooni Darwaza by the learned Judge Chander Shekhar sets an example.
A gruesome incident of rape was committed at the monument called ‘Khooni Darwaza’ at New Delhi’s Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, on November 15, 2002, which had shaken Delhi. The victim was a student of Maulana Azad Medical College who was gang-raped and robbed by four youth at knife point. A week after the incident, the main accused Rahul was arrested by the police based on leads provided by the girl, who claimed that the rapist bore a tattoo mark of ‘Rahul’ on his forearm. The I.P. Estate Police registered a case against the four accused under sections 376(2) (g)/354/364/367/506/324/201/411/292/34 IPC; and sections 27/54/59 of the Arms Act.
The case was heard by the then Additional Sessions Judge, Chander Shekhar, who has now been elevated as Hon’ble Judge, High Court of Delhi. Some 35 witnesses testified in the case. The Court held an in-camera trial where the public is not allowed, and set an example which has been acknowledged by lawyers and women’s organizations alike as a model for legal proceedings in heinous rape cases in which victims are often intimidated by the accused and feel the fear of negative publicity.
The Hon’ble Judge Chander Shekhar provided solace to the broken soul of the victim through speedy justice by delivering verdict in just two years, on January 1, 2005. The learned Judge awarded the maximum punishment of life imprisonment and two additional sentences of seven and two years each. He also slapped a fine of Rs. 18,000 on Rahul and Rs. 17,000 on Amit.
In his judgment, the learned judge Chander Shekhar said, “(The) convicts have been held guilty of committing gang rape on an unmarried helpless girl who was a medical student. Such acts of bestiality deserve stringent punishment. They do not deserve any mercy and have to be given exemplary punishment so that it acts as a deterrent to others also.”
In awarding life sentence, Shekhar cited a Supreme Court’s verdict in the measure of punishment. The Hon’ble Judge Chander Shekhar rejected defence argument for a reduced sentence on the ground that this was a first offence, saying: “Murder destroys the physical frame of the victim, but a rapist degrades the soul of a helpless female, in consequence whereupon the victim suffers and dies every day.”
The learned judge through his speedy justice reversed the ailing image of delayed justice in heinous and sensitive crime of rape. He set an example to be followed in letter and spirit.
By Hasan Khurshid