HYDERABAD: The fast track courts set up under the Nirbhaya Act (Criminal Law amendment Act 2013) have awarded death sentence to six rapist murders in three cases in Telangana within a week and the same was hailed as “justice” by the parents of the victims, but their implementation is a far cry going by the labyrinthine mazes of procedures involved hereafter.

A major hurdle to executing the death penalty is that all the five have went back on their confession before the police and pleaded not guilty in the last minute. All the verdicts, awarded by the fast track courts, with the rank of district magistrate courts, have to be approved by the High Court, and there is every chance of the convicts appealing to the Supreme Court and seeking mercy from the President of India.

According to legal experts in Hyderabad, the usual process for a death penalty being ratified by a High Court and the Supreme Court takes at least five to seven years, if everything goes at normal speed. “Going by the case of Nirbhaya murders who too got death and were rejected mercy by the President, it is uncertain how long it will take for these guilty to hang,”  said C. Siva Prasada Rao, a senior High Court lawyer.

Death penalties in these cases of rape and murder of several innocent girls assumed significance in view of the clamour by hundreds of women and other activists calling for stringent punishment to the guilty. In all, four girls and a nine-month-old baby were raped and murdered in the hands of the accused. Governments of both the states have set up the fast-track courts and sentences were handed out within three months.

The fast-track court in Nalgonda district on Thursday handed out death penalty to M. Srinivas Reddy, a 29-year-old youth from Hazipur village near Alair town in Yadadri district, for raping and brutally murdering three women in the last few years. He was charged with raping and killing several other college going girls from his village and nearby areas, but is convicted in three murder cases.

The amount of public anger against Srinivas Reddy was such that after he was arrested in March 2019 on charges of raping and murdering at least half a dozen girls from his area, hundreds of villagers attacked his house and burnt it down and destroyed his properties. Unable to bear with the shame, his parents left the village.

The prosecution has established evidence that Reddy killed three girls—aged around 18 years, promising them lift on his bike to their college and schools in Alair. The court awarded death penalty to him in three cases—two junior college students and a sixth class minor girl, which involved abduction, rape and murder under several sections of IPC.

He was found to have raped and murdered the girls after befriending them and dumping their bodies in a dilapidated well near his village. When some people stumbled on the bodies of the women, his crime came to light and the police arrested him last March. He confessed to all his crimes before the cops and the fast track court, too, but went back on the same in the last minute on Thursday.

Reddy himself took the cops to the wells where he had dumped the bodies of girls he murdered after raping them and narrated how he systematically befriended the girls and killed them. He told the police that at least half a dozen girls, mostly the school and college going ones, were raped by him. He murdered them all to wipe out all evidence.

In another rape and murder case in Adilabad district headquarters, another fast track court had awarded death sentence to three rapist murderers—Shaik Babu, Shaik Shabuddin and Shaik Mukhdoom—local youth in the age group of around 25 years had brutally raped and murdered a minor girls, who sold balloons in Asifabad town last year.

The tragic ending of life of minor victim named as Samatha by the police caught the attention of thousands of women and students in both the states who demanded instant justice. In this case, too, the police had finished the prosecution within two months and succeed in getting death to the rapist murderers, but the procedure hereafter is the same.

  1. Praveen, 26, another rapist and murder of a nine-month-old baby in Warangal city, too, got death penalty on 31 July 2019, by a fast track court set up under the POCSO (Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences) Act 2012. The law has been amended by the Narendra Modi government last year making it more stringent.

Ironically, the women activists as well as others who demanded instant justice to the rapists and murders in these cases have been voicing second opinion after the courts awarded them death penalty. While the bar associations at the trial court level abstain from taking up the cases of the accused, the same is not followed by lawyers at the high courts, making the legal process even more lengthy.

 

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