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New Laws, Post-Ruchika

The Indian government wants to review and replace outdated laws. One of the cases which caused this decision was the one about Ruchika Girhotra.

Unfortunately, the focus of modification of the relevant laws seems to be the length and triviality of the sentence handed to Rathore — a suspended jail sentence for six months and a file of Rs. 10000. Our lawmakers have a habit of creating `non-bailable’ offences, and increasing maximum punishment for crimes. In the Ruchika case, the problem was not that Rathore got only six months of jail, nor that it was a suspended sentence, nor even that he was out on bail. The problem was that it took so many years to prosecute and convict him. His position of power protected him from even a police FIR, the basis of any criminal investigation. It allowed him to arrange for Ruchika’s brother to be picked up and tortured on false charges.

Changing the punishment structure will not affect such people, as they will continue to be (mostly) out of the reach of the law, like Runu was. The solution is to ensure that everyone gets treated equally by the law — all criminal charges must be investigated, regardless of the rank and title of the person accused. All laws that prevent such investigationsĀ  must be repealed, including laws which provide immunity for elected representatives, government officials, and in West Bengal, medical doctors.

In any case, one hopes this decision to modify existing laws is not a knee-jerk reaction, and the changes will be motivated by principles higher than those of immediate satisfaction.

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