Justice Markandey Katju is Chairman, Press Council of India. He was formerly a Judge of the Supreme Court of India. And, consistent with Newslaundry policy, we’d like to write a cheeky line after this but don’t want to get scolded.
No More Fairytales
I have read your latest article in Newslaundry. I appreciate your sentiments, and with respect I share them. Rape and other crimes against women are a disgrace to a society and deserve harsh punishment.
In my judgment in the Supreme Court in Satya Narain Tiwari vs. State of UP (which can be seen online) I said: “The hallmark of a healthy society is the respect it shows to women. Indian society has become a sick society”. In that case, I had said that death penalty should be given in cases of dowry deaths. In our country, young married women are often killed – because they did not bring enough dowry – by pouring kerosene on them and setting them on fire or hanging/strangulating them. Our courts have many such cases. This is a barbaric practice, and no mercy should be shown to such people.
In Bhagwan Das Vs. State (NCT) of Delhi (see online), I said that death penalty should be given for “honour” killing of young couples who are killed by their relatives or caste panchayats because their marriage was inter-caste or inter-religious, or was disapproved of for some other reason.
In my opinion, crimes against women are not ordinary crimes, they are social crimes. They disrupt the entire social fabric, and hence call for harsh punishment.
When a man respects his wife, the child of such a couple sees that justice was done to his mother, who was physically weaker than his father. Hence such a child, when he grows up becomes a brave fighter against injustice. But if he sees his father beating or otherwise mistreating his mother he thinks that oppression and ill-treatment of the weaker is the normal way of functioning, and hence when he grows up he becomes an oppressor or a coward. A society in which a large number of women are maltreated becomes a sick society, as Indian society has become.
I am therefore entirely with you in condemning crimes against women, including rape.
However, what I wish to submit is that such crimes cannot be done away with without destroying the feudal remnants and practices persisting in our society, which are still widespread. What else is caste-ism and communalism? To do away with feudal thinking and practices requires a long period of struggle and patient persuasion among our people by the enlightened, modern minded, section of our society, because most men in India even today regard women as inferior (although IQ tests in psychology have shown that the IQ of an average woman is the same as that of an average man). This means that the scientific outlook and scientific temper must be spread to every nook and corner of our country.
You seem to think that since I have mentioned poverty, malnutrition, unemployment, price rise, lack of healthcare, etc, I am trying to ignore or undermine the seriousness of rape. That is entirely incorrect. I have always condemned crimes against women including rape.
What I am saying is that crimes against women will continue (despite all the hue and cry raised against it and despite making harsh laws against it) as long as feudal remnants and feudal thinking persists in society. In feudal society, women are regarded as inferior to men, and hence ill treatment of women is regarded almost like ill-treatment of animals. That is, a matter of not much importance.
Hence the issue of rape and other crimes against women cannot be considered or resolved in isolation. It can be resolved only by destroying the feudal elements in our society and by spreading scientific and rational thinking widely. This in turn requires a long period of struggle and patient persuasion of the masses by the enlightened sections of our society, which results in fundamental changes in the social system in our country. Without this you can keep shouting and screaming against rape or other crimes against women, but it will be of no avail.
Please forgive me for giving a response to your letter in this form, instead of replying point-wise as you had demanded.
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