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Tough deterrence

In light of the recent incident involving a toddler’s brutal murder in UP, strict action must be guided towards deterrence and not just punishment

Tough deterrence

The most recent brutal murder of a very small child in village Tappal of Aligarh has sent shock waves across the country, raising several questions about this grotesque and perverted act that exposed the overall decay our society is drifting towards. This is said especially because of the horrendous manner in which the little girl child was done away with.

The local police, under the directions of the police leadership based in state capital Lucknow, acted rather swiftly and, in lightning action, arresting two accused, Zahid and Aslam, without any delay. Again, on June 8, acting in extraordinary speed, they apprehended Zahid's wife Zabusta and younger brother Mehdi Hasan from neighbouring Khurja, thus rounding up all important suspects.

Acting swiftly again, those cops responsible for dereliction of duty were summarily suspended amid allegations levelled by the victim's mother that once her child was missing, she complained to the local police who failed to react on time and, in fact, overlooked the pleas.

Meanwhile, UP police formed a Special Investigation Squad (SIS) comprising senior officers for a deeper probe to ascertain the circumstances leading to this unfortunate murder. Also, plans are afoot to book the accused under National Security Act (NSA) and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) 2012. These are effective acts and should act as a deterrent to prevent recurrences of a similar kind. Yet, the main focus should be on a thorough investigation so that the accused don't end up in acquittals.

The above is imperative as one is not really sure about the investigative skills of those exercising an oversight into this heinous case. We have unpleasant memories of the Aarushi murder case where a common man is still not convinced about the verdict of whether Aarushi's parents, the Talwars, were actually guilty or not. The scene remains hazy and far from a decisive judgment. Few years before the Aarushi case, there were the Nithari killings and initially, the investigation, like in the Aarushi case, appeared vague. The approach sadly was bereft of any professionalism. Without meaning to cast any aspersions on the professional efficacy or investigative forte of UP Police, the fresh case of the child's murder in Aligarh merits a very dedicated approach.

Here, it is pertinent to state that the main accused in the child's abduction and murder already has four criminal cases against him dating back to 2014. He was charged under sections 376 (rape), 354 (attempt to outrage modesty) and section 363 (kidnapping) of the Indian Penal Code. Most horrible among these cases is the accused's attempt to rape his own daughter – nothing can be more horrendous. The motive of the murder is also baffling. It is said to be related to the transaction of money between the complainant and the accused's families. The alleged amount of money due to the accused was a paltry Rs 10,000. This exposes the mental degeneration of the accused and his sense of desperation to avenge. Definitely, he has a violent streak which only a psychiatrist can determine.

Sadly, he was out on bail. How he was left off the hook so easily now deserves serious thought. It raises multiple questions – How serious was the prosecution to oppose his bail plea? Were the court proceedings in order? Was a psychiatrist consulted for a clinical examination of the accused who had the perverted inclination to violate his own daughter? Wasn't there any accountability on the segment of judiciary granting him bail or showing such legal leniency? The police is always under criticism for doing sloppy investigations but what about the lapses or slackness in the judiciary? Here, perhaps, stands a fit case for a fresh appraisal of the judicial acts that have led to a large number of approved bails and acquittals.

The prosecutors too need to be held to account for any loose pursuit of a case of murder that too of a very small child in a most inhuman manner. Had these loopholes been attended, this murder wouldn't have happened. The offender was most likely emboldened by the prevailing fragile legal system and dared to repeat yet another ghastly act within five years of his first offence of such a grievous nature. In any case, such perverted elements who act as rabid lunatics should ideally have no place in civilised society. They need to be dealt with very harshly lest they are encumbrances on us. As per the indications available now, UP state administration is trying to ensure that there is no complacency and the culprits receive maximum punitive action.

Civil societies, sociologists and people of social eminence are also expected to come in and prescribe ways to deal with this growing malaise which is not only confined to Aligarh. It is a pan-India problem. Many, in the meantime, are expressing their surprise over the perceived silence of many celebrities, especially those belonging to Bollywood as also from academia who are otherwise vocal on such sensitive issues. It is our collective social responsibility and these elements must work in close collaboration with the police so that there is a holistic approach to tackling the existing problem and there are no cases of fatally targetting such small and innocent children.

(The author is a retired IPS officer of the UP cadre, a security analyst and columnist. The views expressed are strictly personal)

Shantanu Mukharji

Shantanu Mukharji

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